Small Parcel Shipping in 2020: A Focus on Sustainability

Brandi Smith, Marketing Director

It’s that time of year again. The time where we all start thinking about the New Year, our resolutions and what trends we can expect to see. It doesn’t matter what industry or profession you’re in or what your favorite interests or hobbies are, trends and resolutions always seem to be a big focus.

When it comes to small parcel shipping, we’ve been keeping a close eye on what we can all expect in 2020. One common theme we’re seeing is from both businesses and consumers alike, one of which is a continuation of what we have seen in recent years — a greener, more sustainable approach.  

The volume of small parcel shipping is shooting upwards each year — which means the environmental cost is surging upwards too. Global volume in 2017 was 74.4 billion parcels, a 17% increase over 2016, with continuous double digit growth year over year since. Companies that make more sustainable shipping and packaging choices will reap dual benefits: less impact on the environment and less impact on their bottom line.

Companies will also see and experience improved brand loyalty from their customers. Consumers, particularly Millennials (a.k.a. the “Green Generation”), have begun and will continue to show loyalty to brands that demonstrate their value around sustainability and contributing to a ‘circular economy.’ This means consumers will show preference for brands that show their integrity and values associated with sustainability through the use of recycled and upcycled products, streamlined shipping methods, sustainable manufacturing processes and/or thoughtful packaging.

So how do brands reduce their environmental impact while meeting mounting consumer expectations when it comes to their sustainable shipping practices? Here are four ways:

1. Use recycled products for your parcel packaging

There are a variety of certifications designed to ensure that the box you use is environmentally friendly. Because all paper starts with trees, use a box that came from sustainably managed forests by looking for Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified packaging.  

In addition to the triangular chasing arrow logo, which tells the percentage of recycled content in the box, also look for Cradle to Cradle, or C2C, certified boxes. This packaging features adhesives and inks that aren't harmful to the environment, as well as recycled content.  

Of important note however, being green can come at a premium if you don’t choose the right vendor for your boxes. The postal service's C2C-certified boxes cost about one-third more than uncertified boxes sold by Uline, so select your supplier wisely.

2. Use eco-friendly materials

Styrofoam — that old standby used to insulate products against bumps, drops, heat and cold — can be hazardous to the environment in a number of ways. Not only is the petroleum-based product non-sustainable, its manufacturing process also generates a tremendous amount of waste.

To avoid fuel-based fillers, you can use fibrous blocking materials such as corrugated inserts, which helps improve packaging and materials sourcing. One alternative, EcoCradle Mushroom Packaging, is a bio-material that works as an alternative to foam.

Though prices vary depending on the box, biodegradable filler can be competitive in price with traditional packing peanuts. For instance, a 20-cubic foot bag of organic starch cushioning costs just $2 more than the industrial version.

3. Streamline your parcel packaging

When it comes to streamlining your parcel packaging, we share a series of ways to do this in our blog, 6 Ways to Reduce Your Shipping Costs. For example, always pack your products in as small a parcel as possible. Don’t use a large box if a small box or bubble mailer can just as easily get your product from A to B in one piece.  

That’s one of the benefits of shipping with ShipperBee. Our parcel requirements are different – less packaging is required making it easy to streamline your parcel sizes. When shipping with one of the courier giants, investing in stackable boxes to ensure they hold up in their trucks are a must. With ShipperBee, there is no bouncing from truck to truck across distribution centers, which means you don’t need to make that investment. Our drivers are moving small bundles of parcels safely on their journey. They’re not stacking your boxes and parcels but rather placing them in their unused vehicle space and transferring them across our Hive network.  

Reducing the size and volume of packaging not only uses fewer materials, thus improving the carbon footprint. More compact packaging also helps your bottom line by cutting material costs. As with shipping, if you find your packaging costs are going down, you are probably making more environmentally friendly choices overall.

4. Find a 'green' shipper

The transportation sector is considered one of the largest polluters. Environmental concerns in this sector began some time ago, with green, sustainable business practices being integrated into their overall strategies in recent years — from LED lighting in distribution centers to electric and hybrid delivery vehicles. This was not just to reduce their environmental impact, but to enhance their corporate reputations, lower supply chain costs and increase customer loyalty.  

At ShipperBee, we’ve gone a step further by removing the hub-and-spoke concept out of our regional shipping model. Instead of distribution centers, we use our Hive transfer mailboxes and a collaborative delivery driver network, which is crowdsourced with people who are already in transit to deliver parcels — think commuters, stay-at-home parents, students, retirees and roadtrippers. Without the overhead of distribution centers, medium to large sized trucks and by using regular everyday people already on the road, our studies have shown that we reduce the carbon emissions for every parcel we deliver by 73.1%. You can learn more about the way we’re changing the world of shipping in our Future of Shipping blog.  

Touting your corporate social responsibility gets even easier when using ShipperBee as a part of your sustainable business practices.  

2020 is right around the corner. When it comes to more sustainable shipping practices, use these four tips to support a greener shipping resolution in the New Year. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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