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An Entrepreneur's Guide to Eco-Friendly Packaging

15 min read

It is no secret that our planet deals with global problems like air pollution, climate change, water contamination, and literal islands of plastic floating in the ocean. Now, that’s the bad news.

The good news is that as more people become aware of environmental issues, perspectives and habits change in the right direction. Best of all, many businesses have started to change their business strategy to make their businesses more sustainable.

One of the best (and easiest) ways to become a greener business is to switch to eco-friendly packaging. Not only do you have the opportunity to reduce your business’s impact on the planet, but you will also enjoy the other benefits that will improve your business. In fact, people are willing to pay more for products packed in boxes made of sustainable materials. Eco-friendly packages can also significantly improve your brand awareness.

In this article, we will explain the benefits of eco-friendly packaging and provide you with some tips on how to make the switch. Let’s go!

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The Problems with Regular Packaging

Conventional packaging that most businesses use is usually made of petroleum-based materials. Petroleum-based packaging, like plastic, releases different kinds of toxins into the atmosphere and water, especially if it is heated up.

Unfortunately, burning plastic packaging, like Styrofoam, is common in many parts of the world and releases toxins into the atmosphere and groundwater. Even the ash from burned plastic contaminates water systems and soils.

As you can probably guess, plastic waste impacts our society and environment in many ways. Air and water pollution are well-known problems. Unfortunately, one-in-four people do not have access to safe drinking water, partly because of poor plastic waste management. We can all agree that this is unacceptable.

Share of the population with access to drinking water facilities

Using plastic packaging is optional. If you switch to eco-friendly packaging, you are helping protect water and air quality for humans, other species, and future generations. We all need to be a part of finding solutions to climate change—switching to clean packaging is one step in the right direction.

Benefits of Eco-Friendly Packaging

Obviously, there are a lot of downsides to petroleum-based packaging. Eco-friendly packaging isn’t just great because it’s not plastic—there are many other benefits! But first, what even is eco-friendly packaging?

Well, any package made of easily recyclable, toxin-free, and allergen-free materials is considered eco-friendly. In other words, packaging that has a minimal negative impact on natural resources, communities, and other species.

When you make the switch to eco-friendly packaging, you can have a sense of pride that you are doing your part to mediate climate change and reduce pollution. However, there are many reasons to switch to eco-friendly packaging. Here are some advantages:

Sustainable Packaging Is Biodegradable

Did you know that a single plastic cup needs 450 years to break down? During that period, it releases toxins into the atmosphere and groundwater. Plus, plastic will just break down into microplastics, which still cause significant environmental damage. Plastic packaging’s advantage is that it lasts forever. Unfortunately, that pro creates a lot of cons for our planet.

Sustainable packages can biodegrade a lot quicker than plastic. They are made of natural materials like bamboo, bio-plastic polymers, cardboard, recycled paper, and more—even mushrooms! They do not have a long lifecycle and (mostly) do not release harmful chemicals and toxins into the atmosphere.

Mushroom packaging for Mr Bailey x adidas Originals OZLUCENT sneakers

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses, like methane and carbon dioxide, released by individuals and/or businesses. Companies that use packages made of recycled or recyclable materials such as paper, steel, or cardboard have a relatively low carbon footprint.

Biodegradable materials generally are not harmful to the planet and produce less or no greenhouse gasses. If you want your ecommerce company to be carbon-neutral, eco-friendly packaging will help you reach that goal!

Sustainable Packages are Easily Recycled and Reused

Eco-friendly materials are easily reused, repurposed, and recycled. Businesses can even reuse waste from general business routines, like using excess paper to protect fragile items instead of bubble wrap. Businesses can also set up a return process so that customers can return packaging to use again.

Another way to make your business greener is to direct your customers to reuse or recycle the packages you send. You can teach them how to recycle or reuse packaging after they receive their product, like using packages for storage.

Kiehl’s offers customers to recycle empty product packages in their stores to earn points in their reward program

Appropriate Protection of the Products

Thanks to advanced technology and creative people, entrepreneurs can now order larger quantities of customized sustainable packages. Business owners can literally customize everything about their packaging with the right manufacturer. You will get completely unique and properly sized custom inserts, mailer boxes, poly mailers, shipping boxes, carton boxes, etc.

All these forms of packaging can be made of eco-friendly materials and ensure adequate protection. Manufacturers can develop different shapes and sizes for each product. With custom packaging, you shouldn’t receive returns due to damage during transportation. Customizing packages helps you properly pack and ship your products while reducing your impact on the planet.

Damaged product is the main reason for returning online purchases, according to online shoppers worldwide (Source: Statista)

Improvement of Reputation and Brand Awareness

Did you know that 76% of consumers think that brands are more trustworthy if they use high-quality packaging and materials? Shoppers will support businesses like yours that produce products and use packaging that is safe for people, the community, and the planet.

Being eco-friendly can turn customers into repeat buyers loyal to your brand. They will then recommend your business to others, increasing attention and profit. Eco-conscious practices will improve your reputation and boost the sentimental value of your business.

Also, custom sustainable packaging will help you stand out from your competitors. With amazing designs and a mission focused on sustainability, you can ensure a wonderful unboxing experience and make your customers remember you. Plus, they will often publish their unforgettable experience on social media and share the emotions they experienced while opening your product with the rest of the world.

Believe it or not, over 90k people type “unboxing” into YouTube every month. In fact, some unboxing videos can get over 10 million views. Unboxing content becomes viral quickly. If your logo is on the box, which it certainly should be, you will get free marketing and attract new customers.

There are all kinds of unboxing videos on YouTube

How Do Entrepreneurs Switch from Regular to Eco-Friendly Packaging?

Becoming a sustainable business is responsible… But it can be demanding. Making an environmentally-conscientious change, like switching to eco-friendly packaging, isn’t that easy. However, with a dose of motivation, it doesn’t have to be that hard. Let’s find out how to take the first step: switching to eco-friendly packaging.

Invest Time and Money in Education

Before making the switch, we recommend investing time (and sometimes money) to educate yourself about sustainable packaging. There’s a lot of peer pressure to switch to environmentally-conscientious practices. However, entrepreneurs need to figure out on their own why they should make the change. Only then can they establish long-term goals based on sustainability.

With some research, you will discover which eco-friendly materials are the best for your business needs, why they are beneficial, how much they will cost, and any other information you need to make the switch.

Collaborate with Packaging Manufacturers

Connecting with sustainable packaging manufacturers can pave the way to switching to eco-friendly packages. A partnership with a sustainable packaging manufacturer will allow you to order large quantities of custom packages at once. Some even have the capacity to customize packaging to fit your products, including custom designs for your store.

Entrepreneurs should first order packaging samples to confirm quality and relevance to their business needs. Most places will send reduced or free samples to help you figure out if the packaging is good for your business. Once you find the best and most affordable packaging, you can start the process of switching over.

Order custom packaging that fits your product to minimize waste

What to Do If I Can’t Switch to Sustainable Packages Completely?

Making changes in the business world always comes with risk. There could be multiple reasons why companies can’t completely switch to eco-friendly packages. Some business owners might find such changes overwhelming, while others believe eco-friendly packages are not the right option for them. We would like to help entrepreneurs and give them an idea of how the transformative process should start.

Start with Small Steps

We understand that some entrepreneurs are not in a position to switch to eco-friendly packages right away. No one says you need to do everything at once. Start with small steps. For example, you can start using eco-friendly materials to create custom inserts. Even something small will reduce the environmental impact of your packaging. Over time, you can slowly switch completely to sustainable packaging.

Educate Your Customers

Also, you can take the opportunity to help educate your customers about environmental issues. Invite your customers to recycle or reuse packaging instead of throwing it in the garbage. Strongly recommend using your boxes for other purposes, like for storage or as a toy. That way, you can indirectly reduce the negative impact of packaging.

Half Magic Beauty educates their customers on recycling their product packaging in a social media post

Educate Your Employees

Educating employees involved in the packaging process helps implement more sustainable practices. You need to teach them the best way to pack the products and handle any waste produced during the process. Reducing plastic waste is key to improving our environment.

Customize Your Eco-Friendly Packages

Entrepreneurs can also change the design and quantity of their packages to reduce their environmental impact. For instance, if you sell small items, you don’t need gigantic boxes and an overabundance of packing peanuts to get your products to your customers. Instead, you can customize your packaging and ensure its design fits your product.

You also save money by customizing packaging because smaller packages will certainly cost you less than using consistently large boxes.

If you run an Ecwid store, check out the Arka app in the Ecwid App Market. Arka provides branded and unbranded packaging for ecommerce businesses made from eco-friendly materials. You can start using custom packaging with as little as ten boxes to see if Arka is the right fit for you—and your products.

Examples of eco-friendly packaging by Arka

Focus on Eco-Friendly Shipping

Of your whole production process, focusing on eco-friendly shipping practices will do wonders for the environment. Unfortunately, there are not many options for eco-friendly shipping.

One way to improve your shipping process is to ship orders out in bundles (especially easy with smaller packages). That means when a customer purchases multiple products from you, you send all their items in one package. For example, a shopper buys two or three different products a month, and you send all their items as one order at the end of the month.

However, are people willing to wait longer to get their orders? As we said, education is key. For example, you could make videos explaining what bundle shipping is and why their patience helps the planet. Knowledge is everything!

Cost of Eco-Friendly Packages

Most of you are probably wondering whether eco-friendly packaging is more expensive than conventional packaging. The answer to that question might be surprising—no! In the long run, you will actually save money by switching.

If you collaborate with a reputable packaging manufacturer that uses only sustainable materials, you can order packages in bulk. That will automatically reduce the price of your order. On the other hand, if you plan to reuse packages (which is an available option), you won’t have to spend anything on new ones.

Plus, if the package’s customized shape is accurate and small, you will have more space to store orders, whether in your house or a warehouse. You won’t need more space to store orders or unused packaging, reducing rent and shipping costs.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say how much money you will have to spend on each package. It depends on the size and weight of your order, design requirements, packaging material, and quantity. But often, you can actually save money by switching away from plastic.

For example, you may spend around $138 for 100 units of compostable size 7 x 11 bubble mailers. On the other hand, plastic 8 x 11 (almost the same size) bubble bags will cost you around $215 per 100 units. The difference is significant!

Compostable bubble mailer by Arka

Wrap Up

Without a doubt, switching to eco-friendly packages is highly beneficial. Sustainable packaging is good for the planet, reduces costs, and improves your brand identity. In case you currently can’t switch to sustainable materials completely, we advise you to use some of the alternatives mentioned in this article. We all need to do our part in securing a future without pollution. Let’s build a cleaner planet together!

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About the author

Phil Akhzar is the founder and CEO of Arka. It provides custom branded and unbranded eco-friendly packaging for ecommerce businesses.

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