Monday, June 8, 2009

Ship Shape

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Whenever I order something online I always request no plastic in shipping.  Most of the time my request is ignored completely, but once in a while I am delighted to open a box stuffed with paper. Sometimes the box itself has been reused from a previous shipment, added bonus.  

The really fun ones are those that come packed with used wrapping paper or old newspapers. It is entertaining to see what makes the headlines in the town your package came from.  And then there is the ultra-rare reply to your request.  I personally enjoy these the most.  It gives me the opportunity to express my concerns directly and educate people about the perils of plastic.

I received one of these recently and the exchange went like this:

On Jun 4, 2009, at 1:21 AM, Alan Bodenstein wrote:

Dear Customer,

Thanks very much for your order! Just a quick note to inform you that your order will arrive in multiple packages, so there's no need for concern if you receive a package that does not contain all of your merchandise. We will email tracking information for each package as it ships, and you will not be charged until the entire shipment goes out. Also, the Bungee Toy will be delayed slightly due to an emergency at our home facility. We expect to ship it out on Monday, 6/8. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.

We received your request for minimal plastic in the packaging, and will pass it on to the various companies that will be drop shipping your items to you. However, since we are not shipping the entire order ourselves, we cannot guarantee that they will not use any plastic. Is your request because of a chemical sensitivity? Are you OK with clear plastic packaging tape to hold the boxes closed? Please advise. Thanks!

Best wishes,

Bronna Bodenstein
Earth Doggy

From: Rebecca J Brown
To: Alan Bodenstein 
Sent: Thursday, June 4, 2009 9:30:06 AM
Subject: Re: Order XYZ from catalog yhst

Hello Bronna,

I hope all is well with what ever emergency happened at your home facility. The delay in shipping is of no inconvenience. I am adopting a rescue dog. She will not arrive for at least another week or two. I just want to have our home prepared for when she joins it.

My request for minimal plastic is out of environmental concern. The planet is already plagued with so much of the toxic stuff I try hard not to contribute any more to it. I purposely sought out products for my future pet that were made from recycled or reclaimed material for that reason. It would not make much sense to go through all the trouble of finding those products just to have them show up wrapped in plastic, shipped in a box full of packing peanuts or air bags and sealed with plastic tape. Speaking of tape, most people do not even associate it with plastic so thank you for recognizing that. I appreciate your addressing my request directly, most companies ignore it all together. I usually do not do business with them again.

I understand that you have little control of packing materials when not shipping the items directly. Please pass the concern of your customers on to your suppliers. The more voices they hear it from the more they will start to listen. Perhaps in the future, being a business that caters to Earth-friendly folks, you could work with your suppliers on their shipping supplies? Request recycled materials, biodegradable packing peanuts, paper packing material, reused shipping boxes. Just as you want my business, they want yours and will most likely comply. I am always happy to receive a package in a less than perfect, reused, cardboard box full of newspaper for padding. I write about such infrequent surprises on my blog or on my joint blog If the box happens to be sealed with paper tape I consider it a bonus; if not, life goes on.

I like your website and the products you offer. In fact I already recommended Earth Doggy in my June 2 post at the Green Phone Booth. I look forward to doing business with you again in the future!

Warm Regards,

Rebecca Brown
aka EnviRambo

Subject: Re: Order XYZ from catalog yhst
Date: June 4, 2009 10:52:37 AM CDT
To: Rebecca J Brown

Hi, Rebecca. Thanks so much for the kind words. May we quote you in our Testimonials section? We won't use your full name.

I completely agree with you about packaging. Some of our suppliers are better than others about the materials they use. Harry Barker, for example, is excellent--they even have their own customized paper packaging tape for sealing their boxes. (I was extremely impressed. ;-) ) When we ship items from our home facility we use the cellulose packing peanuts or re-used styrofoam peanuts if someone else has sent them to us, and we use boxes with recycled content. We're still trying to find a replacement for plastic packing tape. I have found the paper tape, but it requires a special dispenser, which I have not yet found. I sometimes re-use boxes that come to us in good shape, but I worry that it looks "tacky" and unprofessional to our customers, even though I attach a sticker stating that we are reusing a box to benefit the environment. It's tough when one is not a big enough business to order packing materials by the pallet, but we are working on it.

Best wishes,

Earth Doggy "Top Dog"

What do you think about her concern that reused boxes look tacky or unprofessional? Personally, I prefer to receive shipments this way.  Working in the mall for six years, I disposed of countless shipping boxes.  We steadily received and disposed of 20-30 boxes per day!  At the changing of the seasons or around the holidays that number jumped to upwards of 50 per day. We did reuse them if we had shipments going out, but think of all the resources that could have been saved if we reused them all.  

Do you feel that companies catering to an environmentally conscious audience have more leeway when it comes to packing materials?  I already expect it of them and am disappointed when my shipment arrives in a pristine box full of styrofoam peanuts.

What about the average Joe receiving a package from say Amazon?  How would they feel finding a less than perfect box sitting on their doorstep?  One thing that bugs me about Amazon is when they take a box from their supplier and stick inside one of their boxes and then send it out.  Was that really necessary?  It would have arrived just fine in the original box.  I understand the need for marketing and having your logo emblazoned on the side, but wouldn't a sticker or stamp accomplish the same thing?  Like this:

I just do not understand the use it once and throw it away mentality.  Or the use of plastic when there are so many other options available.  We already have so much waste, why not use some it?  The next time you order something, request no plastic, minimal packing, reused shipping materials.  Let companies know that not only is it okay to use these materials, but that you actually prefer them to.  The more voices they hear it from, the more they will start to listen.


kale for sale said...

Thank you for this. I honestly never thought to request that items be shipped without plastic packing materials. I simply get frustrated when it happens and complain. You're approach is so much nicer!

JAM said...

I also never thought to ask for things that way. Great idea and how great for the company to write back to you like that! I have to say if I get a reused box (which I never have from a company - only from family!) my first assumption would be that the PO or UPS or whatever tossed it around a bit. If it were clearly re-used, I think a sticker saying "earth friendly reused box" would be great. I don't mail too many things, but I am going to buy some paper packing tape next time I need a new roll. I have a question for you - what do you think happens to all the bags you can recycle at the grocery stores? My curb recycling doesn't take plastic bags, so sometimes I save plastic from shipping, produce bags with holes, etc. ie things that are not grocery bags but are plastic - and then put them inside a grocery bag and put them in the recycling station. But then I've heard that if they come across anything that's not a grocery bag, they throw them away. How do you recycle clean dry plastic bags otherwise?

organicneedle said...

I agree with is all in the marketing. It would be great if companies presented used as a green option for shipping. That way anyone receiving the materials would be expecting less than perfect. Even though not everyone would opt for used...I am sure there would be enough to make an impact. Most people just don't think about it but having it as a choice would change that. Companies can even offer a small incentive since they would be saving on 10% the next order.

That being said...because I ship FlatRate with USPS and have to use their boxes I use new packaging. At least their boxes are made from recycled materials. If I shipped on a larger scale I would def. consider doing the used shipping option.

Tammy James said...

I do think the business owners concern is valid as some customers may come to her through a google search or such and not be conciously buying a product that is more earth friendly, however her idea of using a sticker is wonderful, and I would think ( hope ) consumers would be accepting of this system.

Kel said...

thanks for the eye opened- i often forget at this part f the consumptive process that its possible.

hillary said...

What a great exchange. Thanks for the eco-modeling.

I love getting boxes that look like they've been shipped all over the place. Very exciting!

Donna B. said...

I totally understand, I ordered some low flow showerheads and they came packaged in no less than FOUR boxes........ I thought that was so wrong for an eco product to arrive in such.

Anonymous said...

Great letters! I've had vendors make the same comment... about customers thinking that reused boxes were tacky... and my feeling is they're just going to have to get over it... the customers, that is. The sticker explaining the reused box is a great idea. If the customer still doesn't like it, tough. I know that's easy for me to say. I'm not trying to make a living selling things to picky customers.

Ha! The word verification is "urock". No. You rock!

Daisy said...

I decided last year that I would never buy wrapping paper again. I've collected and saved paper packing material, and it makes great wrapping for holidays. Glue a few cool pictures (I like cut-up cards) to the sides, and there's an environmentally wrapped present: frugal as well as green.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Maybe company's could include an option when people are ordering that says something like:

"To help reduce waste and save the planet, we ship our products in reused boxes. If you find this practice tacky and feel that you must have a brand new box, check here."

Seriously, though, if I knew the company was trying to be eco-friendly, I'd be thrilled if they reused boxes for shipping. But if I wasn't expecting it and there was no explanation for why the box had a strange logo on it, I might think I was dealing with a sketchy company. I think Earth Doggy's sticker idea is perfect.

thursday said...

Wow - it never occurred to me to *ask* for no plastic in shipping. Who knew? I always just feel weird and uncomfortable trying to figure out what to do with all these brand new cardboard boxes that stuff comes in...Recycling is all fine and good - but why bother with all the energy when it still has many uses left??

Anonymous said...

I love getting reused boxes!!! And I don't using wrapping paper either, newspaper is the way to go. I like the idea of asking for no plastic too!


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