How to Create Eco-Friendly Shipping Boxes

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Creating eco-friendly packaging is a growing trend among businesses. Environmentalists have always blamed commercialism for the problems caused by overflowing landfills, greenhouse gases, deforestation, etc.

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Last Updated on November 9, 2023 by Packoi Team

Fortunately, companies have responded positively to the challenge of sustainability. There have been massive efforts to implement sustainable practices.

One of them is sustainable packaging.

If you want to take part in this effort, start with shipping boxes.

In this article, you’ll learn the steps to creating eco-friendly shipping boxes and how to maximize the positive effects they can have on the environment.

shipping box

Why Eco-Friendly Shipping Boxes Are Important

Creating eco-friendly packaging goes beyond eliminating plastic packaging and opting for paper-based alternatives. It’s not just about choosing the right materials.

It’s about ensuring the supply chain the shipping boxes go through is sustainable. It should have zero or minimal negative effects on the environment.

Why should you go through all the trouble of doing this? While it may seem like a lot of work, the rewards are too valuable to ignore.

Choosing to use an eco-friendly shipping box brings three important benefits.

For the Environment

The first benefit of using eco-friendly packaging is felt by the environment. This is the goal of sustainability. There has been so much environmental damage at this point that we feel it daily.

Climate change is one effect. Hurricanes, extreme colds, and heat waves are only a few of the devastating effects of high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Plastic packaging is also devastating both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to decompose. During that time, they’ll be a huge threat to the ecosystems around them.

The list is endless, and it’s clear that we have a lot of cleaning up to do.

By opting for environmentally friendly packaging, there’s hope that, at the very least, we won’t be adding to the existing problems around us.

With the right sustainable packaging design, you can positively impact issues that include packaging waste, carbon footprint, deforestation, and many more.

You’re not just helping save the environment and ecosystems. You’re also helping communities and lifestyles that support it as well.

sustainable packaging

For Customers

Your sustainable shipping boxes will also benefit your customers. Eco-friendly packaging can be used to educate and encourage your customers to follow a more sustainable lifestyle.

Although shipping boxes are usually bare save for the branding and shipping information, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to educate customers.

A simple print that says, “This box is 100% sustainable. Find out about proper disposal,” then provide a link or QR code. Customers can use this to get information about properly disposing of the box.

By encouraging customers to take part and practice proper waste disposal, you’re educating them on how to be more sustainable in their lives.

It may seem like a small thing that you can do. But just planting the information in their heads will benefit everyone in the long run.

For Your Business

Finally, choosing eco-friendly packaging will benefit your business in more ways than you know. Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you will also be financially rewarded for it.

Some governments give tax incentives to businesses that show sustainable efforts. The tax breaks can eventually affect your overall profit margin.

Your sustainable efforts can also attract more customers. A study reveals that customers prefer to support companies that are very vocal about their eco-friendly efforts. Knowing that you’re advocating to protect the environment, people will be more likely to stay loyal to your brand.

There will also be business partners who are only willing to transact with green companies. Partnering with such companies will help ensure that your business will become part of a whole supply chain of environmentally friendly businesses.

This will not just help your business profit more, but it’ll also elevate your brand’s reputation.

10 Steps to Customize Your Eco-Friendly Shipping Box

Now that you know better what an eco-friendly packaging solution can bring, it’s time to customize your shipping boxes.

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The thing about sustainability is that you can’t just take one step and think that you are already doing enough to help. You can’t just change the materials of your shipping boxes and think that it’s already enough.

That’s not how it works.

Before you can get all the benefits of eco-friendly shipping boxes, there’s more involved. To make sure you’re doing it right, there are ten steps that you have to go through as you custom shipping boxes.

1. Do Your Research

Before anything else, you need to research sustainable packaging solutions. This is a growing industry, and you want to ensure you implement only the best options available.

When you’re doing your research, don’t be too quick to ignore plastic bags. Despite being deemed as hazardous to the environment’s health, there are now alternatives that you can consider. So if plastic is the best packaging for your product, don’t overthink it. Don’t skip the plastic film if you need lamination for your shipping boxes.

Global consumer packaging market

There are now more eco-friendly options that you can use.

You just have to spend adequate time researching, so you’ll know the available options for eco-friendly packaging materials.

You should also make it a habit of checking out new eco-friendly alternatives. That way, you’ll know if there’s a new technology that you can use to make your shipping boxes more efficient and sustainable.

2. Find the Eco-Friendly Trend You’ll Implement

Once you’ve researched the different eco-friendly packaging options, you’ll realize there are many to choose from. It’s important to get to know the pros and cons of these alternatives so you can choose the one that best represents your brand.

For instance, you can opt for recyclable packaging. That means your shipping box will be made of 100% recyclable materials. You can also recycle cartons for a second use, redesign them, and use recycled boxes for your shipping. It’s an environmentally friendly choice.

Or you can go for compostable packaging. Your shipping box will contain materials your customers can mix into compost.

You can also choose durable packaging materials, so your customers will be encouraged to reuse your shipping box.

All these options have a positive impact on the environment. Choose the one that your brand and customers can identify with.

Of course, you also have to consider what your product will need. Whatever tickles your requirements the most, go for that option.

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3. Pick Sustainable Packaging Materials

After choosing the type of sustainable trend you’ll focus on, it’s time to start putting your shipping box together.

The first thing that you have to do is choose eco-friendly packaging materials for your box. You have to consider the product when you’re deciding. Will single-wall corrugated cardboard be enough? Or will you need a double-wall corrugated cardboard to make it more sturdy?

It’s okay to use recycled materials, but if you want it to be compostable, you have to get them from the right source.

After the box material, you should also consider any lamination that’s required to protect the box. You don’t have to limit yourself to plastic packaging film. There are eco-friendly lamination options that you can find. The same applies to packing tape, adhesive, or printing that you’ll use on the box.

Make sure you choose eco-friendly options – especially if you want your shipping box to be recyclable. Even if there’s one toxic material used, it’ll compromise the recyclability of the box.

4. Consider Your Fillers

Apart from the outer materials of the shipping box, you should also consider the inner packaging. Choose eco-friendly packaging materials for your fillers.

Usually, shipping boxes contain products that are individually packed in their boxes. But even so, these will require fillers to ensure the boxes won’t have scratches or dirt.

While the typical filler is packing peanuts, you can choose compostable packaging materials as the alternative. There are packing peanuts made of starch that can be mixed with compost. You also have the option to use air pillows made of bio-based plastic.

cornstarch packing peanuts

Tissue paper, recycled plastic, and shredded corrugated cardboard are other options that you can use to fill the spaces in a shipping box.

Consider what the product needs in terms of protection, so you’ll know the specific needs of your packaging.

5. Determine the Right Size

At this point, you already have an idea of what materials your shipping box will use. But the materials and fillers aren’t the only concerns that you should have.

To create eco-friendly packaging, you should also consider the size of your shipping boxes. There are standard shipping boxes that you can choose from. If you want a custom size, this might cost you extra.

When choosing the size of the box, you want to consider the product and the guidelines from shipping companies.

You want it to be large enough to protect the product, but you don’t want it to take up too much space. You have to remember that the bigger the box, the higher the carbon footprint. You want to minimize that as much as you can without compromising its ability to protect the product and other contents. 

This will have a positive environmental impact and help you save money on shipping. Find out how much it’ll cost to ship specific box sizes, so you’ll know which one is the most practical.

6. Put the Right Design on the Box

Since this isn’t the product packaging, you don’t have to go overboard with the design. Your shipping box isn’t meant to promote your product. The main goal is to ensure that your products survive delivery without damage.

So if there are designs, they’ll be for the shipping companies and handlers.

Your eco-friendly packaging should contain all the labels telling shippers how to handle the box. Based on the material of the box, what is the burst strength? This refers to the pressure the box can handle before it ruptures. The most common rating accepted by shipping companies is 200. That means it takes 200 psi before your box is damaged.

The ECT, or Edge Crush test, also matters. This determines the stacking strength of the box. This will let the shippers know how many boxes can be stacked on top.

Label of shipping boxes

If the contents are fragile, put them in red and bold letters. That way, the handlers are aware.

Although the design is more functional and informative, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it look visually appealing. You can still use this to raise awareness of your brand. Put your name on it, and don’t make the box look too tacky. Keep everything clean and clear.

7. Comply with Industry Standards

You can’t just claim that your shipping box is sustainable. You must comply with industry standards to say you’re using eco-friendly packaging.

Read about the rules specified by your local government or the regulating agencies. Make sure your packaging materials are all compliant with it.

This will also give you ideas on what labels, markings, and information your shipping box should have.

Make a list of all the mandatory information. But don’t just print it on the box. Position the important information accordingly.

Don’t forget to leave space for your branding.

8. Partner with Green Packaging Suppliers

The easiest way to create eco-friendly packaging is to get it from green packaging suppliers. You can trust that these companies already have access to sustainable packaging materials. They also keep themselves updated on the latest developments regarding sustainable packaging.

If there are new materials, styles, and regulations, you can rely on them for information. Of course, you still have to verify that the information applies to your brand. But at least your research will be easier.

The question is, how will you know which ones to pick?

Look for certifications. Since shipping boxes are paper-based, look for FSC-certified packaging suppliers. These are companies that comply with the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council. They only get paper products from responsibly managed forests.

Green Packaging

They also advocate against illegal logging and deforestation.

9. Get the Right Shipping Company

At this point, your shipping boxes should be ready for production. But before you have them run, you have to choose the shipping company that you want to partner with. It doesn’t have to be just one. You can pick multiple companies.

The purpose of identifying them is to ensure that your boxes comply with their shipping guidelines. Check their prices and see if your eco-friendly packaging can get the most cost-efficient option.

At the same time, find out how to lower your carbon footprint with the shipping company.

Once you’ve gone through all the details, you can give your shipping box design another look. The packaging supplier can produce the boxes if everything is in order.

10. Create a Plan to Keep Shipping Boxes Sustainable

While your shipping box is in production, there’s something else that you need to do. You have to create a plan or system so you’ll know what to do with your shipping boxes.

For instance, how do you preserve shipping boxes so they can be reused?

Or what do you do with damaged shipping boxes? Maybe you can have them shredded so you can use them as fillers.

Then there are also storage issues. What is the best way to store shipping boxes to minimize damage?

You need to create a plan so that all these are addressed. The more you take care of and maximize your shipping boxes’ use, the more they can be reused.

7 Eco-Friendly Ways to Ship Products In Sustainable Packaging

Now that you know how to turn your shipping boxes into eco-friendly packaging, don’t waste all the effort that you put into it.

Think about how you can maximize its sustainability. Make sure the positive environmental impact of your packaging is as huge as it can get.

Here are some ideas to help you achieve that through your packaging solutions.

1. Opt for Recycled Shipping Boxes

One of the simplest ways to create eco-friendly packaging is by using recycled boxes for shipping. There are many ways to make this happen.

You can talk to your packaging supplier and request recycled materials. You can also specify that you want recyclable packaging. That means your shipping boxes won’t use mixed materials that can contaminate the paper and cardboard. All the adhesives, labels, ink, and lamination are all eco-friendly.

This will ensure that recycling facilities can recycle them into new products.

You should also put the recycling logo on the box. That way, people will know they should put the box in the recycling bin if they have no use for it.

Recycled Shipping Boxes

2. Reuse Shipping Boxes When Possible

Don’t waste the environmentally friendly packaging materials that you’ve chosen for your shipping boxes. Find a way to reuse them.

Shipping boxes that are in good condition should be reused to ship out other items. You can mix compostable packaging with compost to enrich the soil.

You can also add text to the box that says, “Reuse this box as _____.” Then add a link to your website where customers can find instructions to create beautiful art pieces using the box.

For damages, ensure your reusable packaging solution even comes with instructions and proper labels so people will know what to do with them. That way, they won’t immediately throw them away.

3. Reduce the Use of Boxes

Another way to be sustainable with your shipping boxes is to reduce their use.

First of all, your eco-friendly packaging should maximize space. Try to put as many products in every box as possible without damaging them. Of course, you must leave enough space between products to ensure they’re not compromised during shipping. But make it as compact as you can.

This also means waiting to ship products together. Careful planning and scheduling will help lower your carbon footprint.

Lastly, try to avoid putting one box inside another if it’s not necessary. Don’t use more boxes unless the product is very fragile and requires extra protection. It’ll just add to the weight of the shipment.

This will also benefit your business finances because you’ll save on shipping costs.

4. Shred Damaged Shipping Boxes for Fillers

Although shipping boxes are made of durable materials, you can reuse them only so many times. Over time, boxes will tear or get damaged.

Should you throw them away? Not yet.

You can use the boxes for something else if you choose suitable packaging materials. Shred the damaged boxes to be reused as fillers for other shipping boxes.

At the very least, you can use the materials one last time before they’re sent to the recycling facility or thrown away.

Don’t forget to educate your customers so they’ll know what to do with the shredded cardboard. Ensure they know these are 100% recyclable and should be put in the recycling bin.

5. Switch to Eco-Friendly Invoices

Here’s an idea to help you stay true to your environmentally friendly packaging strategy. Use eco-friendly invoices. Some people miss this opportunity. You don’t just use biodegradable packaging materials on the box. You can also do this for invoices.

Resealable Packaging

There are two ways to do this.

One is to use recycled paper. Get your invoice paper from a supplier who produces recycled paper.

The second option is to switch to electronic documents. Just put a note on the box to inform customers that they can access the invoice electronically. Or you can send it to them through email.

6. Use Resealable Packaging

If you’re going to design your shipping box to be eco-friendly packaging, make it a resealable one. As much as you want to avoid returns, they’re not completely unavoidable.

In the event that it does happen, your customers should be able to reseal the box and return the package in the same box. This will ensure that no additional packaging is wasted.

Make sure that you put instructions and labels on the shipping box. Let customers know they can simply reseal the box if they want to return the product. Put it in a visible place so they won’t miss it.

7. Try to Eliminate Returns

This is something that most people may not realize. To maximize the benefits of environmentally friendly packaging, ensure it doesn’t travel more than necessary.

That means you have to eliminate returns.

While you can’t control what happens during shipping, you can control how robust and durable your shipping boxes will be. If you can make it strong enough to protect your product, you won’t need to return it.

Of course, returns can also be caused by the wrong online representation. People may be getting the wrong idea about your product. The moment they receive the package, it doesn’t meet their expectations.

If you’re getting a lot of returns, no matter how good your packaging is, it might be a marketing problem. Make sure whatever you post online meets expectations.

If you can eliminate returns, you’ll lower your carbon footprint, – is a huge help to the environment.

Let’s Talk about Creating Your Brand’s Eco-Friendly Packaging. Packoi Printing Can Help with Custom Shipping Boxes.

Turning your shipping boxes into sustainable packaging doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow the steps to ensure that you’ll make the right choices regarding the box’s materials and design.

This task will be much easier if you partner with the right packaging supplier. With the help of a certified supplier, you’ll get access to the right resources. You’ll get ideas and updates about the most sustainable options for your shipping boxes.

If you’re looking for the right partner, Packoi Printing is here to help. We are FSC-certified and ready to supply you with shipping boxes made of paper from responsibly managed forests.

Call us so we can talk about how we can help you. We’ll give you a fair quote soon.

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Hey there, I’m Shelly!

I really enjoy the packaging and printing industry because my work makes my clients’ products more beautiful and enjoyable. If you have any questions about packaging and printing, feel free to contact me!

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