Ever wanted to get into dropshipping but worried about your impact on the environment? Perhaps you have a winning eco-friendly product, but the shipping method doesn’t really tie in with your greener image.
Well, read on and find out how you can begin your journey as an eco-friendly dropshipper.
Is dropshipping eco-friendly?
In a nutshell, not really, since the goods still have to be flown or sent by sea to customers. Furthermore, the products will likely have passed through numerous middle persons, adding even further transport.
To claim to sell an eco-friendly product, you have to also factor in the product’s journey.
For example, selling a bamboo toothbrush, which is shipped 7,000+ km from China to the US, seems counterintuitive in the grand scheme.
Why consider eco-friendly dropshipping?
Let’s start with the brass tacks; from a business perspective, it makes perfect sense. The principles of eco-friendly dropshipping are to reduce the number of middle persons, travel, and packaging, all of which saves you, the seller, money.
Furthermore, a study released in 2020 found that 74% of consumers were prepared to pay more for environmentally sustainable packaging, of which 25% were prepared to pay an additional 10% more.
The research carried out above indicates that overall, we are becoming more environmentally conscious in our buying habits; cheaper is no longer taking precedence.
This outlines that the cost of sustainability needn’t come out of your profit margins but can actually be factored into the price, and your would-be customers are prepared to pay extra for it.
The 3 R’s to be eco-friendly
To be an eco-friendly dropshipping business, you must first know about the 3 Rs of waste management.
By applying these principles to your product’s end-to-end process and journey, you have taken every measure to ensure sustainability is considered throughout.
Reducing waste is naturally the first step and a logical one. Ask yourself, “do you need all of that packaging?” and “does it really need to travel that far?” Additionally, a good quality product will need to be replaced less often, thus reducing waste.
A single-use product can never truly be considered to be eco-friendly. However, from an entrepreneur’s perspective, you should also be asking yourself, “can this be product be reusable?”
Where there is a gap in the environmentally friendly sector, you should always explore this.
The second R is for reuse. If you reuse something instead of throwing it away, you are keeping waste out of landfills and creating something new.
This principle can be applied to not only the product but the packaging. Did you know that packaging accounts for 28% of landfill waste?
Unfortunately, a lot of packaging is still not fully recyclable, and whilst this number could be lower, it is currently quite complex and expensive to achieve.
A solution to this is making your packaging reusable. Take a look at an amazing example we have found below. Puma has very cleverly reduced the amount of unnecessary cardboard packaging. It also comes with a reusable carry bag!
About the product itself, this is yet another area where a true entrepreneur will shine.
Selling a reusable product is not only great for the environment but saves the customer money; they will absolutely be prepared to pay more for such a product. Always have this in mind when searching for your next winning product.
This brings us to the final R; your eco-friendly store is expected to have tried the other two before getting here, as this should be the last resort.
The reason for this is because, as mentioned earlier, recycling is currently both costly and time-consuming. Additionally, materials can only be recycled a limited number of times.
If this is absolutely unavoidable, recycling is certainly better than ending up in landfills, especially if it’s a plastic product that can take up to 500 years to biodegrade!
Let’s now look at 10 different ways to turn your store into an eco-friendly dropshipping business.
10 Ways to be an eco-friendly dropshipper in 2023
Let’s take a look at some examples below but don’t worry too much if you can’t achieve every single one of them; any change is a step in the right direction:
1. Use minimal packaging
Ensure your product is being sold in as little packaging as possible, preferably the same size as the product itself. This will cost less money to ship, cost less for packaging, and reduce the need for unnecessary waste.
2. Use reusable packaging and products
We already covered an example earlier with Puma’s clever little bag idea. The idea here is that your customer doesn’t throw away the packaging as it has another use; this to avoid it ending up in landfills.
Take a look at your own products and packaging to see where you can improve on this.
3. Clear instructions for recycling
Sometimes, your customers may need a gentle reminder that the materials can be recycled. Give your customer clear instructions on how to recycle the product or packaging.
4. Reduce paper use
Try to reduce the amount of paper you use in your store and offer options to recycle. This may also include removing the need for promotional material and invoices shipped with your product; these can always be emailed over.
5. Use less ink
The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals in ink can lead to soil and even water pollution when left in a landfill. Try selecting more biodegradable options if you absolutely need to use them.
6. Find green companies
This involves finding an eco-friendly dropshipping supplier. Choose a company that clearly outlines its commitment to the environment.
Ideally, you also want to source a more local supplier; there’s little point in finding a green supplier that will ship your product to the other side of the world, as this is equally as harmful to the environment.
7. Give back to the environment
This is a cool concept that numerous companies are getting on board with. In most cases, doing business on a carbon-neutral basis is not possible.
For this reason, companies choose to contribute to environmental regeneration projects to lessen their effect on the environment. You too can do this by committing to plant a tree or donating to a cause, for example, for every sale made.
8. Minimize customer dissatisfaction and returns
Selling a good quality product reduces the likelihood of it being returned or replaced. Poor quality products need replacing more frequently and can also cost you, the seller, more money in the long term on returns.
To combat this, you can get a few sample products for yourself first to test out their quality. This is good practice even if you aren’t going down the eco-friendly route.
It can also help to be very clear in your product descriptions and images to avoid disappointment, which would increase the chance of being returned. Again, this is something that you should be doing anyway.
9. Sell sustainable products
Getting people to buy a sustainable product is an easy sell. As we mentioned earlier, people are typically prepared to pay more for a less harmful product to the environment.
Take the bamboo toothbrushes, for example; a plastic one would typically sell for $3-4, but it is common to find them sold for up to $10 each in some places. People are actually buying them too, providing the quality is consistent.
Before you start dropshipping bamboo toothbrushes, please don’t; this market is ultra-saturated now. The point remains that you can sell these for a higher margin whilst still doing your bit for the environment.
In most cases, sustainable products can actually save the customer money in the long run as they are reusable or partially replaceable, so if applicable, make this your selling point.
10. Sell fairtrade products
Certified fair trade products can encourage environmentally friendly production methods, safeguard humane working conditions and reduce poverty.
Fairtrade puts back into the local economy where the products are produced and thus drives prosperity in what would otherwise likely be a bleak outcome for those involved.
Another requirement of fairtrade products is they must also free of genetically engineered ingredients. They must also be produced with limited amounts of pesticides, fertilizers and adapting environmentally friendly waste management.
We’re now going to go through a few more tips to get you started on your journey to being a greener dropshipper.
Save money with eco-friendly dropshipping
With each of the 10 ways to start with eco-friendly dropshipping provided above, there are numerous opportunities to save money.
This can be by minimizing the travel involved, the packaging used, or reducing the overall number of returns; either way, it makes perfect business sense.
Not only are your customers prepared to pay for a greener product, but to be able to save money as well by going green will truly boost your profit margins as well as your store’s image.
Cover all of your bases
Think about your product first and foremost, is it produced in an environmentally way? If not, can it be? Speak to suppliers; perhaps they have a greener alternative to suggest.
Secondly, look at your packaging, is there single-use plastic being used, and is it essential? Again, speak to your supplier, nowadays it is common for an environmentally friendlier alternative to be available.
Finally, consider your product’s journey to your customers. Can this be reduced? There is also a possibility to save money here as you reduce the number of middle persons involved.
It can be embarrassing when an eco-friendly dropshipper is called out for poor environmental practices, cover all of your bases. I experienced this myself due to poor communication with my supplier; you can find the story here.
Make it your selling point
If you are going down the green dropshipping route, then shout it from the rooftops! Make sure your customers know what you’re about and why your product is environmentally better than competitors.
As the environment is quickly approaching the tipping point of no return, people are becoming much more conscious of the current situation. Align your values with this audience, and the sales will naturally come flowing in.
Involve your community
Getting your community involved through social media and mailing lists is a great way to drive interest and momentum to your store’s growth.
Encourage dialogue with your community and welcome ideas to improve your common environmental goals.
Promoting your values is key to letting your customers know what your cause is; this should always be included in your ‘About us’ page.
Adding a donation button to your store and then offering to match that donation (to a limit, of course) is another fantastic example of how you can involve your community.
Make the transition
Don’t be afraid to make the first step to a greener way of dropshipping; start small, and just keep going. It can be easy to see the overwhelming amount of waste and redundancy and be put off from doing anything at all.
What is important is to view every wasteful aspect of your store as an opportunity to save money and make money, all whilst helping the environment.
What we learned
To summarise what we learned in this article, eco-friendly dropshipping needn’t be an expensive venture; it can actually save you money.
The public mindset is gradually becoming more eco-conscious, with the younger populace the most engaged. A majority are prepared to pay more for a less harmful product to the environment.
We provided you with 10 ways to begin your journey as a green dropshipper. With each method, you have another opportunity to both save money and reduce redundancy.
It’s important that if you are taking all of these steps to become a greener ecommerce store, make sure you tell your customers about it and get them engaged to do the same. This is a great way to engage with your customer base and build that rapport with them.
Last but most certainly not least, cover all of your bases, think about your product’s journey, from start to finish, and look at ways to improve on this, whilst considering the 3 R’s.
Have fun with it, get your customers involved, and don’t forget to let us know how you get on!
Think globally, act locallyPatrick Geddes