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Sustainability is one of the hot topics in e-commerce. Besides the product itself, sustainable packaging is the most visible aspect of greener e-commerce. It is the customer’s initial physical touchpoint with the product and is now often considered an extension of the product itself. In the meantime, more and more online shoppers are sensitive to that matter when selecting their product and brand. And they will remember that experience.

Since peak season is the most important time of the year for online retailers, you want to maximize your potential by aligning your offer with sustainable e-commerce matters. In this blog, discover how sustainable packaging is important for the e-commerce industry and how it helps you during the peak season.

The rise of sustainable e-commerce

In March 2020 the European Commission proposed more aggressive waste-reduction targets and sustainability goals: “the goal, in the end, is decoupling resource extraction from our economic growth” – EU’s environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius (Reuters)

Two of the especially harmful industries are e-commerce and logistics. To put this into a perspective, more than 2 billion tons of waste end up in landfills worldwide annually. All those cardboard boxes and plastic packing puffs have ended up in nature.

However, there is some hope left. For example, the sheer volume of waste produced by the supply-chain network and its dire impact on the environment has already rendered it necessary for e-commerce companies to rethink their practices and find sustainable solutions within the industry.

Sustainable e-commerce supply chain e-book

The peak season challenge

E-commerce and logistics are not those “bad eggs in the basket” we think they are, at least theoretically and in regards to the will of change. But it seems to be one big flaw. Every year, starting at the end of October, online sales start to increase drastically during the so-called peak season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and finally Christmas, the end of the year is full of special occasions during which people buy online massively.

With online sales increasing fastly, it’s the whole supply chain management that has to scale up. In a short time, a huge amount of orders – more than the usual – is processed and sent to customers, which has a major impact on the environment. Storage facilities, packaging material, transport, return… It’s the entire logistics process that is flooded creating more waste and carbon emissions than ever.

US Retail Ecommerce Holiday Sales

How to reconcile the goal of increasing your sales and the desire to profoundly change the e-commerce industry? Environmental and sustainability awareness has long been a trend in e-commerce. In a bid to successfully address increasing demands for sustainability from their consumers, online retailers have been pondering for some time now on topics like corporate social responsibility and eco-friendly approaches in the supply chain. One of them is: sustainable packaging

What is sustainable packaging?

First of all, it is important to understand that sustainable packaging, and sustainability in general for any company, is not an objective. It is not something given, nor reached, nor checked! It should – and must – be a journey that never stops. It starts with any action that you can implement – even the little ones – and goes at your company’s pace.

When it comes to sustainable packaging, it can be seen as a cycle in which you, as an e-commerce merchant, can enter through many doors. Sustainable packaging is:

  • Using fewer materials
  • Sourcing sustainable materials and providers
  • Finding multiple uses for your packaging
  • Improving your internal practices such as delivery options, storage space optimization, waste disposal, environment-friendly practices
  • Sharing your eco-friendly approach with your customers

Packaging lifecycle

When you start the journey of sustainable packaging, you can see that many action points can be done, whether it’s opting for different packaging material and components, giving your package a second life, or changing your practices.

All in all, there are only benefits for your e-commerce company along that journey: do good for the planet and educate your customers.

Sustainable packaging options and strategies

To start the transition to sustainable packaging, there are two paths depending on the size of your company.

  • For SMEs: the best option in terms of costs and efficiency is to use tailor-made eco-friendly packaging solutions
  • For large online retailers: create custom-made eco-friendly packaging solutions

Nowadays, the most popular options when it comes to sustainable packaging are mailer boxes, bio poly mailers, and kraft tapes. All are made with recycled material and compostable.

Masterclass presentation - byrd & Packhelp

Sustainable yes, but memorable as well

In recent years, unboxing has evolved from the simple joy of opening a parcel to a powerful e-commerce marketing tool. For e-commerce companies, the sent package represents the first touchpoint and connection to their customers. It is also one of the most untapped marketing opportunities.

Originally, packaging came out of the need to protect products during the shipping process but online retailers have learned that by focusing only on that functionality they overlook the full marketing potential of their packaging. A branded packaging and unboxing experience is a great opportunity to safely deliver the product and at the same time create an unforgettable moment for your customers.

The advantages and benefits of customized packaging:

  • Increase of brand value
  • Better product protection
  • Significant personalized customer experience
  • Boost of brand recognition

Sustainability itself is part of the unboxing experience

If packaging and the subsequent unboxing experience is a real asset for customer experience in e-commerce, it is also more and more the reflection of your brand values and image. In other words, the journey towards sustainable packaging does not stop at the material you use. Sustainability is a cycle and a process. 

First of all, you should opt for sustainable materials such as recycled cardboard, bio, and organic material, plant-based packaging.

Then, think of reusability and recycling. By providing packaging that has several uses, you tell your customer that you care and you want to follow through the journey. Think practical: most of the time, packages end in the recycling, if not in the garbage. Helping your customer with simple packaging and material is the first step to educating them about sustainability.

In addition, be minimalistic and minimize your packaging, especially the size and the things inside. Less is more!

Expert tips: avoid having many different and complicated materials. For example, by providing a simple recycled cardboard box with tissue paper protection, you simplify the recycling process for your customer. And with a beautiful tailor-made box, you offer them new storage space at home.

All I want for Christmas is you my package

Can I be a sustainable e-commerce company and still ride down that peak (season)? Yes, you can! 

A recent report released by Packhelp shows that out of 400 e-commerce businesses, a majority don’t change the packaging experience entirely for the Christmas season. They just add little “Christmas touches”. Whether it’s a flyer, a personal note, or a little add-on like a tote bag to wrap up your gift, you can be minimalistic and sustainable with a Christmas-theme packaging.

Of course, a unique Christmas packaging for your products over Christmas adds a touch of emotions and, if coupled with a Christmas edition product or bundles, can really help create a sense of “exclusivity” around your product. With Packhelp you can order and customize Christmas packaging, branded, beautiful and good for the planet.

Finally, it also comes back to you as a company and as a brand. E-commerce and logistics are by nature not climate neutral. Storage and transport for example emit tons of CO2 emissions every year. One of your strategies would be to implement and compensate for your impact on your journey to be more sustainable.

This blog results of our partnership with Packhelp – materialized in our webinar together on the 21st of September, 2021. 

This was the second of five webinars in our Masterclass Series covering the topic of peak-time readiness.

If you want to learn more about sustainable packaging for the peak season, you can download the webinar presentation here.

And to be informed of our next webinars and events, you can subscribe to our newsletter below!

Webinar Q&A

At the end of this webinar participants (of which 70% were not using sustainable packaging solutions yet) asked interesting questions that were answered by the combined effort of Packhelp and byrd experts.

Let’s jump right into some of the questions asked.

Do you have more information about the German packaging Act? What is this? For what reasons the company has to be registered in the LUCID database?

The German packaging Act is aligned with the new European regulations. For more information, you can read this blog created by Lizenzero


When should I order the different packaging supplies so they arrive timely?

The sooner the better. To be precise, it depends on your business size and needs (some started in August). On Packhelp’s website, you can find a calculator which will help you to see what is available and when to order it.


Should I change my packaging design entirely for the Holiday Season?

Not necessarily. A majority don’t change entirely for the Christmas season, they just add little Christmas touches. Other companies use product bundles and Christmas packaging. You can create a fresh design in Packhelp’s Editor for special occasions with a drag and drop option, and premade text.


About Packhelp

Packhelp is an online marketplace for custom packaging that helps all types of companies make better and more sustainable choices. More than 35 000 brands from all over Europe have already chosen Packhelp as a packaging partner.

For more information visit