Sustainable Ecommerce Packaging: Facts and the Future

An Exploration of the future of packing for E-commerce products and it’s place in an environmentally conscious world.

Words and photograph by the team at Morisette

What is the Purpose of Sustainable Ecommerce Packaging?

With environmental awareness on rise, many companies are prioritizing sustainability by making environmentally conscious decisions when it comes to the packaging they use.

Sustainability efforts are becoming more and more important to the average consumer, and can make people more inclined to support a business. Also, with an increasing number of people shopping online from home, packaging is being used more than ever. Despite the rise of consumerism, the moral obligation we each hold towards our planet has not changed.

With the direction we are moving towards of over consumption, there are steps ecommerce companies can make towards ensuring packaging solutions are the least harmful to the environment as possible.

By making use of recycled materials and designing less wasteful, sustainable ecommerce packaging, ecommerce brands can make a real environmental difference, while promoting social change by raising awareness on the importance of sustainability.

Sustainable Ecommerce Packaging

The Impact

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2019 that 23% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were industrial. Therefore, using more sustainable production processes to manufacture packaging materials can make quite the impact.

They also found that 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were due to transportation. A large part of ecommerce businesses is the utilization of shipping companies to transport packages.

Although the shipping of goods does not make up this entire percentage, reducing the size of packaging is not only less wasteful of materials, but also less wasteful of space in the transportation vehicles. This means that making packaging as small as possible will help to pack more orders into a vehicle at a time, making for less loads and less fuel emissions.

In addition to more mindful production practices and more environmentally conscious packaging designs, the impact of material selection is also large.

Recycling is one of the most effortless things we can do to make a big environmental impact. The Environmental Protection Agency says that 75% of waste in the United States can be recycled, but we currently are only recycling about 35% of it.

It is also said that 94% of Americans support recycling, so if companies lead this movement by using recyclable packaging and encouraging their customers to recycle as well, we can all work together to get this percentage up.

Materials

There are many different options out there for sustainable packaging whether you are in need of mailers, bubble wrap, paper, cold chains, or stretch film. Sustainable mailers and packaging paper are ideally made out of 100% recycled paper or are 100% recyclable so they can be reused in the future.

Using paper over plastic when possible is best due to it being both a renewable and biodegradable material, but certain packaging materials like cold chains, bubble wrap, and stretch film are best suited in plastic.

In these cases, finding products that use as much recycled plastic as possible are a good step towards reducing plastic production and waste.

Design

The key to successfully designing sustainable packaging is taking materials as well as energy used in production into consideration.

Using recycled materials is important, but if they are still manufactured with just as many factory emissions and energy as typically used it can be counter productive. Sustainable production practices can include using less fossil fuels, reducing pollution by the use of filtering technology, saving time and energy by producing as fast and efficiently as possible, recycling, and reducing waste.

Also, packaging that is designed to be a lighter weight and smaller in size can help make transportation more efficient. Sustainable packaging design solutions do not have to compromise on durability or function. Some of these changes are simple and undetectable in the final product.

Cost

Consumers’ rankings of what is most important to them in a company have shifted drastically within the last 15 years. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas emissions were on the rise for years, but around 2007 they began to go down due to an increase in environmental awareness.

A study conducted by MSNBC found that 76% of millennials are concerned about the environment. Modern day consumers seem to care more about the environment over saving a little money, and want to use companies with similar values. However, sustainable does not always mean more expensive. There are many sustainable options at a comparable price to traditional non-sustainable packaging.

Cheaper is often more expensive in the long run. In this case, we must consider if the money you are saving by not using sustainable packaging is worth its potential costs to our environment.

Making the switch to sustainable packaging can greatly improve your brand’s image while fulfilling your moral duty as a citizen of Earth. If your company needs to invest in packaging solutions anyway, why not make a choice that will allow your brand to help protect our environment while upholding the same quality materials you are used to?

Often for the same price as traditional packaging, we can work smarter, not harder to design packaging products that can potentially make a huge impact on the environment and help to prevent global warming.

Over the past decade, thousands of companies have been moving in the direction of sustainability. That is partly the reason why so many have moved completely online. Ecommerce businesses are already positively contributing to the sustainability movement, with the final simple step of switching to sustaining packaging, your ecommerce company can officially go green.

Final Thoughts on Sustainable Ecommerce Packaging

We live in a world where being eco-conscious and sustainable is becoming more and more necessary in all industries.

Studies show that customers are starting to lean more towards sustainability when the cost difference is reasonable. Due to this and ecommerce being such a competitive market, sustainable ecommerce packaging is becoming more and more sought after. As this industry progresses, this demand will only continue to rise and we will start to see new developments in the ecommerce space.

While some will continue down their own paths, sustainable packaging is the future for ecommerce packaging and fulfillment.