Green Shipping Tips

Easy ways to apply 'reduce, reuse, recycle' to your packaging practices

by Danna Crawford
- Feb 23, 2010

In all my years of selling on eBay, the only shipping material I've ever purchased was tape! I've been shipping "green" since 1997.

My green shipping practices started, not as much out of concern for the environment at the time but because, as a single mom with three kids, I was on a tight budget. I shipped beanie babies in empty boxes of cereal, oatmeal, cookies and the best Hostess cupcakes money could buy.

Even as my sales grew, it made no sense to me to spend money on shipping material, when there was an abundance of free supplies all around me. Junk mail envelopes became my best friends. They are easy to fold over and put shipping labels directly over the see-through windows.

I still ship green today, and have learned over the years how to be very resourceful. There are all kinds of sources for free shipping supplies around you, and I would like to encourage you to take advantage of those sources and ship green.

Three years ago, I launched a Web site called I created the site to encourage others to ship green and to take the green shipping pledge. I wrote on all my packages "" so my customers would feel more comfortable and understand why I packaged their items the way I did.

These days, of course, there's so much more to shipping green than trying to save a few bucks on supplies. There is a bigger picture—a big green picture—and that is to do your small part to help preserve Mother Earth by recycling or reusing materials.

Foam boxes from the pediatrician's office are especially excellent for shipping glassware, and are very lightweight

Many places that we visit throughout the week have all the shipping supplies an online seller needs. All you have to do is ask local merchants to save the materials for you. I've yet to meet anyone that has refused to do this for me.

Make arrangements for a weekly pickup, and be consistent and arrive on time to pick up the supplies as promised. Whatever you do, don't let someone down by not showing up. Creating a routine is the key.

Take advantage of your connections. For example, I have a good friend who is a hairdresser, and the salon where she works receives hair products shipped in boxes loaded with foam packing peanuts. They don't mind bagging them up and saving them for me to pick up on Tuesdays.

Another resource I highly recommend is the doctor's office. If you have children and visit a pediatrician, this is the perfect place to get fantastic bubble wrap, foam wrap and white Styrofoam boxes. Those foam boxes are especially excellent for shipping glassware, and are very lightweight—which helps to keep international shipping prices low.

And your buyers will no doubt find ways to repurpose them. I've seriously had people thank me for the bonus "cooler," and once, a fisherman thanked me for the "bait box." Another time, I shipped a glass coffee mug in one of those small white foam boxes and the buyer said it could have dropped from the moon and it would not have broken!

Other places to look for free packing materials include:

  • Dollar stores
  • Cosmetic sellers (e.g., "the Avon lady")
  • Gift shops
  • Dentists
  • Friends

Many grocery stores have a recycled plastic bag area. I like to grab a few bundles and use them to wrap my items before boxing them up. My personal shipping rule has been to always wrap the item in a recycled plastic bag before placing it in the shipping box. I feel strongly about the importance of this because it will help protect the item from the elements. You never know what kind of situation your shipping box could get into after it leaves your home.

One word of caution when choosing your green shipping resources: Beware of odors. If you have a smelly shipping bag or the box you're using has a weird funk, chances are the item you put inside will absorb that odor and you'll have an unhappy customer—which may result in a negative feedback.

Another tip is to be tidy with your wrapping. Don't just crumple and shove. Fold newspapers and plastic bags nicely and neatly. Add some style to the green shipping and tie a bow or add a smiley face to the tape.

Once you've taken the green shipping pledge feel free to write "" on your packages and your customers will understand that you are, indeed, a serious green shipper, too.

About the Author

Danna Crawford, CEO of PowerSellingMom, Inc., has been a successful eBay seller since 1997. In 2008, she received eBay's Community Hall of Fame award, as well as the Golden Ribbon Community Seller Award from eBay Giving Works. As an eBay Certified Education Specialist, she teaches at the community college and university levels, and frequently speaks on topics such as how to make money blogging, writing eBooks and more. Crawford can be heard every Friday night on her Internet radio show, PowerSellingMomRadio, and in weekly webinars at

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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