Thinking about environmentally friendly product packaging and alternatives to Australia Post

The 'before' packaging problem

The 'before' packaging problem

The 'after' packaging solution

The 'after' packaging solution

Recently I've been working hard to come up with a better solution to packaging and posting our books to you, our lovely customers.

Over the years I've experienced issues that always seem to be compromised when it comes to shipping products from online stores in Australia:

  • Packaging for product protection (so your purchase arrives in as-new condition!)
  • Packaging for price (so you don't pay too much on shipping/we don't lose money on shipping)
  • Packaging for pretty (isn't it nicer to have something that looks good arrive on your doorstep?)
  • Being kinder to the planet (if the packaging is then reusable/recyclable isn't that the best option?)

Depending on a business' priorities and the type of product it posts out, it can often feel like a case of 'choose two!'. 

When Owning It: A Creative's Guide to Copyright (the heaviest/most expensive to post of all our books) was released, I definitely only focused on the first two points - product protection and price. Weighing around 1.5kg, the most economic Australia Post packaging option is to send it in a pre-paid 3kg post bag. Anywhere in Australia it costs me around $14 to post, which is pretty pricey (I charge $11 for AU postage of Owning It, so make a loss on packaging costs of each sale).

The downsides of this method are 1) Those 3kg pre-paid Australia Post bags are UG-ly and made of un-reusable plastic. 2) The bags themselves offer no product protection, so each book had to be wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap (more plastic!). 3) I had to find a post box or post office to send them out (labour cost!)

Thinking there had to be a better way, and wanting to go four-for-four on my product packaging wishlist, I started investigating couriers and cardboard packaging. 

I had had a bad experience with a courier company in the past: crappy online booking interface; terrible customer service; late/lost pickups; hidden fees; and more annoying things too annoying to list. But then I found Sendle and haven't had an issue with them yet (even when a package pickup was delayed, they called me to apologise and refund the shipping fee before I had even noticed!). Bonus: Sendle are a B-corp certified company, meaning they go above and beyond to make their business kinder to the environment and ethical in their treatment of staff.

Postage sorted, the next step was to make the actual packaging recyclable while keeping the product safe in transit. My first thought turned to cardboard. Books from major publishers are often mailed out in cardboard boxes, but in trying to avoid additional packaging like those foamy peanut things, I found Kebet, masters of all things corrugated cardboard. Their book boxes come flatpacked and can be purchased in small quantities (great for my space-poor office). The rigidity of the wrap-around box protects the books from knocks and bumps (but I wrap it in two layers of brown paper packaging too).

So how does this new method work out financially? Actually about the same as the 3kg pre-paid bag. The book boxes cost about $2/each and sending via Sendle costs between $10-13 depending on location. There's a little more admin to book each job via their website, but the fact that they then pick it up from me means the products get out on time and I'm not schlepping books to find a postbox or post office.

Conclusion: But can a very small business design packaging that is recyclable AND keeps products safe from knocks and bumps, while keeping costs down? The answer is of course, yes. I hope this inspires you to think about how your products are packaged and posted - even minor changes can make a huge difference.