Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to Green your Shipping Operations

Most Etsy sellers are probably ecstatic when they stumble across a nice shoebox or a small corrugated box they can reuse in their own shop – it’s like finding gold! But are you doing everything you can to keep your shipping practices green? Here are some ideas to consider:


Try and reduce the amount of packaging you are using. It's important to keep a variety of boxes and envelopes on hand so you don't have to put a small item in an oversized box. Also, consider a refillable packing tape dispenser and buy replacement tape rolls in bulk, rather than buying packing tape with a new dispenser each time (P.s. - those cardboard tape rolls make excellent bead or knick-knack dividers when a cardboard circle is glued to the bottom!)

Avoid double and triple packing items – for instance, a necklace in a mini zip bag, in a gift box, in a bag, wrapped in tissue, in a shipping box.... you get the idea!


Don't be shy - see some great boxes sitting outside a business or at your work? See if you can take them to reuse. Trophy shops, gift stores and even restaurants often have oodles of boxes. See if you can find a local business to partner with and offer to take all that "waste" off their hands!

Fill material is important for many Etsy sellers sending fragile items. Plastic bubble wrap and peanuts have their place, but you probably have things around your house that will work just as well! Popcorn is an excellent replacement for foam peanuts (encourage buyers to throw it in their yard for the squirrels!) Newspapers, magazine pages, and junk mail make excellent fill material when crumpled. Save the tissue paper from new purses or shoes to reuse. Many department stores put colored tissue paper inside shopping bags - reuse it! If you have a paper shredder to shred your bills, save those shreds for padding!

If you print your own shipping labels, why not print them on the back of scrap paper? Grab a few sheets out of the recycle bin at your office and print on the back. As long as the paper isn't too transparent, this works great and gets another use out of a sheet of paper before it goes to the recycle bin. Recycling is great, but it takes a lot of energy to recycle paper and plastic, so it’s most efficient to get as many uses out of an item as possible before it is recycled.

Extra fabric cut into strips makes for charming ribbon and ties. During the holiday season, if your yard is covered in pinecones, try using some as a festive fill material! Packing materials are everywhere…

If you are wary of how using reused materials might affect your business image, just consider it a marketing challenge. You could buy a rubber stamp that proudly announces you have reused packaging. Or consider an announcement in your shop that tells customers they can expect their package to arrive in eco-friendly upcycled packaging. Additionally, consider wrapping your main item in lovely printed tissue paper to make it stand out from your mishmash of upcycled fill material.

If you need to use new packing materials, consider eco-friendly products such as cornstarch peanuts or 100% recycled bubble wrap.


Be sure recycling is part of your shipping process. Scraps, packing material or other goods that cannot be reused or upcycled should be sent to the recycle bin. Avoid buying packing supplies that come with extraneous packing or waste.

Part of the recycle mantra that sometimes gets forgotten is to also BUY recycled. In the United States, its easy to buy recycled if you ship Priority Mail, because all of their packaging is Cradle to Cradle certified! Check to see if your favorite shipping supply vendor offers products made from 100% recycled content, or with a high post-consumer content percentage. offers several products that are made from recycled content:

Additionally, recycled labels can be found at:

If your favorite supplier doesn't offer supplies made from recycled materials, ask! Show them there is a demand for these products.

If you have unique packing needs, try searching the Internet for greener options by using a search engine like or


How far have your mailing supplies traveled to get to you? Are you driving to the post office twice a week to pick up boxes or to mail items? Are you ordering packing supplies once a month? Driving back and forth to the post office or having goods delivered to you more frequently than needed wastes energy.

Printing your own postage labels at home will save you time and gas - in the United States, you can log in to to arrange for packages to be picked up by your postal carrier. This is more efficient because they are already making the rounds through your neighborhood! Keep in mind, the USPS will also drop off packing supplies to you - order them for free online at

And while it may be painful on your wallet in the short-term, consider ordering your packing supplies in large enough quantities to last a year. You will usually find a lower per-piece price for buying in bulk, and you are saving energy by minimizing the number of deliveries you get (less truck trips to your house saves gas!)

Don’t forget to keep your packages light, especially if you need to use Air Mail. Tissue paper, newspaper, popcorn and paper shreds make for good padding and lightweight packages and help save fuel.

Complete the circle:

Lastly, urge your customers to recycle and reuse the packaging you've invested in!

Wrap items in ribbon or fabric that can be upcycled again and again. Provide your customers with information on how to recycle their packaging and/or what parts of your package are recyclable, and where they can find recycling outlets ( is a good site). This is information that makes great fodder for your newsletters or Message to Buyers.

If you're still not sure you are being as green as possible, you could offset your shipping operations by purchasing carbon credits from a broker such as Terrapass ( Carbon offsets are not without controversy, but you will be funding green energy projects.

What do you do to keep shipping green?


LillyShayStyle said...

These are wonderful ideas! I always love to hear more ways to recycle!

MonikaRose said...

Hello, these are great ideas, especially double triple packaging items. Thank you for sharing..Just wondering, are you still interested in me featuring your Etsy store in my blog, you are my first featured seller, I have sent convo to your store...let me know..thanks MonikaRose..have a fab day :)