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How We're Making A Difference With Sustainable Shipping & Packaging

Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes

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What sustainable packaging and shipping actually means and how to check what other companies are doing.

True or False (answers at the end):

  • Biodegradable = Compostable
  • There is a packaging material made from seaweed
  • The adhesive from traditional tape is made from fossil fuels
  • Packing peanuts can be plant-based and dissolve in water

Stay informed this holiday season — and always! It’s very trendy to be eco-friendly right now and companies are advertising sustainable packaging and products like never before. 

Think about it — have you seen something recently from a huge company and you’ve thought “wait, really?” go with that feeling and do some investigating. And while there are large organizations taking a step in the right direction, greenwashing is more prevalent than ever. Companies are taking this opportunity to highlight (re: mislead) consumers about their ‘eco-friendly practices’ that actually aren’t.

vegan veggie thanksgiving dish

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

There is no such thing as perfect but we support companies who are trying even if that means being a little less convenient. Any company that has eco-friendly practices, shipping, or policies should be open and willing to discuss them. We want to break down how we ship and package sustainably while also providing you with the knowledge to keep yourself from falling into the greenwashing trap! 

Keep on reading for our tips and sustainable packaging practices. 

What's Inside the Sustainable Packaging?

The contents are obviously a very important part of sustainable packaging. At Zero Waste Store we want to help you swap out wasteful behaviors for sustainable, clean new ones. Behaviors that include both knowledge and whatever physical products you may need. We work with hundreds of other small businesses looking to (not) make an impact on the planet. 

Zero waste products wrapped in recyclable and compostable packaging

In order to be a partner, these small businesses must meet our list of eco-friendly and sustainable criteria, so any product you’re shopping on Zero Waste Store has been handpicked and vetted by our team. One big requirement that we have is that they must ship plastic free (to us) and we in turn use plastic-free packaging to get your shipment to you. 

Make Sure Eco-Friendly Padding is Used In Your Sustainable Package

roll of paper packaging

Photo by Alexandra Tran on Unsplash

Your package needs to be protected. As much as we’d love saving the materials of padding — we want your items to get to you in the best condition possible! Here’s how we do that plastic-free.

Recycled Kraft Paper

What makes this different from regular paper padding is the old stuff came directly from virgin material. This paper is made from completely recycled consumer and industrial materials! It’s completely biodegradable (compostable in this case) and recyclable. Upon receiving your package, we recommend flattening out the kraft paper and saving it to use as padding for your future shipments or future wrapping paper. 

Some of our staff save padding from packages they’ve ordered and use that to wrap and ship presents for the holidays, birthdays, and any other occasions! 

Water Soluble Packing Peanuts

Water-soluble packing peanuts are made from plant-based fibers and as their name suggests, completely dissolve in water! Once you’ve unpacked your sustainably packaged shipment, remove the packing peanuts and place them in your sink or a bowl filled with water. They will dissolve quickly and you can dispose of the water down the sink. They’re also compostable!

Traditional packing peanuts, while fun to touch and throw around, are made from Styrofoam. Styrofoam is made from fossil fuels and used in a wide variety of things such as construction, insulation, and packaging. Because it’s a form of plastic, it also takes hundreds of years to actually break down and leeches chemicals and microplastics into the environment while doing so. Not only does it not break down, it’s a lightweight plastic so it’s easy to blow around, fall into our waterways, and be mistaken for food by birds.  

Other sustainable packaging options include: 

  • Shredded Paper — it can be purchased or you can use your own office shred to line packages!
  • Honeycomb Kraft Paper — Post-consumer cardboard is repurposed into a type of kraft paper that is pre-cut in a way that allows the paper to expand and protect your items.
  • Air Pillow — Made from recyclable materials, these are filled with air which provides protection to your items.
  • And more!

Recycled Boxes & Mailers

spread of thanksgiving food

Photo by Christopher Bill on Unsplash

Boxes

In a perfect world, everything sent to the recycling center will get broken down and remade into a new product. Cardboard is an excellent material that can be easily recycled. We ship in boxes that are made from recycled cardboard and can be also fully recycled or composted (or kept and reused) after use.

Recycled Mailers

Shipping in a mailer is more economical and environmentally friendly because it takes up less room and less weight during the transportation process. When possible, your package will be shipped via a mailer that is recyclable and compostable! 

Sustainable Packaging With Labels & Tape

Water activated tape, recycled box, cornstarch packing peanuts, and recycled packing paper

Your package has to be sealed somehow and traditional tape contains adhesive made from fossil fuels and is not recyclable. We use water activated tape and compostable shipping labels to make sure your package is delivered, and delivered in good condition! 

Water Activated Tape

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of being pre-sticky, water is added to the ‘tape’ right before it’s applied to a package. The water activates the tape and causes it to stick to the surface it’s being applied to. It’s completely made of paper and the adhesive is starch based meaning it’s completely recyclable and eco-friendly! Don’t let color fool you, you may already be receiving water activated tape and not know it. Iit doesn’t have to look like boring brown kraft tape and can be completely customized with fun bright colors and patterns using soy-based ink! 

Compostable Shipping Labels

tickers are so great. They can say whatever you need them to say and they... well, stick to whatever you need them to stick to! Which is why stickers make the best partner for shipping labels — they contain all the information the carrier needs to know to get your package to you — stuck right there to the outside. We’re proud to use compostable shipping labels meaning both the label and the adhesive are compostable and safe for home composting as well! 

Demand Better — Ask For Sustainable Packaging

spread of thanksgiving food

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Don’t be afraid to let your favorite brands know that you want them to do better. You are their customer, you spend your money there and they want you to continue doing so. Send an email to their customer service line, chat with someone on the website, snail mail, or even send a LinkedIn message if that’s your preferred platform. 

However you want to do it, let companies know what you want! And keep doing it. If you’re unsure where to start, one of our favorite eco-influencers, Lauren Ferree, has a blog post with the template she uses to contact companies about their (lack of) sustainable packaging and the responses she’s gotten. Feel free to use this one or make it your own! 

True or False Answers — hopefully you learned something with this piece! 

  • Biodegradable = Compostable
  • False! Biodegradable does not always mean compostable. Compostable items are organic materials that break down into a single material. If your curiosity has struck, check out this blog from The Good Trade. 
  • There is a packaging material made from seaweed
  • True! Notpla is a material that was developed by a team of amazing chemists and engineers that biodegrades in weeks!
  • The adhesive from traditional tape is made from fossil fuels
  • True! Which is why we use water-activated tape
  • Packing peanuts can be plant-based and dissolve in water
  • True! Try it out with your next zero waste shipment 

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