Sustainable shipping: In 4 steps to an environmentally friendly online shop

Nachhaltiger Versand: In 4 Schritten zum umweltfreundlichen Online-Shop

We all know it, online orders are easy and fast. Especially through the Corona times, shipping has experienced a big boom. If you want to pay attention to sustainability not only in your products, but also in shipping, here's everything you need to know to get your products to your customers in a sustainable way.

Step 1: Sustainable shipping packaging

The most sustainable option is always the one where nothing new has to be produced. So the most sustainable thing you can do is to reuse already existing packages, boxes, shipping packaging etc.!

The existing packaging has already used energy and resources to make it. So why throw the product away? If it's still in tact, you can just use it a second time and save resources. Again, a short statement e.g. in the form of a sticker on the package gets your customers on board and they know directly why they get an old package!

The old package is too broken to reuse it? No problem! Shred the cardboard and use it as filling material or to cushion things! Super easy and above all you save money for new filling material! If you do need new packages, there are several options to consider.

Shipping packaging made from recycled materials

In addition to the conventional options, there are now many sustainable variants that are made from resource-saving and renewable or recycled raw materials. These can be boxes made from recycled cardboard, for example, or made from grass fibers and sugarcane fibers. The advantage of grass and sugar cane over wood, for example, is that they grow back quickly and are gentle on the soil. Grass can be harvested several times a year without any problems. Plus, the alternatives are biodegradable too!


If you've ever bought clothes online, you're familiar with mailers, which are usually made of plastic. Since the beginning of 2022, there is the #IAMPLASTICFREE mailer: A plastic-free mailer for clothing and anything that doesn't necessarily need a box with filler.

Made from the same cassava starch-based material as the #IAMPLASTICFREE Shopping Bags, they are 100% free of petroleum-based plastic, have a high-quality feel, and are fully biodegradable.

Like other mailers, #IAMPLASTICFREE mailers protect goods from rainwater and mild external elements, but should not get too wet or too hot as this will soften the film. Delicate items should be given extra padding as the mailers are not padded.

Great alternatives to disposable Styrofoam packaging and disposable drinking cups can also be found, especially for restaurants and snack bars.

Our tip: If you do receive a return, ask your customers to send it back to you in the original packaging and not to use new packaging. Again, if the return is not free, customers will think about whether it is worth it beforehand. This can avoid unnecessary returns.

Sample Pack Bags


Our petroleum-free shopping bags and shipping bags are biodegradable and water-soluble. Try them and see for yourself.

Step 2: Transparency in communication

The first point is transparency! You want to pay more attention to packaging waste? Want to replace plastic wrap with sustainable alternatives and ship with green offers from package delivery services? Great! Not only we think so, but also your customers! Sustainability is important to more and more consumers. Not only with the products they buy, but also with the shipping.

Communicate clearly that you care about the environment and therefore use sustainable packaging and shipping options. If you can't offer free shipping and the package can't be there the next day, a growing number of users will understand! It just needs to be explained transparently beforehand. A chargeable shipping also triggers many customers to think again: Do I really need the part and could the size fit? Or will I just send it back in the end anyway?

In the first moment it might mean that you receive less orders, but in reverse it means above all: Avoid returns! Again, this can be communicated with 2-3 simple sentences directly on the website, e.g. "Hey you! Glad you decided to order from us. Shipping costs exist with us because we care about the environment! We ship climate neutral and use recycled and sustainable packaging. In addition, we try so to avoid unnecessary returns and would like to encourage that only the things are ordered, which are also needed / kept."

With a short explanation, consumers quickly realize that it is worth paying for shipping and they automatically order with a good conscience!

Our tip: You can also offer that a certain amount is added to the purchase to offset the Co2 emissions of the order. This amount will then be donated directly to environmental organizations, e.g. Primaklima.

Step 3: Sustainable labels and filling material

It doesn't end with the packaging! You can also switch to sustainable options when it comes to filling materials, adhesive tape and labels. There are great alternatives for these, too. For example, plastic-free padding options made from wood wool or packaging chips made from cornstarch and water. These can simply be disposed of in the compost.

Labels can also be switched to alternatives made from grass paper or wood foil. For example, there is also a suitable variant made of paper for the "Caution glass" plastic adhesive tape. This is because these reduce the consumption of water and energy and reduce the use of chemicals. They are also recyclable and compostable.

Advantages grass paper

  • dried grass uses less cellulose
  • very sustainable substitute for wood fiber
  • grown on native meadows, which serve as compensation areas and are therefore not suitable for food and feed production
  • regional, extremely short transport distances in contrast to import routes of wood.
  • consumes less energy than virgin fibers and waste paper processing

Step 4: Sustainable shipping or transport

Having addressed the issue of packaging, labels and filling materials that are as sustainable as possible, we now turn our attention to green shipping. Deliveries can be made more environmentally friendly by, for example, using a bicycle instead of a car. Especially in cities, you can already see this delivery method frequently. But there are also emission-free deliveries in rural areas thanks to electromobility. For long-distance parcels, climate-conscious shipping means when parcels are transported by ship and train, followed by electric vehicles.

Many also take the opportunity to offset their Co2 emissions by donating to climate protection projects or investing in reforestation, for example. In this way, they achieve that Co2 is saved elsewhere or is bound from the atmosphere. In this way, companies should be able to compensate for their emissions. Here the German environmental assistance criticizes however that the CO2 avoidance by compensation is very cheap and this would not reflect the real damage costs.

Now we have compared the different shipping offers within Germany for you.


Since 2008, DHL has offered the climate-neutral option DHL GoGreen, in which the shipping service provider offsets the emissions emitted by donating to climate projects and reduces them by electric cars and e-bikes. Particularly in the last mile to households, DHL is focusing on climate-neutral delivery.

The company has set itself the goal of investing 7 billion euros in green technologies by 2030 and offering a green alternative for all its core products. This includes transport by e-car and e-bike, as well as by truck, plane and ship, using alternative fuels. By 2050, the company plans to act in a completely climate-neutral way.


DPD ships all its parcels CO2-neutral as standard. To do this, the shipping service provider uses the most efficient combustion vehicles, cargo bikes and e-bikes possible to reduce the emissions it emits and makes donations to climate projects to offset the emissions. As a pilot project, DPD uses special e-load bikes and alternative e-mobiles in some regions of Hamburg to carry out deliveries exclusively with low emissions.

By 2025, DPD aims to deliver parcels in 225 major cities largely without emissions, for which air quality measuring stations are to be expanded. In addition, (more) charging stations for electric vehicles, more parcel stores and sustainable depots and microdeposits are to be added to improve the convenience of collection so that fewer parcels have to be delivered to the door in the first place.


GLS is focusing on pilot projects to deliver in appropriate cities with zero emissions. In Leipzig, for example, two-thirds of the vehicles are electric, in Constance there is a cooperation with a logistics provider for e-bikes, and in Ludwigsburg the shipping service provider is participating in a municipal pilot project. Emissions are offset by donations to climate projects.

According to its own information, GLS uses 100% green electricity from renewable energy sources at all its German locations and aims to minimize transport routes and make them efficient with micro depots and modern planning tools. Appropriate depots are to receive the necessary charging infrastructure to enable the switch to e-mobility.


Currently, UPS uses more than 13,000 vehicles with alternative drive systems and promotes innovations in air and ground operations. Of those, only a little more than 1,000 are currently plug-in hybrids, as UPS is particularly committed to renewable natural gas and other alternative powertrains. UPS also relies on micro depots in inner cities to ensure climate-neutral delivery via e-bikes, cargo tricycles or pick-up stations.

To this end, the shipping service provider has committed to purchasing 10,000 more electric vehicles from the British startup Arrival, which produces more environmentally friendly products in decentralized microfactories instead of centralized gigafactories. The shipping service provider has invested $1 billion in vehicles, fueling stations and fuel for them.

Delivery Green

Liefergrün focuses on environmentally friendly, fast and convenient last-mile shipping. The Münster-based company focuses on green, decentralized micro-hubs and emission-free delivery. Currently, only Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne are covered, but this network will be expanded by four more cities and regions by mid-2023; another five cities are planned.

For delivery, Liefergrün relies on cargo bikes and e-city vans to avoid emissions rather than compensate for them. The shipping service provider promises same-day or next-day delivery in a time window selected by the customer. Via the shipment tracking, they can see the estimated time of arrival and can use delivery green to have received shipments picked up from the front door for return.

If you ship a lot to residential customers in one of the regions served by Delivery Green and speed is a particular requirement, then Delivery Green could be a good solution for your business.


In summary, every company is trying to be more sustainable. DHL and DPD in particular are doing this well. Another solution that is attractive for the climate is parcel stations, as they no longer have to drive to every household individually. Unfortunately, sellers have little influence on this, but here again, transparency is key! Why not recommend to customers that they choose delivery to a parcel station when they buy their product?

As you can see, there are a lot of things you can pay attention to as a company in order to ship products and orders sustainably! We hope we were able to give you an overview of different packaging, boxes, filling material and more, so that your next deliveries will now be (even) more environmentally friendly.



Ship sustainably with our petroleum-free shipping bags for online stores. Biodegradable and water soluble.

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