Businesses are struggling to deliver customer orders in an environmentally-friendly method, either through upcycled product packaging or recycled materials. With the ecommerce industry on the rise (and, by default, the shipping industry too), the need for sustainable packaging solutions is greater than ever.
A Growing Need for Upcycled Products
We all know the feeling. You place an order for the perfect pair of shoes or that new dry shampoo you’ve been wanting to try, and before you know it the shipping box is sitting on your doorstep.
Chances are you’ve placed quite a few Internet orders in recent years. You’re not alone. Cyber Monday in 2015, for instance, was America’s biggest ecommerce sales day ever, with U.S. online orders totaling $3.07 billion.
When More Convenience Means More Waste
Our culture and economy are shifting towards all sorts of “on-demand” products. With just a few clicks, you can order groceries, clothes, beauty products — just about anything your heart desires.
There are some pretty serious consequences that come with this kind of convenience, however.
“From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Dan Sperling, from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he explained that this trend — while convenient for consumers — is ultimately damaging.
In 2014, 35.4 million tons of paperboard materials were produced in the United States, “with ecommerce companies among the fastest-growing users.”
The numbers are pretty daunting. It’s clear that significant change is needed to shift the impact of consumer waste.
The Problem with Recycling
There is, of course, the option of recycling, but even that process poses its own issues. Not all materials are recycled in the same way or use the same resources.
“Each material has a unique value, determined by the rarity of the virgin resource and the price the recycled material fetches on the commodity market,” states environmental journalist Amy Westervelt. “The recycling process for each also requires a different amount of water and energy and comes with a unique (and sometimes hefty) carbon footprint.”
In short, not all materials are worth recycling.
The Upward Trend of Upcycling
So if recycling isn’t always sustainable, what other options are there?
While individuals can make changes to lessen their carbon footprint, it’s the businesses that are creating these products (and their packaging) that can create a bigger impact.
For the average consumer product sold today, nearly 10% of the finished and shipped product contains packing material which is normally unusable, and therefore dumped.
The concept of upcycling or upcycled products isn’t a new one in business — if you shop on Etsy, you’ll see a wide range of goods made from discarded materials that would have otherwise been tossed aside: jewelry made from old vinyl records; tables crafted from wooden baseball bats. The possibilities seem endless when it comes to turning “junk” into something you can flaunt.
This same concept can be applied to shipping, and Soap Hope has found an upcycled solution that customers are thrilled about.
Enter the Ugly Box
At Soap Hope, we’ve made it our mission to end poverty for women worldwide. But another value we hold close is our dedication to protecting our planet.
We ship all customer orders in upcycled product packaging, made with barely used scraps of cardboard and packaging material from local businesses. This is what we call the Ugly Box.
The standard shipping practices of ecommerce retailers create two unnecessary consequences:
- They use new cardboard boxes, which means more trees cut down and more environmental waste.
- The boxes used by these retailers are often many times bigger than necessary to fit the product(s) being shipped. You may have experienced this phenomenon from another ecommerce retailer who shipped you a small product in a box that was large enough to fit four or five times the amount.
Our Ugly Box addresses these two important problems:
- The cardboard we use is an upcycled product, which means it has been gently used — usually only one time — by local businesses who would have otherwise thrown the cardboard away.
- The Ugly Box minimizes the amount of cardboard needed to wrap a product, because it is built to fit the exact size of the products being shipped.
While the Ugly Box may not be the most attractive package you receive in the mail, it does its job of keeping your products safe during shipping and eliminating the need for new cardboard.
With that said, many Soap Hope customers have expressed their love of the Ugly Box.
The Future is Now
While there is still much ground to cover in waste reduction, it’s promising to see that there are new and outside-the-box (pun intended) methods of upcycling, packaging, and shipping your favorite products right to your door.
“Ugly” Box or not, there is hope that businesses are capable of creating a positive, worldwide impact.