As many small businesses wrap up their busiest weeks of the year for packaging and shipping, now is a perfect time to examine ways to make your operations more efficient and eco-friendly. Here are four tips for greening your packaging and shipping practices from the Green Business Bureau.
- Ship items only when necessary. Many items can now be delivered electronically. For example, software, documents (product instructions, catalogs, warranty information, etc.), and licenses can be delivered to customers as downloadable files. Providing extra components to accompany an order (such as extra cables or power cords) seems like a nice gesture, but this practice can also create unnecessary waste. Instead, allow customers to “opt in” for extra materials, so that you only ship these to people who really want or need them. An “opt in” during the ordering process can also help to give customers a sense of added value for the free add-ons.
- Minimize product packaging. Consolidate a customer’s multiple orders to a single shipment whenever possible, and always strive to minimize the number of packages you send. Use the smallest boxes possible for each order. Consider whether special material is truly needed when packing a shipment; for instance, packing filler may not be required for more durable products. Avoid redundant packaging, such as separate product boxes within shipping boxes or products bagged inside shipping boxes.
- Use sustainable containers and fillers. Seek out packing materials that can be easily recycled by most consumers (such as cardboard boxes). When sensitive or fragile products require protection, choose recyclable products like crumpled or shredded paper instead of Styrofoam peanuts or molds. Reuse the packaging that you receive from vendors for your own shipments, including boxes, filler, and special packaging materials (such as static-protection bags or plastic bags for small components).
- Ship efficiently. Beyond consolidating shipments (see tip #2), there’s much more you can do to reduce costs and your carbon footprint. A no-idling policy for trucks loading at your facility cuts down on wasted fuel, protects staff from exposure to exhaust fumes, and reduces the release of greenhouse gases. Whenever feasible, opt for more eco-friendly ground transportation (such as truck-to-train) over high-emission air transportation. Many larger freight carriers, including UPS, offer carbon-neutral shipping options, which give your customers the opportunity to offset the environmental impact of their deliveries. The EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partners list offers shipping and trucking companies with eco-friendly credentials.
How do you plan to make your packaging and shipping practices more efficient and sustainable in 2012? Share your thoughts in the Comments field below.