Monday, December 7, 2015

2015 Holiday Eco Shopping Guide

Today we bring you something personal - hopefully a well deserved and welcome break from company mayhem! Are you still working on your gift list for mom, your sibling, your colleague, your best friend this holiday season? Or, more importantly, what’s on your own wishlist (assuming you weren’t naughty this year!)?

Check out our brand new

This guide catalogs hundreds (more are coming!) of companies we have the incredible fortune of serving. Whether you are shopping for apparel, outdoor gear, baby goods, art, fabrics and yarns, pet supplies, toys, eats, jewelry, or household items...our Pinterest board now features none other than you - businesses who care about the world and pursue thoughtful shipping solutions!
We hope this gives you some great ideas for all your holiday lists!

We are privileged to work with companies that are so innovative, passionate and just plain cool – pushing the boundaries of “business as usual” every day.
We are adding more to this list every day, so if you don't see your company profiled yet and would like to...please let us know.

If you know of anyone else interested in buying quality goods from mission minded companies, make their lives easier by forwarding this to them all.

A huge THANK YOU to ALL of you small businesses out there who ship eco and consider the impact in everything you not only make it a joy for us to come to work every day, you've also made our holiday giving a cinch this year!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Conquer Dimensional Weight Once And For All

By now you are probably well aware that UPS and FedEx’s new dimensional weight policies have resulted in one of the largest cumulative shipping fee increases ever! Yikes! Though the policies have been in place for almost a year, we know many of our customers have been busy with the day-to-day excitement of running a business and are still wondering - what should I do about these dimensional weight policies? If you are not 100% confident in your answer, read on!  We hope this summary will help you on your way. 

What Is Dimensional Weight?
First, let’s get geeky with the math. Dimensional weight is a basic formula carriers use to account for the size of your shipping packages instead of just the weight.

To get your “dim weight,” first determine your package dimension in inches. For each dimension, measure your package at the longest point, rounding each side to the nearest whole number (1.49 would be 1, 1.50 to 1.99 would be 2).

Your dim weight for UPS or FedEx = (length x width x height)/166…..rounded up to the nearest whole number. For exports and imports, divide by 139 instead of 166.  

Why 166 for UPS and FedEx’s domestic shipments? Who knows?! “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change….” So, a box measuring 20” x 16” x 5” would have a calculated dimensional weight of 10 lbs.

When carriers consider dim weight in calculating shipping costs, they look at the actual weight and the dim weight and take the larger of the two. So if you are shipping a 5 lb product in this 20” x 16” x 5” box, the carrier would charge you for 10 lbs. At the start of 2015, all UPS and FedEx ground service packages became subject to dimensional weight rating with no minimum volume threshold.

WHAT?!? Redonculous you say!? We won’t comment.  We simply try to report the facts here at EcoEnclose…and keep our deep, dark, opinionations between us and our shipping supplies. 

So…what is a dedicated, passionate, business owner or shipping manager to do? 
Look at the bright side, and be thankful you are not shipping clouds, helium filled balloons, or marshmallows! These light weight, high volume items have taken the biggest hit…Then, follow these six tips on how to keep dimensional weight from weighing you down. 

Assess the damageDo your own internal calculations. This seems obvious, but we’re all busy – it’s easy to overlook it while fighting the daily fires. Compare your 2014 versus 2015 shipping costs as a percent of your sales. Do not use absolute costs because this will overstate the impact if your company is growing. Have the new dimensional weight policies made things more expensive for you and/or your customers? By how much?  This will give you a sense how much effort to invest in this. 

Cut the fatThe eco lover in us has a hard time not getting excited about this one that encourages all of us to minimize our packaging! Look at your boxes – Are they the right size for your product? Can they be smaller? Can you pack things differently? Can you use less cushion? At EcoEnclose, we make it affordable for you to create a box that fits perfectly around your product. We literally have over 1,000,000 combinations of box types and sizes...made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials. Check them out here

Choose the right carrier: Good old Uncle Sam has tried to keep things affordable for us! Thoughrecent announcement suggest this may change in 2016. Take advantage while you still can! While UPS and FedEx made dimensional weight pricing the norm for all products, USPS applies this policy in select scenarios, and uses a divisor of 194 instead of 166. Priority Mail and First Class Mail may be cheaper and quicker than UPS and FedEx’s ground options. Regularly compare shipping rates across carriers. Click here for a great cost comparison tool

Think mailers, not boxesYou don’t want your friends to be squares, so why demand it of your packages? Mailers can significantly reduce shipping costs and they work for a variety of different products. If the package is lighter than 13 ounces, it may qualify for USPS First Class Mail. Poly mailers are durable, and offer great weather protection.  Our gripe: they are typically made from virgin plastic.  But let Eco make you a hero! Choose EcoEnclose’s industry leading mailers made with 100% recycled contentPadded paper mailers are also a great, inexpensive, sustainable option to consider.

Knock knock…the door might just open.  If your volumes are increasing, be bullish! Negotiate with your potential carriers to see if you can’t reduce your rates, your dimensional weight divisor, or potentially set your shipping rates based on weight only. Rumor has it that larger or rapidly growing businesses have been successful with these tactics. Also, be sure to find out if any industry professional association you are part of provides member discounts with any carrier. These can get you up to 50% discounts on shipping! 

Manage those pesky returnsAgain, our passion for minimizing waste makes it hard not to love this one! Make it easy for your customers to make returns in the original box. If you are paying for return shipping, this will help manage your costs since you’ve already selected the right package for your product. If left to their own devices, your customers might just grab whatever huge box is at arms’ length and convenient to return your product in. Our eco-friendly poly mailers all have dual adhesive strips, making them easy for customers to reuse for returns, before they are then happily recycled!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Get on Top of Your Eco Shipping Game

To all you heroic, mission minded small businesses…building and growing a small business is HARD WORK! Doing it while staying true to what you believe in – whether that is quality, sustainability, equity, health or just having a good time – is almost superhuman. We toast your incredible efforts at minimizing your environmental footprint, and we want to help however we can. Here are 5 simple questions to ask yourself about your sustainable shipping efforts. The right answers could mean a big difference for Mother Earth, and put some bills back into your company's bottom line

1. Do your customers know how committed you are?

Did you know that customers are willing to pay up to 10% more for products delivered sustainably? 76% are even willing to wait an extra day for climate friendly transport. Let your efforts be known! Communicate to your customers that you're going the extra mile  in everything you do. An easy win: check out our complimentary “We Care” cards that you can toss into your customers’ packages to showcase your efforts. Or consider custom print on your boxes, bags or poly mailers with designs that highlight your earth-friendly strategies. 

2. Do you need all of that packaging?
Ever had that frustrating experience of receiving a package, only to open it and find another box, containing a bag that actually has what you ordered? A free Russian Doll with your purchase! Take a close look at everything you ship and see what you can eliminate. We can help you custom print packaging, showcasing your brand on the box or poly mailer your product is delivered in - wowing customers at first sight, and eliminating packaging.

3. Is your box or bag just the right size?
The unthinkable has happened…baggy jeans are making a comeback. The horror! But that doesn’t mean your packaging has to sag. Select a perfectly fitting custom cut box for your products, giving you just the amount of material you need - no more, no less. These boxes also minimize your dimensional weight, so your packages are shipped to customers at the best rate possible. And, if you're normally a box kind of lad or gal, check out our stylish poly mailers to see when they might get the job done. Less weight and less air means "hallelujah" to nature and your shipping bill.

4. How eco-friendly is your void fill?
We know a lot of products are fragile, irregular, or just plain fancy and need some protection or presentation love. We don’t deny that bubble wrap is historically the most fun player in the world of shipping products…buts now that we’re adults (sort of), it is hard to get over the fact that bubble wrap is just landfill bound plastic. And don’t even get us started on those foam peanuts! Our earth friendly GreenWrap, corrugated bubble, and packaging paper are cost effective alternatives your kids can still have a blast with.

5. Have you considered each piece of your packaging?
The bags, boxes and void fill are obvious. But don't forget the little things – tape, shipping labels, liners – they add up! For the sticky things in life, consider natural and biodegradable cello or kraft tape instead of traditional plastic . To protect from duffs and scuffs, check out our 100% recycled liner bags instead of the standard and vague "this bag may potentially be made with around 1%-30% recycled plastic." If you have other product ideas, let us know. We are treasure hunters on a mission to bring you the most sustainable option in every shipping category out there!

When in doubt, we’re always here to help! 
Our mission is to make shipping as earth friendly as possible for all you impressive, passionate businesses out there. Check out all that we offer and if you like what you see, order a free sample and test it out. Contact us any time if you aren’t sure what solution will work best for you...or if you find yourself just needing some love one afternoon!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Blossoming Business

Peggy & Mike started Soul Flower out as a small retail shop in St. Paul, MN waaaaay back in 1999. It was a place for locals, hippies, and all-manner of unique folks to hang out and get a dose of eco-fashion. Today Soul Flower operates out of Golden Valley (a suburb of the Twin Cities) where they have an online retail and wholesale store. Soul Flower carries a wide variety of Fair Trade, recycled fiber, organic cotton, hemp, and Made in the USA clothing. Additionally, all of their screen printing is designed and printed in-house by their talented team of "buds."


Cool Threads for Kind Heads
Recently, lead EcoEnclose Eco-Geek Erin was honored to be able to catch-up with Soul Flower co-founder and CFO Mike:

Erin: Hello Mike and thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with us and fellow eco-enthusiasts.
I am curious...what was the original inspiration for Soul Flower? 

Mike: Originally it was a lifestyle store that catered to the bohemian side of life. We wanted to have a store that could be a gathering place for like-minded folks. Also, after working for 10+ years in the corporate world, it was time to get back to who we were as people, and have our day jobs aligned with our lifestyle.

Erin: Good for you!  It is so important to do what you love and love what you do.
Soul Flower has a solid history.  What changes has Soul Flower witnessed in the clothing industry since 1999? 

Mike: The clothing industry is not exactly a “green” industry – lots of waste, chemicals, pollution, sweat shops. That’s why we decided to change the way we do business and instead of contributing to the problems, we wanted to bring a positive change to the industry. We can take comfort in knowing that the entire supply chain from farmer to manufacturing to the finished product is done in a way to minimize the negative impacts on the environment and workers, and create a positive energy from the clothes and designs that are Soul Flower. There are many many people out there that ‘get it’ and are trying to live a cleaner, healthier, more positive lifestyle, and this clothing line is one more option available to those folks.

Happy Me!
Erin: I have huge respect for what you have been able to achieve!  In my opinion, and with the little bit of background I have in the industry, affordable eco-friendly apparel is infinitely harder to attain than standard imported wares.  Kudos to you for maintaining your values in the face of challenge!
E-commerce was still pretty fresh in 1999. Did Soul Flower have an online presence from the beginning?

Mike: Peggy started the website in 2000. It was a free site called – about 4 days after going online we received our first order for a box of incense! Who would of thought that that one sale would propel us to where we are today.

Erin: Ah, yes. Those were the days. Free websites!  The website you have today is very user friendly and the design is on point.  I love that I can refine your selection by size, color, and eco-attributes; this is a great time saver for those of us that don't have the time luxury to browse each page.
Speaking of refining the selection, what is your curation process? How do you make the determination of what makes the cut and which items are featured in your store? 

Mike: First, we would like the product to be eco-friendly. Secondly, if it’s not eco-friendly, then it has to be either fair trade or have a story that fits our philosophy. Our own line (which is around 70% of our retail business) is all eco-friendly. We choose items from other vendors that compliment our clothing line. We’ve worked with some of our vendors since we first opened in 1999.

Erin: I am very impressed with both the affordability and the quality of your line!  You have a customer for life.
Aside from offering sustainable products, how do you try to “green” your business? 

Mike: While Soul Flower has outgrown its St. Paul shop, we’re still close to our roots and know how important it is to have environmentally-friendly business practices. A quick walk around the warehouse/offices can give anyone a taste of the little ways that we do our best to care for the Earth. Scattered around the offices are air-purifying plants; we use towels to dry our hands and dishes in the bathroom and kitchen; we recycle everything we can. A more recent eco-effort that we made was using EcoEnclose packaging for shipping our orders instead of “conventional” packaging materials that aren’t so great for Mama Earth. We started using EcoEnclose back in the Fall of 2013 and haven’t looked back! Because we’re an online-only retailer, we go through a lot more packaging than your typical “in-person” shopping retailer, so minimizing our environmental impact in that area has been absolutely amazing!

Erin: Ooo - air purifying plants!  What a great idea.  We may have to implement that in our space.
Who are the super fine guys and gals and adorable kiddos featured in your lookbooks and modeling on your website? 

Mike: Our photographer Jenn uses models that are a mix of friends, family and employees. We love to keep it real and give people a true idea of what our clothes might look like on them, incorporating as many body types and styles as possible. We like to keep our photo shoots local, natural, low-key, and FUN!

Erin:  That did it...I am officially in LOVE.  You guys are tops!  
Care to share your future goals & dreams for Soul Flower? If we had a magic wand and a crystal ball, what will Soul Flower look like in another 15 years? 

Mike: We don’t have any delusions of grandeur, but we would like to be recognized in the clothing world as a company that made a small difference in how people view their clothes. We admire companies like Patagonia who have become large, but not at the expense of their values. It’s okay to get big as long as it’s not compromising who you are and what you believe in. We’ll most likely be a wholesale business by then, selling our wares into yoga studios, lifestyle stores, and larger regional retailers that understand the value of being eco-friendly. The easiest way to grow the business and get our clothes into the hands of those who want them is to do it through other stores. It’s a win-win for everyone. The store carries a quality, eco-friendly line; the customer gets to buy their favorite brand (!) locally; the "buds" at Soul Flower all share in the success.

Erin: I wish you all the success and happiness in the world!
Anything else you’d like to share? 

Mike: We really like Eco-Enclose and what you’re doing to help reduce waste. We found out about Eco-enclose accidentally when one of our buds (Leiah) received a package in the mail. The store had used an EcoEnclose bag and she thought that was pretty cool and something we should consider. Joe took it from there and now it’s a big part of our shipping process. We also like that we can have our logo printed on the bags, and that the bags can be used (at least) twice for shipping. Thanks for doing what you do – you’re making a difference!


Visit Soul Flower today and let them know we sent you!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Seedy New Love

It is my absolute favorite time of year...time to start planning my garden!  The harsh winter months leave me yearning not only for warm weather, but for juicy fresh produce jam-packed with wholesome goodness. This year, I am bursting with anticipation as I have been blessed with a 20' x 20' community garden plot.  My new plot will be about ten times as big as I've been able to garden in the past.  I cannot wait to sink my fingers into the earth, give it some love, and gratefully relish in its return bounty.  

I confess, I may be a bit overzealous, but I have BIG PLANS this year to maximize my little piece of earth and my sunny front porch with a container garden.  Yep - "barren porch" is about to become "jungle porch".  My super sized garden plot and my new container gardening book have enticed me to plan for 22 different categories of fruits and veggies this year.  Variety is the spice of life and with any luck (perhaps a bit of a miracle), we will have a little of everything to munch on this growing season.

I have another confession to make.  I don't know how to put this, so I am just going to say it:  I am having an affair.  I have officially fallen in love with another venture.  Sorry, EcoEnclose.  You're still cool and all, but I've been swept off my feet by another. 

They lured me in with their seedy ways, making promises of genetic diversity and heirloom variations.  They tantalized me with their heroic ecological and ethical practices. To top it all off, they are planted in New York's majestic Hudson River old fertile stomping grounds. They had me at "hello" with their artfully-packaged seeds for my super mini-farmette and stole my heart in the process. It was not my fault.

Sonya, Customer Relations Extraordinaire of EcoEnclose, had the opportunity to get the inside scoop of this lusty biz from founder Ken Greene.  Read on and see if you can resist the lure of the Hudson Valley Seed Library...


Sonya:  Hello Ken! Tell us a little about yourself, and about what you do for the seed library.

Ken:  We're a small seed company so we all wear many hats. I'm involved in all aspects of our seedy business from growing the seeds on our farm to commissioning artists to create work for our unique seed packs. Right now I'm getting ready to hit the road and travel with our pop-up Seed Library shop to conferences and flower and garden shows all over the country.

Hudson Valley Seed Library has a great selection
of kid-friendly fruits and veggies for the wee gardener.
Sonya:  How did the  Hudson Valley Seed Library come to be?

I started the Seed Library in 2004 while working as a librarian at the Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, New York. While learning about loss of genetic diversity and the control of seed by bio-tech corporations, I realize I could do something about the global seed issues by learning how to save seeds in my garden. As my interest grew, I began preserving heirloom seed varieties and decided to share them by adding them to the library catalog so that patrons could "check them out," grow them in their home gardens, and then "return" saved seed at the end of the season. The program was a small but successful endeavor-- the first seed library in a public library in the country.  After four years of running the program at the library, my partner Doug and I decided to turn the library into a mission-driven, homestead-based small business--which it still is today.

 Now, this is not just any run-of-the-mill seed catalog. What makes your company different? How does the process work?

What we do is rare in the seed world. First and foremost we are ethical about how we work with seeds. Seeds are living organisms and come to us through many generation and many hands. We steward the seeds in our catalog through responsible growing practices and celebrate their stories through art. Rather than using stock photos of vegetables that look too perfect to be real, we commission artists to interpret the varieties in our catalog. Every pack is designed by a different artist. The artwork celebrate the beauty, diversity, and cultural importance of the seeds held within each pack.

Where do you get the seeds for the library?

Ken:  We actually grow many of our own seeds, teach gardeners and farmers how to save seeds, and we work on introducing new open-pollinated varieties every year.  We love the many donations we've had from individuals and families of heirloom varieties that have never been available before.

Sonya:  Why is it so important to use organic and/or heirloom seeds?

Ken:  Heirloom and open-pollinated seeds give us independence in our gardens. They are the only seeds you can save seeds from that will grow true to type. They're also flexible and you can select them over time to adapt to your region or personal tastes. As for organic, if you believe in the importance of organically grown food for your health and the health of the environment, then why would you support chemical agriculture systems with your seed dollars? Plus, organic seeds grow better in organic gardens and farms!

Art Packs -- make a great gift!
Sonya:  Your company is very unique -  With 5 words, how would you explain your company culture?

Ken:  Creative. Ethical. Cooperative. Dedicated. Passionate.

Sonya: OK, last question! If you could only grow one thing in your own garden, what would it be and why?

Ken:  Ah! If I could narrow down what I like to grow I probably would have never started a seed company! We offer over 400 varieties and we're adding more every year. But, if I could only grow one thing, if would have to be Dino Kale.

Are you hooked, too?  If you've got a garden or a sunny porch, Hudson Valley Seed Library has an amazing selection of heirloom and open pollinated seeds for your little patch of earth. The seed Art Packs make the perfect gift for that special {green-thumbed} someone in your life.  {Guess what you are getting for Mother's Day this year, Mom!?!} Request a Catalog today and join the food biodiversity fiesta! 

Happy Gardening!

Erin Kimmett
EcoEnclose, Lead Eco-Geek

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sustainability and the BIG GUYS ... sigh

If you are like me, you auto-record entrepreneurial TV shows like Shark Tank and The Profit. These are the two shows I manage to scrupulously carve out time for in my demanding schedule. If you've never watched, my opinion is that you are missing out! {Though I have to say my 12-year-old daughter who is a budding entrepreneur herself would not agree. She refuses to watch Shark Tank and asserts that the Sharks are ruthless and outright rude.} Personally, I find that these shows are not only entertaining, but are a source of inspiration and motivation for me; sometimes I even walk away with a business lesson or two!

An innovative green pizza box is pitched to the Sharks
This week's episode featured a New York-based company that manufactures a clever, eco-friendly pizza box. They were looking for an investment from a Shark to help bring their green concept to mainstream pizza chains. I was happy to see this innovative eco-minded company walk away with a contingency deal from one of the Sharks, but not before they were warned by lead Shark Kevin O'Leary -- otherwise known as Mr. Wonderful -- about the challenges of bringing sustainable packaging to mainstream corporations.

Mr. Wonderful, who has worked with many of the big guns in consumer commerce, warned that unless the switch to sustainable solutions will save them money, primary corporations are not interested. His message may sound slightly pessimistic; however I can validate from our own experience thusfar that it is the smaller privately-owned {soulful!} companies that have made true commitments to sustainability, even if it costs a few extra pennies per shipment.

It probably doesn't surprise you to hear that in most industrialized nations, it is far more affordable to purchase products made from recycled sources! Yup -- we are behind the times compared to the lion's share of the world with industrial-level recycling. Common sense tells us that it is more efficient and effective to recover used raw materials than it is to extract and refine new petroleum and grow and ax fresh trees. However, until there is more demand for recycled materials in the US, virgin ingredients will continue to be more affordable. Why? Well, it's that whole supply-demand principal we snoozed through in high school. Our recycled raw materials and products are produced in small batches, and small runs in manufacturing come at a premium price. Coupled with government subsidization of the petroleum and forestry industries, corporate America has less incentive to opt for ecologically sound products...a quite frustrating -- and unsettling -- reality.

The good news? Thankfully, we are supported by thousands of real eco-thumping small businesses that do more than just talk the talk and are willing to part with a few extra pennies, if need be, to invest in sustainability.

Even better news? We do our absolute best to keep our prices as competitive as possible. Our margins are so sadly low that we have {only half-jokingly} considered converting to a non-profit. In the end, we believe in what we do; we know that you want choice and that our planet needs a concerted environmentally-conscientious option! At the end of the day, our compensation comes in the satisfaction of getting to know you, your awe-inspiring company, and working in partnership with you toward a higher cause.

The best news of all?!? We have several win-win solutions today that are green AND will save you money. We've compared the pricing of our super green eco-varieties to those available from the largest {and not-so-green} packaging distributor in North America.

**the following saves you skrill and earns you responsible brownie points**

100% Recycled Poly Mailers
88% Recycled Poly Mailers
100% Recycled Rigid Mailers
100% Recycled Literature Mailers
100% Recycled OPF Box
100% Recycled Tab Locking Box
100% Recycled Paper Rolls
100% Recycled Clear Bags
100% Recycled Tray

The above products would be thrilling to even Mr. Wonderful as they promise to solve a problem and fatten the wallet simultaneously. With over 3 million pizzas packaged each year in the US alone, we can only hope that the fresh media attention and forthcoming consumer pressure will be enough for the big pizza chains to part with a half a penny per pizza for the sake of conservation. Lets turn up the heat on all the big corporations and request that they make an authentic move towards packaging sustainability!

Oh -- and the other lesson learned from this episode of Shark Tank is that the average cell phone carries more bacteria than a public toilet.  Good to know and eww!

Happy Shipping!
Erin Kimmett
CEO & Founder

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Customer Spotlight: Introduced

A colossal bonus that we didn’t anticipate when we launched our mission for sustainable packaging is the degree to which we are entirely blown away and inspired by you! We have the distinct privilege of forming relationships with the world’s most eco-conscientious businesses. It’s an absolute honor to get to know each and every one of you - your passion is truly motivating and fully contagious. We are all separate visionaries, yet we share in the same goal: to reduce our impact and make efforts to leave this place better than how it was found. You are more than just another customer to us: we consider you a FRIEND. :)

Our monthly Customer Spotlights are not only a way to say THANK YOU! for choosing to go green with your packaging, but they are also a way to share your story with others in our mindful eco-community. Let’s connect to sustain and inspire one another!

Stay tuned…our first Customer Spotlight is in the works.

Happy shipping,
Erin Kimmett
Founder & CEO of EcoEnclose