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Sustainable Art Shipping: How It Works?

Sustainable Art Shipping: How It Works?

Environmental challenge of art shipping

When shipping artworks, we want to be sure they will arrive safe and sound to our clients. We need proper packaging to guarantee it will arrive all in one piece, not damaged, and untouched. Then, we need to organize the transportation to the client – usually shipped by car or plane. 

However, the materials often used as well as the usually chosen way of transportation are not considered “sustainable” and can have a horrible impact on our planet and the environment.

Firstly, the plastic packaging materials, such as bubble wrap, tape, and plastic-covered cardboard boxes in which the artworks are placed, are often detrimental to the environment and produce even more carbon footprint. Bubble wrap is made out of very thin plastic (low-density polyethylene), it is very sturdy and, thus, takes centuries to decompose unless reused or recycled. Cardboard boxes, on the other hand, are made out of wood pulp – it takes massive amounts of trees to produce and it increases methane emissions when breaking down. 



There are even more shipping materials that can be very harmful to the environment, such as Styrofoam, aluminum foil, and even glass (not always, but if not recycled, it does contribute to waste production). 

The biggest source of carbon footprint here, however, is the transportation of packages by air. While burning massive amounts of fuels, planes emit gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, etc. that pollute the atmosphere. They also contribute to contrails and cirrus clouds – burned-down fuel produces water vapor and creates those line clouds, we can see in the sky. Such clouds add to the global warming effect, next to the greenhouse gases. Aircraft also contribute to noise and water pollution – aircraft noise can disrupt sleep, which can heavily affect human health, as well as contaminates water with small particles of fuel, lubricants, etc. produced during the cleaning process of planes. 




There are, however, a lot more sustainable options for shipping fragile products, such as artworks. 


1)    Sustainable packaging materials 

There are lots of eco-friendly alternatives to ship your products. Firstly, you could package your less fragile pieces in kraft paper – it reduces waste and saves trees, as it is made from 100% recycled paper, and it is reusable itself! Furthermore, there are degradable bubble wraps produced from plant starch, which can be composed after use. 
For shipping art prints or photographs, glassine is the perfect choice – it is made 100% from paper, it is recyclable, and it protects fragile artworks that could be damaged by friction or contact with air or moisture. 




2)    Sustainable shipping by sea 

Flying your artworks with a plane negatively impacts the climate 60 times more, on average, than moving the same distance by sea. Shipping packages by sea can reduce the carbon impact by up to 95%! Moreover, the costs of shipping are usually a lot more efficient (at least they were before COVID-19, now with inflation all costs are quite unpredictable, not just shipping costs). 
There are, of course, some concerns and difficulties with this type of transportation – there can be storms or hurricanes, a boat can sink, or a faulty container can fall off the ship. To mitigate such risks, the Lloyd’s Market Association has come up with some guidelines on how to insure yourself in those.




Another problem faced by shipping by sea is time. A sustainable option often means more time-consuming. This, however, can ensure that people think about their purchases more thoroughly – do you truly need or want this product or was it just an impulse buy? 

Switching to more eco-friendly and sustainable options in shipping can be a difficult task. Plastic packaging and aircraft shipping has become so popular, that it often seems more efficient, easier to access, and even cheaper. However, it damages our planet and environment by creating air, water, and land pollution. It is extremely important to make conscious decisions and choose options that help our planet and climate – it’s the big picture that matters and we as habitants of the Earth are responsible for its future.


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