"Going green" isn't a new trend for businesses. The idea can apply to a single part of a business or a set of practices designed to reduce your environmental footprint.
Mandy Nagel, founder of I Thought of You, a site that sells handmade products, elegantly summed up what green means to her, "As a 'green' business, we consider how every aspect of our product's lifecycle will affect the planet."
Natural materials might be more expensive, but that extra cost has to be balanced against the powerful public relations and marketing advantages
One of the most important ways businesses can choose to be greener regards
packaging. We took a closer look at the topic and found that environmental benefits are not the only reasons why companies are taking the green route.
'Green' isn't cheap
Green is the color of money, but that doesn't mean going green is cheap. Robin and Mark Le Vine of Bubblefast, LLC, a company specializing in packaging materials, offers green shipping alternatives.
"To be completely honest, with the dramatically rising cost of shipping and the increasing push for sellers to offer 'free' shipping to their buyers, we find that we are getting fewer requests for green products," Robin Le Vine tells us. "As you probably suspected, yes, eco-friendly products are often more expensive than their less green counterparts."
Bubblefast's green products feature biodegradable packing peanuts and unlined poly bags. "Our biodegradable packing peanuts are heavier than the traditional (polystyrene) peanuts, which make them more expensive to ship," Le Vine notes. "We have to charge more for these peanuts, but they remain a popular product for us."
Shel Horowitz, a "green business profitability consultant," also spoke about the increased cost for green packaging.
"Yes, packaging peanuts from natural materials might be more expensive, but that extra cost has to be balanced against the powerful public relations and marketing advantages of making the switch," he says. "Companies using these alternative methods would be smart to include a flier about why they switched and how they want to be good citizens of the earth, support jobs in their own country and region, and so on. There's no reason for a business to use non-degradable box fillers anymore."
Le Vine says there is a "small but dedicated following of customers" who seek the most environmentally responsible shipping supplies possible and Bubblefast is happy to meet their needs.
42 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging options
Shoppers want 'green'
Some businesses go "green" in fun and memorable ways. Megan McCausland, VP of communications for RNS Packaging, provided some statistics that really bring the point home.
"17 million pounds of packaging end up in American landfills annually. Furthermore, according to a recent study by Asia Pulp and Paper, 56 percent of Americans desire more sustainable packaging when purchasing products," she says.
Those landfill stats are alarming, and the company has come up with its own unique way of mitigating the ever-present issue by creating a packaging alternative that is versatile, environmentally friendly, and fun.
"RNS Packaging has patented the world's first fun-shaped biodegradable loose fill packaging, the FunPak," she says. "In addition to dissolving in water or breaking down in soil, FunPak is static free, non-toxic and offers a special unboxing experience because of its unique shapes. Our first product line, a dog bone shape, has been a hit with pet retailers and distributors. We just released FunPak Packing Shamrocks, and FunPak Packing hearts are due out next month."
McCausland says her company's bio-friendly packaging is a cost-effective solution for companies that want to lessen their environmental impact and leave a lasting impression on customers.
"Our mission is to revolutionize the way companies and consumers ship and gift to keep thousands of tons of packaging from ending up in landfills," she adds.
The same survey conducted by Asia Pulp and Paper listed five major trends that will continue to deeply impact packaging and its associated industries in 2015. Not surprisingly, the growing importance of sustainability was at the top of the list.
According to the survey, 42 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging options, and almost 60 percent indicated they look for ways to wrap gifts by reusing materials.
When combined with the potential to increase sales and customer base, going green really is a big win for everyone
Go green or go broke?
The survey finds that sustainable packaging is a critically important trend that has, and will, continue to grow.
"Brands must be cognizant and proactive about implementing measures that further a product's packaging sustainability," it states. "If not, they risk the possibility of losing customers to competitor brands that are prioritizing sustainability in their packaging."
There are also companies that have developed specific products that are versatile enough to use in a number of different eco-friendly applications. Tim Colonnese of KTM Industries spoke with us about the company's natural packaging material, Green Cell Foam.
"We have dozens of Internet companies currently using Green Cell Foam. Many are food-based companies that promote their products as a source of goodness and/or wellness," he notes. "Green Cell Foam… is touted to match the performance of petroleum based foams while providing customers with an eco-conscious, biodegradable alternative made from cornstarch."
While going green presents some additional hurdles in terms of marketing and profitability, people are embracing the green movement more than ever. Not only are businesses finding more environmentally friendly ways to ship and package their products, companies and sellers are restructuring and greenifying from the ground up. We have seen what our packing material does to our landfills and any opportunity to reduce the waste is worthwhile. When combined with the potential to increase sales and customer base, going green really is a big win for everyone.
Ethan Schepp contributed to this article.