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How to Dropship More Sustainably (and 9 Products to Help You Get Started)

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When creating an online store, you hear a lot about building something sustainable, which makes sense – after all, you want to make a business that you can maintain.

But having a sustainable business in this day and age isn’t just about managing money and time. Sustainability can also mean having a business that has a positive social and environmental impact.

So what is important in forming a sustainable business and, more importantly, how can you be more sustainable as a dropshipper? We’ve explored this topic, found some interesting answers, and put together actionable tips you can use right now. And, we’ve also come up with a bunch of product recommendations perfect for dropshippers concerned with sustainability.

Ready to learn how you can dropship more sustainably? Let’s get into it.

Give Back to Environmental or Social Causes

A white piggy bank sitting next to a sign with 'donate' written in cursive

Modern shoppers expect businesses to be socially responsible and are more likely to spend money with them because of it.

In a 2017 study by Cone Communications, 87 percent of responders said they would be more likely to trust a company that supports a social or environmental cause, and 89 percent said they would be more likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause.

These stats are huge and they prove that spending money or showing support for worthy causes could actually benefit your company in the long run.

Not to mention that it’s the sort of stuff that just makes you feel great inside.

There are many ways to be socially responsible as a dropshipper and what makes sense for your niche and store could be wildly different from the next person. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Offsetting Carbon Footprints

Dropshipped products often travel a long way, so offsetting that carbon footprint is a great idea. Installing an app such as Carbon Checkout is an easy way to allow your customers to offset their carbon footprint by investing their change in renewable energy projects. Alternatively, you can purchase offsets in your store’s name on sites such as Terrapass.

Planting Trees

An upward angled photo of a forest

Trees do so much for the environment and there are plenty of tree planting charities that need your help. You can choose to donate directly to a charity such as Arbor Day Foundation or install an app that offers customers the chance to contribute at the checkout – or why not combine the two.

Supporting Charitable Causes

If you have a specific cause you want to support, apps such as Shop for Good or Give & Grow can help. Here you can pick a charity and support it using customer contributions, or by using a percentage of your sales. This is an option that allows you to cater your giving to something that complements your niche or product.

Dropshippers Yuliya and Mike have integrated charitable donations into their store, giving something to a cause with every purchase made. While they don’t lead their marketing with their charitable cause, they do mention it and have found their post-purchase emails the perfect time to remind customers of the positive impact of their purchase.

Yuliya and Mike have found that adding the charitable angle has also been a great way to add credibility to their store and brand. Not to mention, they’re simply big believers of giving back from a karmic point of view. Listen to them talk about it over here at 44:15.

While you don’t have to use apps to kick start your social responsibility – you can organize this yourself – they can be an easy way to start your journey to being more sustainable. Not to mention, they also have the benefit of being managed by verified third parties, so you and your customers can be assured the money is used for the intended causes.

But, while giving and showing support can be a fantastic way to be more sustainable, there are other steps you can take to help minimize your impact that might be easier to implement than you thought.

Make Efforts to Minimize Returns and Dissatisfaction

If you’re using AliExpress to dropship, the items you sell will likely be shipped long distances to reach your customers. While this may be unavoidable, there are other things you can take to ensure that the shipping of that product wasn’t in vain.

Have Thorough Product Descriptions and Good Photos

Look, you probably already have this covered, but I’m going to say it again for the people in the back: Write solid product descriptions; have awesome product photos.

Both of these things are great for not only selling your products but also for ensuring customer satisfaction. If your customer knows exactly what they’re getting, they’ll be less inclined to try and return the item, meaning all those air miles it traveled weren’t in vain.

filming a product video

Including things such as size, color, materials, and weight in your descriptions will give your customers the relevant details of what they’re actually buying. Meanwhile, showing multiple angles and scenarios in your product photos – such as the items in use or the scale – will help potential buyers imagine whether or not it the product is right for them

Write Guides to Recycling and Repurposing Items

Rather than washing your hands of a transaction the second an item’s dispatched, you could continue contact with your customers with some written content that will help them sustainably use their new item.

Having a written guide for how best to care for your product is a great starting point. This way you can give them tips for cleaning and using the items in a way that will prolong its life. Another idea could be an article on how to recycle their item when they’re finished with it. For example, if you sell clothing, suggest they donate it or give the item a new life as cleaning rags, dolls’ clothing, or even a rag rug.

German smoothie company True Fruits even has a whole page dedicated to upcycling their bottles – including add-ons you can buy to give them a whole new life.

Screenshot of True Fruit's upcycling pageWriting a fun, useful guide is an easy way to associate your brand with sustainability and also acts as great aftercare for your customers. Get creative with it – who knows, maybe it’ll even help retention further down the line.

Don’t Make Customers Post Returns

Instead of asking customers to post their return items to you, reduce its air miles with a policy that asks them to take pictures or video of the object demonstrating why they want to return it. After all, why do you need the product returned to you?

Once the return has been processed you could even encourage them to either recycle, gift, or donate the item they wanted to return, depending on its condition.

Screenshot of Green Kitchen Goods' FAQ page

If you’re worried this approach might increase returns, don’t be. You don’t necessarily need to widely advertise this policy, but including it on your dropshipping returns or FAQ page is a good idea.

Dropshipping Long-Lasting Products That Enable Sustainability

Of course, another way you can have an environmentally responsible business is by promoting and selling products that will help reduce the impact on the planet.

In the U.S., the market for sustainable products is projected to reach $150 billion by 2021, proving that it’s possible to create a profitable business that also looks out for the planet and people.

Instead of selling items that are one-use or seem poorly made, opt for products that have a long lifespan, are made of quality materials, could replace single-use items, or could enable a more sustainable living lifestyle, like these inflatable toys. Below are more ideas for products that promote sustainability.

1. Reusable Coffee PodsScreenshot of Oberlo listing for nespresso pods

Yes, we’re living in the age of convenience, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be sustainable at the same time. Millions of people all over the world use coffee pod machines like Nespresso or Keurig – and they spend big money buying single-use pods to use in it.

Offering a reusable, durable alternative is a great product idea – especially for stores that might sell complementary items such as mugs, kitchen accessories, or home decor.

You could easily market this item as a customizable, money-saving investment given that it’s a one-time purchase and you can fill it with the exact type of coffee you prefer.

2. Reusable Produce Bags

Reusable shopping bags have been popular with grocery shoppers for a while now, but over the last three years, you can see how reusable produce bags have sprung up in popularity.

Screenshot of reusable produce bags trends

With shoppers already accustomed to taking their bags to the supermarket, these produce bags are an easy sell to environmentally conscious shoppers. Plus, they’re easy to market. Buy some samples, take a few snaps of the bags holding bright pieces of produce and you’ve got the perfect assets to start marketing to the people who do the household shopping.

3. Reusable Storage Bags

Reusable storage bags filled with pasta and oats

Continuing the theme of reusable products, these reusable bags not only solve a problem but somehow they even make food storage cute.

This is also a product that has a ton of reviews, which is fantastic because it means you can easily find the exact features that appeal to shoppers and mention that in your marketing.

Taking a look at the reviews, it seems as though these bags are a great product for those who may be short on kitchen space because they return to a flattened state when you’re not using them – unlike jars. And, because they’re so light and pliable, they’re also great for transporting items when you’re on the go. With this information perhaps you market to apartment dwellers, office workers who bring their lunch from home, or even hikers and campers.

4. Beeswax Wraps

Screenshot of beeswax wraps trend

Long-lasting and visually appealing, beeswax wraps are a hot product at the moment as they replace one of the most guilt-inducing single-use products: plastic wrap. After first gaining popularity in 2017, it’s been an upward trend since then, with people drawn in by the reusability factor combined with its ease of use.

Along with being easy to market (see Green Kitchen Goods’ fun video below for more inspiration), these wraps also come in a cardboard package, which makes them feel particularly eco-friendly.

What’s more, you could easily write helpful SEO articles for this product, including guides on how to revive the wraps once they start to lose their stickiness, how to clean them, and how best to use them.

5. Reusable Makeup Wipes

With the rise of beauty influencers over the last few years, any product concerned with makeup has big potential – and that extends to these reusable makeup remover pads.

Any makeup user will know just how many cotton pads they go through daily, so marketing these as sustainable alternatives is a smart play.

Because this product is used to remove makeup, it’s perfect for showing in a video or images. People want to know a product works before investing in it, so using your marketing to show exactly how effective the product is will motivate them to click purchase. Not to mention that it’s the perfect product for influencers to show off.

6. Reusable Diapers

A lot has been made about the impact of disposable diapers on the environment and thankfully we’ve come a long way from the big, bulky reusable diapers of yesteryear. These days, reusable diapers are as easy to use as their disposable counterparts and that’s exactly what your marketing angle should be for this product.

Focusing on a blend of ease of use and the cuteness of their design, this product is perfect for advertising to parents concerned with parenting sustainably or people buying gifts for pregnant friends or family.

7. Biodegradable Pots

Screenshot of biodegradable pots on Oberlo

As we all know, plants are great for the environment and these biodegradable pots are a great item to start selling during springtime as they offer a biodegradable alternative to small, plastic pots and seedling trays.

This is another item that would be great to feature in a product video. You could show the seeds growing and then demonstrate how easy it is to repot your plants – all without having to remove it from the biodegradable pot.

8. Metal Straws

Reusable straws have been strong sellers for a while, with more and more people realizing that plastic straws are not only mostly unnecessary, but terrible for the environment and animals as well.

Metal straws offer a long-lasting and chic alternative and can easily be marketed to Millenial and Gen Z buyers who are slightly more eco-conscious than other generations. Alternatively, you could even see if there was a way to sell metal straws in bulk and try targeting those who run bars or cafes.

9. Stainless Steel Bottles and Lunchboxes

That’s right, I’m rounding out this list with a two-for-one deal! Stainless steel containers are a popular item for those who want to buy long-lasting, durable, reusable products and these two items not only look great but are of high quality as well.

Use a product video to give a demonstration of these items in use, as well as show off all the different sizes available. Additionally, you could supplement your website with blog posts that will help your customers live their best sustainable lives. This is a great way to show how versatile your product is, as well as give practical tips that will genuinely help people live a more sustainable life – a win-win.

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