Sustainability for Small Businesses

By Baillee Perkins
Apr 15, 2022
Sustainable shipping is possible for your small business. Find out how with ShippingEasy!

Table of Contents

  1. Why does sustainability matter?
  2. Benefits of sustainable shipping
  3. Sustainable shipping supplies
  4. Sustainability with USPS, UPS, and FedEx
  5. Tips for sustainable shipping with noissue.

Sustainable shipping is possible for businesses both big and small. We understand running your small business is time-consuming enough without adding additional responsibilities, but you can practice sustainable shipping with a few adjustments to your shipping process that can even save you money. We have some ideas on how to implement sustainable shipping practices, including tips from our partner, noissue, so let’s get started! 


Learn more about the Greenest Way to Ship Program with South Pole in our blog!

Why does sustainability matter?

According to Sifted, 66% of customers will consider buying from your business if you can demonstrate your sustainable practices. Sustainable shipping can lead to an increase in your sales and customer engagement, but it also has an environmental impact. As of 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency reported less than 9% of over 3,000,000 tons of plastic materials, including plastic shipping materials, are being recycled

It might not seem like recycling your shipping materials has an impact, but switching to more sustainable shipping materials and/or recycling your shipping materials contributes to raising that 9%. Being visible with your efforts may encourage other businesses and customers to start recycling as well.

Take the first step towards ending plastic pollution
Image source: EARTHDAY.ORG

Benefits of sustainable shipping

Sustainable shipping is a step in the right direction for your business because it can make an impact on your customers, helps the environment, and is easy to incorporate into your daily shipping routine. Creating recycling-themed incentives for your customers not only increases your customer engagement, but it helps to increase the number of boxes being properly recycled. Also, reusing shipping supplies can cut down on your shipping supply costs. 

Get organized for sustainable shipping

One of the first steps in sustainable shipping is organization. Find a small recycling bin or storage container to utilize in your shipping space for all your recyclable materials. You can reuse materials in your orders where you can, and materials that can’t be used are all gathered in one location, making the trip to the recycling bin easier. Having all of your materials in one space also helps you to see exactly which shipping supplies you have available, so you don’t accidentally purchase supplies you don’t need. 

Customer engagement benefits

Sustainable shipping also gives you the opportunity to engage with your customers in creative ways. For example, offer promo codes and/or special deals to your customers who reuse your packaging from their orders if they need to return items to your store or if they need to send packages to others. If you have them tag your business on social media to redeem their offers, it’ll increase your social media customer engagement and hopefully encourage other customers to do the same. You can also offer giveaways/contests to your followers and have them showcase sustainability efforts throughout their day or community.

EARTHDAY.ORG, the organization created as a result of Earth Day in 1970, has excellent resources for social media campaigns to help you get started. Their Instagram account is also an excellent example of how sustainability-focused campaigns are run. Check out the example below: 

EARTHDAY.ORG's Instagram is a great example of displaying sustainable content.
Image source: Instagram – @earthdaynetwork

When you switch to sustainable shipping supplies, don’t be afraid to let your customers know. Be transparent in how you’re contributing to environmental causes. Incorporating your sustainable efforts directly into your social media accounts shows your customers you care about them, and you care about the environment. Like EARTHDAY.ORG says, make every day Earth Day! Your customers and our planet will thank you. 

Sustainable shipping supplies

Recycling boxes and other eligible shipping supplies is a great way to get started in sustainable shipping. There are also shipping supplies created out of recycled materials you can use including: 

  • Corrugated packaging: Corrugated boxes and packaging are easily recycled and are made up of around 50% plant-based or recycled materials themselves, so they’re a great alternative to traditional shipping materials. Corrugated boxes are also the way to go when shipping things like food and plants because they’re durable and supportive. 
Check out our How to Ship Plants guide for more information on shipping with corrugated boxes.
For more information on shipping plants, check out our How to Ship Plants blog!
  • Kraft paper: Kraft paper is completely sustainable, and it can be used in place of less sustainable paper sources. Kraft paper is really useful when it comes to shipping fragile items like musical instruments
Learn how Kraft paper can be used in shipping musical instruments with our blog.
Learn more tips about shipping musical instruments with our blog!
  • Cotton: Organizations like Gallant International make muslin and sustainable cotton bags that are not only better for the environment, but they’re also organic and fair trade certified. These cosmetic bags can add a sustainable touch to shipping items like toiletries and raise awareness for a great cause.
Learn how sustainably-made makeup bags are a great addition to shipping toiletries
Let us guide you through shipping toiletries with our How to Ship Toiletries blog!

Sustainability with USPS, UPS, and FedEx

Carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx are working on sustainability initiatives, and some of these carriers even offer recycled/recyclable packaging for free. 

Small changes like using the free, sustainable packaging by these carrier services and scheduling pickups where you can instead of driving to drop off your packages are easy ways to add sustainable shipping practices into your shipping routine. 

Tips for sustainable shipping

Our partner, noissue, has put together a list to help your small business move to cost-efficient sustainable shipping options! 

  • Make sure you do an accurate assessment of how many products you ship in a month before ordering any packaging, as you don’t want to order too much and have it sit and go to waste. Some sustainable packaging materials like Compostable Mailers have a shelf life of 8 months due to their biodegradable nature, so you don’t want to leave them in storage for too long. 
  • Small businesses should select a packaging provider that offers low minimum order quantities so they’re not left with excess stock they can’t shift or an unnecessarily expensive order. This also gives you more freedom to switch out your packaging’s custom design in the future and roll out a new look and feel.
Our partner, noissue, displays an example of a merchant using sustainable packaging for their orders.
Image source: Instagram – @noissueco
  • Do a regular packaging audit to see whether there are any lighter weight shipping materials available and if you can eliminate any unnecessary packaging layers and reduce void space. This will help you keep shipping costs down by reducing your package’s overall weight. 
  • Businesses can avoid unnecessary shipping waste by choosing circular shipping materials. Circular means packaging that follows the principles of the circular economy by being renewable, regenerative, or able to be reused or repurposed instead of only being good for a single use. Using packaging made from compostable, reusable or recyclable materials stops single-use plastic packaging waste from piling up in landfills.
Our partner, noissue, displays an example of a merchant using sustainable packaging for their orders.
Image source: Instagram – @noissueco
  • If your priority is affordability, stock (non-custom) sustainable packaging is always going to be more affordable to order than a customized packaging option. One way to keep costs down is to choose a stock box or mailer bag to ship your orders in, and then add a pop of branding to the exterior with a custom sticker or stamp that features your logo or business name. Branded packaging, at much less of an expense!  


Sustainable shipping is an option for your small business. Reusing boxes and materials where you’re able, offering incentives to your customers, and creating recycling stations in your shipping space are all cost-efficient ways to help increase your business’s sustainability efforts. Carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx have package pickup and free, sustainable packaging options available as well. Implementing these sustainable alternatives and tips from noissue will turn you into a sustainability shipping expert in no time! 



Sifted’s The Greener Last Mile: 5 Ways to Boost Your Shipping Sustainability eBook

How to Ship Plants 

How to Ship Food with USPS

How to Ship Musical Instruments 

How to Ship Toiletries 

USPS free green supplies 

UPS Sustainability Highlights 

FedEx reusable packaging 

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Baillee Perkins

Baillee Perkins is a writer of shipping by day and pop culture by night, so her Google search history is an actual nightmare.

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