The number one contributor to global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2). The total amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to an individual's or a corporation's activities is referred to as a carbon footprint. Many organizations are making moves to reduce their carbon footprint throughout their entire supply chain starting with their packaging.
What are Packaging Carbon Footprints?
Packaging carbon footprints refer to the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the packaging process. This includes the CO2 emissions released while sourcing materials to make the actual packaging as well as emissions released during the packaging process and of course emissions released during transportation.
There is a lot more to packaging than meets the eye and it is a large contributor to a corporation's total carbon footprint. But, there are ways to reduce carbon footprints so that organizations can do their part to make this planet a habitable place for years to come.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The three R's: reduce, reuse, recycle. These are the basic principles of environmental sustainability that we all learned in school and are just as relevant today in the world of packaging.
A simple way to have a huge impact on your carbon footprint is by reducing the amount of packaging materials used in each shipment. This could mean redesigning your packaging to be more efficient while still protecting the products inside. Sustainable packaging design lowers the amount of materials needed in each package while still protecting the product during transportation.
With reduced or more efficient packaging comes a reduction in damaged goods. If you constantly need to resend products because of damages then you are doubling your emissions. Less damaged goods means less carbon emissions polluting the air during transportation.
In the packaging department you can reuse plastic wrap that typically goes around palletized loads. If the plastic wrap is kept in good condition it can easily be cleaned and reused multiple times, allowing for less plastic to be produced and limiting the amount of emissions released during its production.
Reuse as much packaging materials as possible to combat carbon dioxide emissions. Besides saving the planet, you'll also be saving money too.
Start using recyclable packaging materials like those made from plant based fibers and bio-materials. Organic materials like mushroom fibers are sturdy enough to protect fragile or heavy goods and they are also compostable, meaning you will not be contributing to more carbon emissions in the disposal process. Recyclable packaging materials like those made from corrugated cardboard are also great for sturdier loads. Using materials that are easier recycled or compostable allows you to give back to the Earth and shrink your packaging carbon footprint.
Decreasing and offsetting your emissions
Throughout the packaging process there are many different points where carbon emissions can be decreased or offset. The packaging life cycle begins with sourcing materials. Right off the bat, if a company decides to use recyclable or eco-friendly materials (like plant based materials or even corrugated cardboard) their carbon footprint is beginning to shrink.
The next stage of the packaging process includes making the actual packaging. When packages are made from recyclable materials they take up less energy to produce. Consuming less energy during the packaging process decreases the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.
When it comes to transporting the packages there are areas where emissions can be offset. Optimize your packaging by using palletized loads that take up less space or implement sustainable packaging designs that allow for more products to be sent out while taking up less space. This allows for more efficient shipping and less transportation overall which reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
Implementing more automated processes in your packaging process is also a great way to offset energy consumption, thereby reducing carbon emissions. Automation also allows for more accuracy and efficiency which can cut energy consumption as well.
Reduce Raw Packaging Materials
Raw packaging materials include things like wood, cardboard, plastic, aluminum, and glass. Many of these raw materials are not reusable or recyclable (though there are exceptions depending on how they have been sourced and produced). By reducing the amount of raw packaging materials used in the packaging process, companies can shrink their carbon footprints.
Good alternatives to raw packaging materials include biodegradable materials, plant or bio-based materials (like fungus, cotton, and other natural materials). These materials take up less energy during production and can either be reused or recycled back into the environment, offsetting their carbon emissions.
Carbon emissions are a huge problem facing all of us today. And the truth is if we want to continue living on this planet for a long time we all need to take action right now. While individuals can take steps towards reducing their carbon footprints, corporations have the power to take bigger strides and set a precedent for others.
Packaging is a great place to start because of how widely it is used. Everything we use has been packaged in some way, shape, or form. By implementing strategic, environmentally friendly practices throughout the entire lifecycle of the packaging process, corporations can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the air and move closer to a more sustainable and habitable future for all of us.