Green Packaging: Improve Your Product-to-Package Ratio

Integrating green packaging involves several steps. After covering minimizing the damage risks and incorporating appropriate sustainable packaging materials in the first two parts of this article series, we’ll conclude with ways to improve your product-to-package ration.

As online orders are shipped across the country and around the world in a variety of containers by ocean, air, trucks and rail, every inch of transport space is valuable. As a result, the dimensions of your packages also have environmental implications.

Larger packages use more materials to package and ship and take up more space on transport vehicles, reducing the number of packages that can fit on a single vehicle. Naturally, the more vehicles you use, the higher the fuel usage and emissions.

So it’s important to make the most of the product-to-package ratio by using “cube optimization.” Stated simply, cube optimization mean right-sizing your packages and fitting your orders into packaging dimensions that are as small as possible without threatening the integrity of the order.

The tips below will help to maximize your product-to-package ratio:

Purchase a variety of box and package sizes: Companies hoping to save by using one box size for all products can face higher transport costs. Conduct an analysis to determine the right variety of container or box sizes that will snugly fit your best selling products without raising the risks of damages.

Use automated systems to choose the right package: Automated warehouse-management systems or order-fulfillment systems can be configured to select the right package/box size depending on the characteristics of the order – and are often more accurate than human appraisals.

Hire a third-party package lab to make recommendations: Experts can analyze your products and order characteristics to help you determine the minimal size that will protect your orders while controlling transportation costs and environmental impact.

Green packaging in action

Taking this holistic approach to green packaging can not only provide environmental benefits but also cost savings. For instance, Jubilations Cheesecake, an online retailer of homemade cheesecakes based in Columbus, MS, reaped significant business and environmental benefits by following the green-packaging strategies.

Before the company’s packaging redesign, Jubilations’ orders ranged from single packs up to 12-packs and required dry ice to be added into the polystyrene-lined regular slotted container (RSC) boxes. Unfortunately the dry ice caused the packages to be so large that Jubilations incurred extra shipping charges, and many orders had to be delivered overnight to keep the cheesecakes intact.

Jubilations worked with the UPS Package & Design Lab to redesign its packaging to reduce waste and ease shipping requirements. The Package Lab engineers recommended a slimmed-down box size with appropriate polystyrene density and suggested using a new insulating material, called InstaPak, for single orders.

Testing showed that this new packaging would allow Jubilations to use three-day ground service rather than overnight, and reduce both shipping dimensions and transport costs. Plus, the packaging has favorable characteristics, such as condensing to 10% of its original size in a landfill. The conversion from air to ground shipping also helped reduce Jubilations’ carbon footprint, and the reduction in damages helped save fuel and emissions otherwise needed to handle returns.

As Jubilations discovered, green packaging is about much more than just using recycled materials.

In today’s increasingly eco-friendly business world,e-tailers that design packaging to minimize damages, incorporate sustainable materials and maximize the product-to-package ratio make a compelling statement. What their packaging has to say speaks volumes about their dedication to customer service and to protecting the environment–and it boosts their bottom line as well.

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