We all know it, online ordering is quick and easy. Shipping has experienced a big boom, especially due to the Corona times. If you not only want to pay attention to sustainability with your products, but also with shipping, you will find everything you need to know here to get your products to your customers in a sustainable way.
Step 1: Sustainable shipping packaging
The most sustainable variant is always the one in which nothing new has to be produced. So the most sustainable thing you can do is to reuse existing packages, boxes, shipping packaging, etc.!
The existing packaging has already consumed energy and resources to produce it. So why throw the product away straight away? If it is still in tact, you can simply use it a second time and thus 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 are receiving an old package!
The old package is too broken to reuse? Also no problem! Shred the cardboard and then use it for stuffing or to cushion things! Super easy and above all you save money for new filling material! However, if you do need new packages, there are a number of options that you can look out for.
Shipping packaging made from recycled materials
In addition to the conventional options, there are now many sustainable variants that consist of resource-saving and renewable or recycled raw materials. This can be boxes made from recycled cardboard, for example, or from grass fibers and sugar cane fibers. The advantage of grass and sugar cane compared to wood is, for example, that they grow back quickly and are gentle on the soil. Grass can be harvested several times a year without any problems. In addition, the alternatives are also biodegradable!
Anyone who has ever bought clothes online is familiar with mailing bags, which are usually made of plastic. The #IAMPLASTICFREE Mailer has been available since the beginning of 2022: a plastic-free mailer for clothing and everything that doesn't necessarily need a box with filling material.
Consisting of 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 completely biodegradable.
Like other mailing bags, the #IAMPLASTICFREE mailers protect the goods from rainwater and light external influences, 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.
There are also great alternatives to disposable polystyrene packaging and disposable drinking cups, especially for restaurants and snack bars.
Our tip: Should there be a return, ask your customers to send it back to you in the original packaging and not to use new ones for it. Here, too, if the return is not free, the customer should first consider whether it is worth it. This can avoid unnecessary returns.
Step 2: Transparency in communication
The first point is transparency! Do you want to pay more attention to packaging waste? Do you want to replace the plastic films with sustainable alternatives and send them with green offers from the parcel delivery services? Excellent! Not only do 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.
So communicate clearly that you care about the environment and that you therefore use sustainable options for packaging and shipping. If you can't offer shipping for free and the package can't be there the next day, a rapidly growing proportion of users understand! It just has to be explained transparently beforehand. A fee-based shipping also makes many customers think again: Do I really need the part and could the size fit? Or do I just send it back anyway?
At first glance, it might lead to you receiving fewer orders, but in reverse it means above all: avoid returns! This can also be communicated with 2-3 simple sentences directly on the website, eg “Hey you! Thank you for choosing to place an order with us. We charge shipping costs because we care about the environment! We ship climate neutrally and use recycled and sustainable packaging. In addition, we try to avoid unnecessary returns and would like to encourage you to only order the things that you need/keep”
With a short explanation, consumers quickly realize that it is worth paying for shipping and they automatically order with a clear conscience!
Our tip : you can also offer to add a certain amount to the purchase to offset the CO2 emissions of the order. This is then donated directly to environmental organizations. eg at Primaklima.
Step 3: Sustainable labels and filler
It doesn't stop with the packaging! You can also switch to sustainable variants for filling materials, adhesive tape and labels. There are great alternatives for that too. For example, the plastic-free padding options made from wood wool or the packaging chips made from corn starch and water. These can simply be disposed of in the compost.
You can also switch to alternatives made of grass paper or wood foil for the labels. For example, there is also a suitable version made of paper for the “Caution Glass” plastic adhesive tape. Because these reduce the consumption of water and energy and reduce the use of chemicals. They are also recyclable and compostable.
Benefits of grass paper
- dried grass uses less pulp
- very sustainable substitute for wood fibers
- grown on local meadows, which serve as compensation areas and are therefore not suitable for food and fodder production
- regional, extremely short transport routes in contrast to import routes for wood.
- consumes less energy than virgin fiber and waste paper processing
Step 4: Sustainable shipping or transport
After we have dealt with the question of the most sustainable packaging, labels and filling material possible, we now turn our attention to green shipping. Deliveries can become more environmentally friendly, for example, by making deliveries by bicycle instead of by car. This type of delivery is already common, especially in cities. But there are also emission-free deliveries in rural areas thanks to electromobility. For long-distance parcels, climate-conscious shipping means that parcels are transported by ship and train and then electric vehicles are used.
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. However, the German Environmental Aid criticizes that the avoidance of CO2 through compensation is very cheap and that this does not reflect the real damage costs.
Now we have compared the different shipping offers within Germany for you.
DHL has been offering the climate-neutral DHL GoGreen option since 2008, in which the shipping service provider offsets the emissions with donations to climate projects and reduces them with electric cars and e-bikes. Especially on the last mile to households, DHL relies on climate-neutral delivery.
The company has set itself the goal of investing €7 billion in green technologies by 2030 and offering a green alternative for all of its core products. This includes transport by e-car and e-bike, as well as by truck, plane and ship, whereby alternative fuels should be used. By 2050, the company plans to be completely climate-neutral.
By default, DPD sends all its parcels CO2-neutral. For this purpose, the shipping service provider uses the most efficient possible combustion vehicles, cargo bikes and e-bikes to reduce emissions and donates to climate projects to offset the emissions. As a pilot project, DPD is using special e-cargo bikes and alternative e-mobiles in some regions of Hamburg in order to only carry out low-emission deliveries.
By 2025, DPD wants to deliver parcels in 225 major cities largely emission-free, for which measuring stations for air quality are to be expanded. In addition, (more) charging stations for electric vehicles, more parcel shops and sustainable depots and micro-depots are to be added in order to improve the convenience of collection, so that fewer parcels have to be delivered to the door at all.
GLS relies on pilot projects to deliver emissions-free in corresponding cities. In Leipzig, for example, two-thirds of the vehicles are electrically operated, in Constance there is a cooperation with a logistics provider for e-bikes, and in Ludwigsburg the shipping service provider is taking part in a municipal pilot project. Emitted emissions are compensated with donations to climate projects.
According to its own statements, GLS uses 100% green electricity from renewable energies at all German locations and wants to use micro-depots and modern planning instruments to minimize and efficiently organize transport routes. Corresponding depots should receive the necessary charging infrastructure to enable the switch to e-mobility.
UPS currently operates over 13,000 alternative fuel vehicles and drives innovation in both air and ground operations. Of these, just over 1,000 are currently plug-in hybrids, since UPS is particularly committed to renewable natural gas and other alternative drives. UPS also relies on micro depots in inner cities to ensure climate-neutral delivery by e-bike, cargo tricycle or pick-up stations.
To this end, the shipping service provider has committed to supplying 10,000 more electric vehicles from the British startup Arrival, which produces in decentralized microfactories in a more environmentally friendly way instead of in central gigafactories. The shipping service provider has invested a billion US dollars in vehicles, gas stations and fuel for them.
Liefergrün focuses on environmentally friendly, fast and convenient last-mile shipping. The company from Münster relies on green, decentralized micro-hubs and emission-free delivery. Only Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne are currently covered, but this network will be expanded to include four more cities and regions by mid-2023; another five cities are planned.
Liefergrün uses cargo bikes and e-city vans for delivery, so as not to offset emissions but to avoid them. The shipping service provider promises delivery on the same or next day in a time window that the customer can choose. With shipment tracking, they can see the estimated time of arrival and can have shipments received with Liefergrün picked up from the front door for return.
If you ship a lot to private customers in one of the regions served by Liefergrün and speed is a particular requirement, Liefergrün could be a good solution for your business.
In summary, it can be said that every company tries to act more sustainably. DHL and DPD in particular are doing this well. Another solution that is attractive for the climate are parcel stations, since each household no longer has to be approached individually. Unfortunately, sellers have little influence on this, but the same applies here: transparency! When purchasing your product, why not advise customers to opt for delivery to a parcel station?
As you can see, there are a few things a company can pay attention to in order to send products and orders sustainably! We hope we were able to give you an overview of the different packaging, boxes, filling material and more, so that your next deliveries will be (even) more environmentally friendly.