Damaged Products & Sustainability: Help the Environment with Protective Packaging

Product damage during transit results in a lot of environmental harm that you may not have considered, but what can we do to stop damage and protect the planet?  

Returns are far from uncommon, especially in the ecommerce sector. In 2015, consumers around the globe returned more than $642 billion worth of products, with buyers in the United States contributing $221.7 billion to that amount. The total number of returns is higher for ecommerce businesses than brick and mortar stores. David Sobie, CEO of Happy Returns, stated in 2019 that, “shoppers return 5 to 10 percent of what they purchase in store but 15 to 40 percent of what they buy online.”  

As an ecommerce seller, these returns not only have a huge impact on your bottom line, but also on the environment around us.  

Shipping’s Environmental Impact 

In 2017, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that transportation had finally overtaken power plants as the number one producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Cars, trucks, planes, and more all contributed 29% of the nation’s emissions, with cargo transport carriers like medium- and heavy-duty trucks, aircraft, rail, and ships making up 37% of those total transportation emissions.  

At this point, you’re probably wondering what the heck greenhouse gas emissions and transportation have to do with your ecommerce business? Thankfully, the answer is pretty straightforward. 

Sustainability and Your Business 

In today’s world, consumer demand for eco-friendly products and packaging is at an all-time high. People truly care about the environment and frequently choose to engage with brands that feel the same way. While there are many excellent choices for environmentally conscious packaging, another simple and sustainable packaging method is to ensure your goods are protected while in transit in order to reduce your rate of returns and replacements.  

Lower return rates lead to less transportation. When a customer receives a damaged item, they’ll want a replacement at the very least. As the seller, you’ll either have the damaged goods sent back to you or thrown out. All of this means that, at minimum, twice the amount of transportation and packaging supplies are needed to ensure the customer receives a functional product. If they then turn around and toss out the original item, nearby landfills only get larger.  

Protective Packaging Promotes Business Sustainability 

Protecting your goods as they make their way across the world is the simplest way to reduce your amount of returned items, and therefore, reduce the environmental impact you produce as well. It’s likely that you’ve already put some effort into protecting your products during the shipping process, as it saves you money in the long run and keeps your customers happy. However, many ecommerce sellers probably haven’t given much thought as to how this extra protection can be leveraged in an eco-conscious manner.  

There are a wide variety of methods available to you to protect your goods while they’re in transit to your customer. This could be something as simple as a void fill like kraft paper, foam cushioning, or air pillows. These are placed inside a box and prevent the item from sliding around within the package. If that package is carelessly tossed onto a porch or into a delivery van, void fill will minimize the harsh impact that can destroy the goods inside. Better yet, we offer a wide range of recycled kraft paper that can easily be recycled again after your customer receives it.  

In addition to void fill, you might also consider wrapping delicate products in bubble wrap or foam, or even placing them in an insulated shipping box that’s lined with thick molded foam. If you sell smaller items, a padded mailer or bubble envelope are also great options.  

Sustainable Shipping 

Finding the balance between sustainable shipping and packaging costs can be difficult. Thankfully, giving extra protection to your products saves you on replacing damaged products as well. This practice also offers the benefit of being able to truthfully advertise to your clients that you strive for sustainable business methods, which is an initiative that’s sure to make many consumers very happy.