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Ways of Reducing Packaging Material to Lessen Ecological Impact

written by: jciotta•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 7/8/2011

Many people do not realize that packing material is a serious danger to our environment. In this article, learn about reducing packaging material to lessen your ecological impact. Read about the startling statistics and find ways to lessen your packaging ecological footprint.

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    The Truth Behind Landfills

    Plastic Bags in Landfills There is an ugly truth to reveal. And that truth is the about those smelly, dirty piles of waste called landfills.

    Landfills are designated areas to gather municipal solid waste. In other words, Tuesday's garbage, including the leftover breakfast, egg carton and egg shells are all in a landfill. The plastic garbage bag too. Leachates, liquid that drains from a landfill, stop the contents from leaking down to the water at the bottom of the soil. The layers of a landfill alternate between garbage and the soil. However, much of the waste takes years and years to break down. For example, a plastic bag usually takes around 500 to 1000 years to decompose on its own! Think about how many times you've used a plastic bag as a garbage bag and thrown it away. It's mind-boggling.

    Now think about packaging material.

    According to the Air and Waste Management Association and Garbage Magazine: "In just one day, Americans throw away 150,000 tons of packaging material. This would fill 10,000 tractor trailer trucks, which would stretch 120 miles end to end."

    Therefore, landfills are overridden with our packing waste - a fact that is both unfathomable and sad. To address the issue of reducing packaging material to lessen ecological impact, we discuss ways to do just this in the section below.

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    Environmentally-Friendly Ways to Reduce Packaging Waste

    Reuse Packaging Materials So how does a person reduce their ecological footprint? It's actually easier than you think. Just plan ahead when creating any type of package, whether a care package to a college student or birthday gift to a parent. Here are some tips on making sure you pack eco-friendly:

    • Always reuse packaging materials. For example, when you receive a package, do not throw away the box, Styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap. The next time you send a package, reuse all of this. Then slip a note inside the box, kindly asking the receiver to recycle as well - this keeps the ecological cycle rolling. Hint: If the box is marked up with a lot of writing then turn it inside out and start fresh!
    • If the box is incredibly large (such as a television or kitchen appliance box) and you highly doubt you will reuse it in the future, remember to recycle. Most areas now have curbside recycling. Rules for curbside recycling include boxes must be broken down and tied together with twine.
    • Pack conservatively. In other words, if the object being sent is small, use a small box. Use paper, peanuts or other packing materials in the least amount you can. If the object is fragile then pack conservatively but enough to hold it in place. However, if the object is not fragile, such as a book, notepads, etc. then you really don't need additional materials as long as the box fits.
    • Opt for eco-friendly packing choices such as biodegradable peanuts and bamboo boxes. The latter can be pricey, but you can include it as part of the gift or ask the receiver to reuse. When sending food, use compostable containers. Choose a shipping or moving company that uses hybrid vehicles.

    Packing with the environment in mind can also save you money because recycling cuts down costs. And it can save you time. Forget that annoying shopping trip to buy another box, another bag of styrofoam peanuts . . . instead, reduce, reuse and recycle!

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    How Can I Reduce the Packaging Ecological Footprint in My Business?

    Reduce Ecological Footprint in Your Business 

    In business, the trend has been moving towards green business practices. Not only to remain a friend to the environment, but also to gain the trust and respect of one's customers. For example, businesses are now printing on recycled paper and using email as their sole form of communication with customers instead of mailing fliers, letters and paper updates. In the world of shipping, your business can remain loyal to the Earth as well.

    For example, Peeter Nömm, owner and creator of Sustainable Logistics Consulting (, a shipping logistics company that reduces environmental impact for businesses, says: "Logistics and transport purchasers must begin to put higher demands on their suppliers when it comes to providing green alternatives and setups with lower CO2 discharge."

    In other words, you can reduce the ecological impact by setting up a business that uses an environmentally-friendly shipping company. For example, Nömm suggests choosing a shipping company that:

    • Implements environmental policy.
    • Implements targets and plans to reduce its fuel consumption.
    • Can offer green products and services that are CO2 neutral.

    Whether you own a large corporation or small business, you can pack and ship without feeling guilty about materials piling up in landfills. Additionally, you can cut down business costs dramatically by setting up a shipping plan that reduces, reuses and recycles.

    In conclusion, when you are about to ship something from the office, ask yourself, "how can I reduce the packaging ecological footprint in my business?" Research and find eco-friendly shipping contracts and companies for your business to partner with. You and your employees can help save the environment one cardboard box at a time!

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    Air and Waste Management Association --

    Garbage Magazine

    Sustainable Logistics Consulting (SLC) --

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    Image Credits

    Photo 1 (trash cans): Matt Banks / --

    Photo 2 (brown box): Suat Eman / --

    Photo 3 (businessman): --

Green Packaging for Home and Business

This article series discusses ways to pack and ship green both at home and in the office. Learn how to recycle packaging and what green packing materials are available to consumers. Reduce your ecological footprint with eco-friendly packaging techniques!
  1. Ways of Reducing Packaging Material to Lessen Ecological Impact
  2. Green Packing Materials or Alternatives
  3. All about Recycled Shipping Boxes and Envelopes