The eCommerce boom is great in myriad ways. It’s convenient. If you work all day and have kids at home, shopping online may be all you have time for. It allows people access to products they wouldn’t normally be able to purchase. It can get fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income families living in a food desert. On the other hand, maybe you’ve sent, or received, an online product, and felt a twinge of guilt about the fact that your novelty bottle opener came in a cardboard box the size of your head.
The eCommerce industry uses a lot of packaging. The U.S. produces roughly 35 million tons of containerboard per year, and, according to the president of the Fibre Box Association, the use of boxes is growing faster in eCommerce than in any other industry.
eCommerce also hasn’t reduced vehicle emissions in the same way we might have hoped. Several recent studies, including one done in Newark Delaware, have shown that the growth of eCommerce has coincided with an increase in vehicle emissions. Researchers theorized that shoppers getting their goods delivered has put more trucks out on the roads, but has not stopped consumers from also driving out to brick and mortar stores to purchase the types of products that they want to see and feel.
As participants in this industry, we should all take some responsibility for its impact. To that effect, here are a just a few tips to help you run a green eCommerce store.
Educate Your Customers:
You can have a positive experience with your customer post-purchase by giving them a friendly reminder to dispose of their waste responsibly. You might put a message in with the packaging, or put a sticker on the box, with a phrase like, ‘Don’t Forget to Recycle Me!’. You can also go the extra mile by financially incentivizing your customers to make environmentally conscious decisions. Amazon offers a $1 credit towards an eBook to customers who receive an order of multiple items in as few boxes as possible.
Make Sure Your Shipping Boxes are Recycled:
eCommerce vendors are already pretty good at this. The Fibre Box Association reported that 90% of the corrugated packaging used by the eCommerce industry was recycled. Still, it doesn’t hurt to check on where you’re sourcing your packaging to make sure you’re part of that 90%.
Think Outside the Box:
Paper mailers can be made of 100% recycled material, and are more easily recycled than cardboard boxes. Many soft goods and apparel don’t require the protection of a box. If you sell these kinds of products, consider a paper or padded mailer instead of containerboard.
Go By Ground:
When it comes to green shipping, slower is better. Airplanes use a lot of fuel, and produce a lot of emissions. Also, because they travel so high up, they release their emissions directly into the upper atmosphere. Express delivery also involves extra packaging materials. Items for next-day delivery are usually packaged in special boxes or envelopes that are padded extensively. To save on extra emissions and extra packaging, try offering your customers an incentive to choose a ground shipping option.
Turn Your Sustainable Habits Into Conversions:
Eco-conscious customers are a hard bunch to impress, but if you put the time and effort into making your business into a green eCommerce store, you should reap the benefits. Consider getting a custom designed icon that you can put next to products or shipping options that are environmentally friendly. Not only will this encourage your customers to choose the greener options, but it may lead eco-conscious customers to choose your products over competitors that don’t advertise similar values.
These are just a few of the things that you might do to contribute to a more sustainable eCommerce industry. If you have any other ideas for ways to help the industry run greener, leave them in the comments below. If you have an eco friendly product that doesn’t have a store yet, or want to give your site a few touch ups to advertise your sustainable practices, we have a team of expert eCommerce developers that can handle any project.
- Joe Chilson
- February 22, 2016