Sustainable Green Packaging Materials

Once you achieve the goal of minimizing damage risks, as we covered in the first part of this series, the next green-packaging consideration is using sustainable materials. Loosely defined, sustainable packaging is packaging that uses less of the world’s raw materials, contains nontoxic recyclable or reusable elements, creates minimal to no landfill waste and costs less to transport.

Here are three tips for incorporating sustainable packaging materials:

Use recycled materials when appropriate: Try to use recycled materials in your packaging, but make sure it meets your product’s protective requirements. When using recycled materials, label your package as “recycled” to appeal to your green-sensitive customers.

Balance lighter-weight, lighter-volume materials with damage risks: Reducing the amount of packaging materials to save weight and reduce fuel usage through transportation is often beneficial, but it could end up resulting in damage returns that are far costlier to your bottom line and the environment.

Match material type to product-shipment requirements: A single type of packaging material won’t fit all shipping requirements. If the product you’re shipping is hard and durable, pleated kraft paper might be sufficient to protect it. If your product requires refrigerated packaging, resilient materials with high thermal protection are more appropriate. Packaging is never one-size-fits-all.

Consider reusable packaging: Packages can be designed for multiple reuse, which can save materials, cut costs and reduce environmental impact. At UPS, for example, we offer a reusable envelope for document shipments.

Also, when UPS certified technicians in Louisville perform warranty laptop repairs for a major computer client, they ship the laptops back to customers in the same boxes in which they arrived. In your own e-tailing business, consider incorporating this kind of reusable packaging to save money and spare the environment.

Once you’ve mastered the art of incorporating appropriate sustainable packaging materials, you need to think about maximizing the product-to-package ratio. We’ll cover that in detail next time.

Nancy Parmer is senior director of sustainability, customer solutions group, at package delivery company and supply chain and freight services provider UPS.

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