What can I do to make my packaging processes more sustainable?

November 16, 2015

We have a wide array of vendors. Some vendors ship out of their apartments, some vendors ship out of large distribution centers and others operate somewhere in between. Despite their operational distinctions, a common challenge these businesses face lies in understanding the differences in efficiently packaging and shipping their products for e-commerce retailers like us which may differ from their practices with brick and mortar sellers.

Here are a couple ways businesses of all sizes can start to incorporate sustainable packaging solutions into their operations:

Make sure your boxes fit products as snug as possible

If you want to eliminate waste in your shipments and prevent damage, then make sure the packaging you are using is strong enough to survive the trip to the customer. We recommend shipping fragile items in a corrugated box as opposed to a paper or cardboard box that may be more flimsy. We use Box on Demand, a machine that allows us to produce custom corrugated packaging right in our Brooklyn, NY warehouse. The way it works is that we feed it the max length, width and height of a product that we sell and the machine creates a box that perfectly matches the item’s dimensions. Having a nice, tight fit is going to eliminate air in the box and eliminate the raw materials used. Eliminating air in a box means there is more space on the shipping truck. Now our parcel carriers can fit more boxes into a truck. More space on the truck means fewer trucks on the road and a reduction in the fossil fuels needed to deliver our products. Space is at a premium for us because we have a fairly small facility compared to other fulfillment centers of companies our size, so the less space something takes up the more room we have to bring in more inventory.

Try out alternative packing materials

We also recommend trying out alternative packing materials like corn starch peanuts instead of Styrofoam peanuts. Corn starch peanuts are compostable and readily available from shipping product distributors like ULINE. ExpandOS is particularly good for shipping glassware and other fragile items.  Heavyweight craft paper that is 60# or higher is another good void fill for packaging. Its rigidity helps keep things in place and provides a nice buffer for fragile items. Another great and sustainable packaging option are biodegradable custom molded pulp trays and clam shells like the ones produced by Salazar Packaging.

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