One area we've dedicated time to improve sustainability in is our shipping department. Given the amount of plastics that are commonly used in this department alongside the recent surge in online purchasing, it's necessary to address for most, if not all, industries.
An example of the waste produced in shipping is one-use plastic mailers and plastic packaging (e..g bubble wrap). These materials are frequently sent off to the landfill even though they could have been reused/recycled. Instead of contributing to this, we've been saving each and every one of the mailers we receive as well as the plastic bags commonly used to package garments. So far, these efforts have not only limited the amount of waste we produce, but also saved us money along the way as we rarely have to purchase mailers or packaging materials.
When we actually need to purchase mailers or any other shipping supplies, we try our best to ensure that we're buying products that are recyclable and/or made with recycled materials.
Here's a master list of our methods and materials for sustainable shipping:
Reuse all mailers, boxes, etc. sent to us (unless they're unusable due to large holes or other issues) - To accomplish this, it's important that all employees are opening packages carefully as to maintain the quality of these materials. This ensures we, and our customers, have the option to reuse them!
Re-using the plastic packaging that's sent to us - Some companies individually wrap things in plastic before putting them into a box. While it frustrates us to see large companies using plastic willy-nilly, it makes things a little better if we reuse these bags for our own shipping/packaging purposes. So far, these little plastic bags have come in handy for mask orders as well as other small items like patches, stickers, etc.
Recycling plastic material and mailers that aren't reusable - If there are mailers or plastic packaging (among many other materials) that we can't reuse, there are still better places to send them than the landfill. EcoEnclose recently started offering a recycling program for plastic film and this program is especially great given our shop is located in Oregon, one of many states that doesn't recycle plastic film. For extra info or help in knowing what is and isn't recyclable, this resource has been extremely helpful for us!
Recycled-Content Mailers - Sourcing products that are made with mostly (or entirely) recycled/repurposed materials is another step in the right direction. A brand we prefer to use is EcoEnclose - they're the leader in sustainable packaging, offering many different eco-friendly packaging options (products with 100% recycled content, products that are recyclable/compostable/biodegradable, Plastic-free products, etc.) Their products don’t break the bank, either!
EcoEnclose sends you these awesome (and free) cards to include in your shipments
Compostable Mailers - Ideal for those who know their customer base is likely to compost the mailers! Otherwise, these mailers won't reduce your ecological impact considering new materials (plants and veggies) are required to make them and, if they're thrown away rather than composted, they'll ultimately lead to relatively equal amounts of wasted materials/energy. If you're interested, a compostable mailer we know of is NoIssue’s. Their mailers are made from a combination of a bio-based polymer (PBAT) which is compostable, and PLA which is made up of plant materials such as regular wheat straw and field corn. This company’s use of PLA makes up barely 0.05% of the annual global corn crop, making it a significantly low-impact resource!
Refilling Jumbo Markers (and other pens) - The jumbo markers we use to label the boxes holding customers' orders are refillable, so we've been purchasing the ink refills instead of new markers. This can also be applied to other pens within your office/shop.