Nachhaltige Verpackungen - sustainable packaging for e-commerce

Consumers today value sustainability more than ever. For online shops, this means a rethinking of processes and a shift towards more sustainable packaging and products. But what is particularly important for your long-term success in e-commerce? In this article, we will show you all you need to know about purchasing sustainable packaging.

Sustainable packaging for e-commerce: These 3 things are especially important

1) Sustainable packaging should really be sustainable

This sounds trivial, right? But it is often neglected, which can easily result in what is called “greenwashing”. It is commonly visible in food packaging. While salmon in our local supermarket used to be packed in plastic, the packaging now looks like it is made of paper. However, it is not actually paper, but a cardboard-plastic-composite which is even less recyclable than the old plastic box. This kind of “fake sustainability” may trick some consumers into buying the product. But most consumers who value sustainability are usually well-informed, and word-of-mouth will lead to a damaged brand in the long run. Greenwashing frequently results in negative PR, bad word-of-mouth on social media, and public boycotts.

It does not necessarily have to be deceptive packaging, though. In many cases, packaging is not ecofriendly simply due to the use of new raw material instead of recycled ones. And oftentimes the supply-chain can be problematic as well. A lot of allegedly sustainable packaging is produced in China and shipped a long way to Europe. Sometimes the original raw materials even come all the way from South America and have a negative impact on the rain forests.

In summary: Truly sustainable packaging should always be 100% recyclable and be made for a circular economy. As few raw materials should be used as possible. At the same time, the material should itself be recycled or made from eco-friendly resources. A common trend in the sustainable packaging industry now is to use paper made of grass or hemp, as well as biodegradable plastic alternatives. But certificates can help to evaluate the eco friendliness of the sourced material as well, e.g. FSC-certified paper. Moreover, packaging should be produced locally to guarantee short delivery routes.

2) Design is important

Many online shops – especially smaller ones – make one common mistake: They use unbranded packaging. It may indeed be the most eco-friendly method to have used shipping boxes or even old shoe boxes for delivery. However, it can vastly damage the long-term success of your business. We recommend having your own unique packaging design, which incorporates your brand and strengthens customer loyalty.

The current trend when it comes to sustainable packaging is to have it look as sustainable as possible. This is especially useful when your customer base is very concerned about their environmental footprint, or when sustainability is a core value of your brand. A prime example is Their new packaging is made from recycled and grass paper and it shouts “recycling” in your face. Still, its minimalistic design is very appealing, and several notes on the box explain to customers why their packaging is sustainable. On top of that, Snocks created their own landing page providing additional information on the eco-friendliness of their shipping box – which is accessible via a QR-code printed directly on the mailer box itself.

Nachhaltige Verpackungen aus Graspapier bei Snocks - sustainable packaging
Sustainable mailer box made from grass and recycled paper (Source: Snocks)

Although it is not necessary for your packaging to shout “sustainability”, it should be clear to the customer that the material is sustainable and recyclable. Other than that, be creative! Most importantly, the design should fit your brand identity. Concrete Jungle, for instance, use a mailer box which resembles the design of their online shop. It looks especially classy and aesthetic, without getting rid of the recycled-paper-look completely.

Even the filling material fits their brand identity perfectly – although “less is more” should be the credo in this case. Customers are easily turned off from too much waste.

3) The perfect unboxing experience for your customer

We have already teased you with Concrete Jungle’s unboxing video: the unboxing experience should take a central role when designing a package. After all, humans are still humans. We love unboxing beautiful things. It probably reminds us of our childhood – of unboxing presents at Christmas or birthdays. The unboxing experience plays a key role in creating a bond between your customer and your brand, as it gets them emotionally involved. The most important factors are:

  • unboxing must be easy and intuitive
  • “wow”-moments are important: unboxing should always be a personal experience and involve emotions
  • little packaging waste should remain after unboxing

You should ideally design your own packaging; specifically made to fit the products you sell. Nothing is worse than using shipping boxes which are too large, leave a lot of empty space, and require tons of filling material. Adhesive tape made from plastics, plastic chips, or Styrofoam as filling material should also be avoided at all means. We have already mentioned in our article about Wool Cool how innovative packaging material can create a “wow”-effect. We believe that packaging should generally be an extension of your product. The following unboxing video shows how unboxing can become a special event for your customer. Several messages remind the customers that they did something good for the environment by placing their order. This makes them feel good about themselves and ultimately about your product and brand, reinforcing brand loyalty.


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Buy sustainable packaging with your own unique design

Our partner Packhelp offers sustainable packaging for a variety of products and mailer boxes. You can design your own packaging even when ordering only small quantities. Their service is easy to use via Packhelp’s online-design-editor.


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All packaging is manufactured in Poland from sustainably sourced material. This guarantees short delivery routes within the EU, further lowering the carbon footprint. This way you can buy sustainable packaging for your online shop, which fulfills all the factors we mentioned above. You can get an exclusive voucher code for Packhelp among our partner offers to save 10% on your first order.

Read more about sustainability and e-commerce

Sustainable packaging must be licensed with recycling schemes, too – albeit usually leading to lower costs. Find out how you can save money on the German packaging license in this article:

German packaging law: cheap packaging license for e-commerce

We have also collected the 5 most important things customers expect from e-commerce in regards of sustainability here:

Sustainability in e-commerce – 5 things that environmentally conscious customers expect

This article contains advertisement | picture source: New Africa /