Don’t look now, but the holiday season is almost here!

The holidays are a fun-filled time for most people. But online merchants often find themselves stressed out by the pressure to deliver fast, accurate shipments worldwide. As more consumers have come to demand fast, free holiday shipping, online merchants have obliged.

But despite the stress that eCommerce holiday shipping often brings, at least it seems environmentally-friendly. All customers have to do is browse the Internet and, after a few simple clicks, have their orders delivered right to their doorstep without having to get in their car. Very eco-friendly, right?

Not so much! In reality, sustainable shipping is a rarity in eCommerce.

Person sealing cardboard box

As major eCommerce players like Amazon, Walmart, Target all move quickly towards 1-day shipping and even same-day delivery, the hidden cost has become more apparent. This huge demand for fast shipping comes at a great price to the environment, especially during the volume-heavy holiday shipping season.

The eCommerce boom has resulted in serious environmental harm, especially from the shipping sector. The increased demand for fast deliveries has resulted in higher greenhouse gas emissions from the trucks and cargo planes tasked with delivering the orders. Because we require ever-higher volumes of product packaging, this puts a huge strain on the natural environment.

The answer: sustainable shipping! By adopting an eco-friendly packaging and shipping policy, your business can limit its environmental impact, even as the rush of the holiday shipping season looms.

But just how should you implement eco-friendly shipping? Here are our 8 tips on how to make your shipping more sustainable!

1. Offer Carbon Offsets at Checkout

Offering carbon offsets at checkout is a great way to promote eco-friendly eCommerce.

Carbon offsets, when purchased, are used to counteract one’s own carbon footprint by investing in programs that reduce greenhouse gases. Online merchants can easily offer carbon offsets at checkout through software applications such as Carbon Checkout. This is a simple way for environmentally-conscious customers to contribute to a greener future.

Person holding a leaf up to the sun

2. Source Sustainable Packaging

A sustainable shipping initiative also means using eco-friendly packaging!

Packaging waste is a huge issue in eCommerce. Businesses frequently use far more packaging than is necessary. Otherwise, they use packaging materials such as soft plastic that are non-recyclable and make responsible disposal difficult. As a result, packaging is responsible for a third of all household waste.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of options out there in terms of affordable sustainable packaging. Using recycled materials, paper and cardboard, organic fabrics and biodegradable packaging are all great eco-friendly packaging materials to consider.

For larger shipments, you can even use recycled pallets to be especially eco-friendly in your shipping strategy. For smaller orders, compostable mailer bags are an especially effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.

You can also find clever ways to offset the impact of your packaging needs. For example, noissue’s eco-alliance allows their customers to plant trees with every order in areas suffering from deforestation. This means that your business can positively contribute to environmental issues through your operation.

Taking this simple, minimalist approach to packaging will help to cut both waste and fulfillment costs for your business.

For more on environmentally-friendly packaging solutions, check out our guide!

3. Reduce Package Size

Make your package sizes smaller and more efficient if possible. Avoiding 'over-packaging' not only creates a more eco-friendly packaging design - it creates a more sustainable shipping strategy.

By taking up less space on a delivery truck, cargo plane or freight train, you can do your part in increasing shipping efficiency. This ultimately reduces emissions and lowers your business's carbon footprint. Smaller package sizes are also a great way to cut your shipping costs. It's a real win for the environment and your company’s bottom line!

Person on ipad surrounded by plants

4. Schedule Pickups

Rather than drop off orders yourself, always try to schedule pickups for them. Since courier trucks are always on a route, this is a small but effective way to personally reduce your carbon footprint.

5. Consolidate Customer Orders

Consolidating orders is another great way to promote sustainable shipping and fulfillment.

The rapid growth of 1-day and even same-day shipping and delivery has made it easy for customers to place one-off orders whenever they want. This makes their online shopping experience more convenient. But it takes a massive toll on the environment due to this lack of delivery efficiency.

Try to prompt your customers to buy several products at a time by having a product count or cost minimum for free shipping. At the very least, always try to send out multiple orders to the same customer at once. Preferably, you should be sending goods out in a single package, even if they were placed separately.

Consolidating customer orders can not only reduce the number of delivery vehicles on the road and subsequently lower emissions, but also save your company money!

Truck leaving depot

6. Use Ground-Based Shipping Solutions

Another sustainable shipping solution is to use ground-based shipping whenever possible. Yes, it may be slower than using air freight, but it still generally leaves a smaller carbon footprint. As an incentive, consider offering credits or perks like free or reduced shipping for customers who choose this option.

7. Market Your Slowest Shipping Option as the Greenest

Likewise, another good idea is to mark the slowest shipping option on your online store as the most environmentally-friendly one. Doing so is a simple but effective way to identify it for eco-conscious customers. It gives them an incentive to lessen their environmental impact in exchange for a longer delivery time.

8. Choose Eco-Friendly Shipping and Fulfillment Partners

Remember - you’re not alone when it comes to looking for eco-friendly shipping and fulfillment solutions!

There are many shipping and fulfillment partners out there that offer environmentally-friendly options for both shipping and order fulfillment. FedEx, for example, has its EarthSmart initiative. This helps them to be environmentally-conscious with its fuel efficiency, sustainable packaging, and green vehicle options.

UPS also offers sustainable shipping and fulfillment solutions with its eco-friendly packaging options that include reusable envelopes and an environmentally-friendly packaging program.

Plus, you can look for shipping and logistics companies that are certified with SmartWay, an EPA program focused on reducing fuel consumption and increasing efficiency.

Sustainable Shipping: Give the Gift of a Better Environment

The holidays may be a gift to your company’s bottom line, but they can really be a Scrooge to the environment! Don’t leave the planet with a lump of coal this year. Do your part in protecting the environment by greening your shipping strategy, adopting eco-friendly packaging, and giving the gift of a truly sustainable future!

This is a guest post by Steve Longo, the Content Writer for Easyship, the all-in-one shipping platform for global eCommerce that offers 250+ shipping solutions with discounts up to 70% for online merchants around the world.