Although they all have an environmental impact, some shipping supplies and containers are more environmentally friendly than others.
Supplies which are safer for the environment are not very hard to find, and some of them are less expensive as well. Here are some suggestions on how to find and acquire more environmentally friendly supplies to ship your items with…
PADDING: If possible, it is most environmentally friendly (and less expensive) to reuse materials as padding supplies rather than buying them new. Some household items which can be reused for this purpose include plastic shopping bags, newspapers (be careful of using large quantities, due to weight), and plastic wrapping from grocery items.
If you need to purchase environmentally friendly padding supplies, consider using recycled kraft paper roll/sheets (available at Staples, Office Depot, eBay.com) or bubble wrap which has already been used but is in excellent condition. Avoid using padding materials which are difficult or impossible for the recipient to reuse.
CONTAINERS: As with padding supplies, try to find already-used shipping containers which are still in good enough condition. It is entirely possible to see used boxes for free in most areas.
Unless they have already been mailed previously, padded envelopes aren’t as environmentally friendly as using small boxes, because they are less likely to be reused by the recipient. Many office supply stores offer partially-recycled padded shipping envelopes. Although more durable, new poly mailers usually contain less than twenty-five percent recycled material.
LABELS: If the box or envelope has a blank surface, directly writing the to/from addresses on it is more environmentally friendly than printing labels, because it doesn’t require additional supplies (paper and tape).
If this isn’t possible (and you want to print a label to put inside the box, for if the outer label becomes damaged), consider using environmentally friendly recycled printer paper; most office supply stores offer this. Different types/brands of printer paper are either original, partially recycled, or 100% recycled.
Try to print multiple labels on the same sheet of paper if they will fit, and turn the printer off when you are not using it. Avoid putting paper overwrap on boxes when shipping them, this is unnecessary and is likely to be discarded by the recipient.
It is also important to remember that using packaging materials which are insufficient or of inferior quality will do the environment no good; replacing an item which becomes broken in shipping has its own much higher environmental impact.