Eco Mail: 5 Green Shipping Options to Try

29.4 million tons of container and packaging materials ended up in landfills in 2015. According to the EPA, that's almost thirty percent of the total amount produced.

Greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes are also at close to thirty percent of the total emitted. It's the biggest source of harmful emissions into the earth's atmosphere.

There are steps we can take to help lessen the damage. Take a look at these five green shipping options to make our buying and selling more eco-friendly.

Biodegradable Packaging

Using biodegradable packaging helps reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or finds its way into the oceans. Biodegradable products also help to reduce the costs involved with recycling.

An increasing range of product packaging is made from biodegradable materials. Eco-friendly shipping boxes break down in the soil and don't release toxins into the environment.

In addition to being recyclable, paper and cardboard are both biodegradable. Biodegradable packaging materials can often be made from recycled paper and cardboard.

Biodegradable plastics are also becoming more common. They start to decompose when exposed to sunlight.

Corn starch and sugar cane are also used to make packaging materials like packing peanuts. Bubble wrap, a material often used in packaging, also comes in biodegradable varieties.

Some, but not all, biodegradable plastics are also compostable.

Compostable Packaging

Compostable packaging is most often found in the food industry. Products like drink cups and plates are being made from corn starch and sugar cane products, as well as compostable plastics.

These plastics need improvement before home composting is an option. They take longer to break down than food and yard waste—often up to six months.

In an ideal world, the products would break down completely to be reused in farming and agriculture.

The technology isn't quite there yet, but it's headed in the right direction. Companies that are already using compostable, eco-friendly shipping supplies will find themselves ahead of the game.

Green Shipping Options

We've become almost trained to think of two-day shipping as the only viable option. Businesses use the offer of fast and sometimes free shipping to encourage sales. But rarely is it crucial that we have the item immediately.

Businesses can encourage shoppers to accept a longer shipping time by explaining the environmental benefits of ground transportation over air or consolidating items into a single shipment.

Companies might also offer a discount to encourage consumers not to opt for the two-day, or overnight shipment.

With enough input, the net effect might be fewer trucks on the roads or fewer planes in the air.

Email Over Direct Mail

Rather than send out thousands of what are often poorly-focused bursts of direct mail, build up an email list first. 

Sending out great batches of coupons, postcards, and catalogs are unnecessary, wasteful, and unsustainable. Reducing it will have many benefits, not only for the environment but also for businesses and consumers. Going green and using Electronic Return Receipt Signatures when you send Certified Mail is another good example of how to reduce the paper waste and mail costs.  

Communicating and marketing to customers electronically helps reduce the waste that results from direct mail.

For some businesses, direct mailings are vital and cannot be completely done away with. Even so, an email list makes it easier for customers to opt-in and out, which in turn improves the target accuracy of direct mailings.

This benefits both businesses and consumers. Less time and expense will be spent unwanted mail that would otherwise go straight into the trash. And better yet, more people who want the direct mail will receive it.

Checking Out Green

Companies can purchase verified emissions reductions (VER) or offsets. Verified emissions reductions are environmental projects that might involve renewable energies, or conservation and protection of forests and other environments vital for human populations.

Purchasing verified emissions is helping to finance these projects, a means of balancing the negative impact a business has on the environment. Earlier this year, Etsy became the first e-commerce company to offset one hundred percent of its emissions generated from shipping.

Companies could charge a fee at check-out to cover this cost. Etsy elected not to do this as they found the cost to be so small per sale as to be almost insignificant.

A business might also offer incentives at check-out to customers who choose minimal packaging, or recycled packaging over standard packaging. Incentives may not even be necessary. Educating customers on the environmental effects of their choice at check-out may be all that’s necessary.

Businesses have opportunities throughout the purchase process to bring the impacts of remote and online shopping to the attention of shoppers. This lasts all the way through to the delivery stage when the customer finally opens their package.

Global Solutions

When we purchase online, many of us are only thinking about what we want and how quickly can we get it.

We’re in an age where instant gratification is the norm, from ebooks which transmit to our devices in seconds, to products that we expect to be shipped overnight or in a couple of days.

Soon we’ll expect them dropped on our doorstep by drone just hours after purchase.

This all comes at a cost. It’s important for consumers and businesses to keep an eye on the impacts our advances have on the environment, at the same time as we reap all the benefits.

Advances will come from improvements in compostable products to make them break down more quickly.

The systems in place to ensure those products are composted and returned for farming and agriculture must also be improved. At the moment we're not always taking advantage of the technology, and they're ending up in landfills with the regular trash.

The negative impact we’re having on our environment is a global problem. It’ll take more businesses like Etsy to find solutions to balance that impact. Consumers need more green shipping options so their online buying is more lenient on the environment.

If you need certified shipping options, we can help you. Take a look at our FAQ page to find out how to get started.