Carolina Biological Supply Company Minimizes Environmental Footprint by Reducing Plastic Use and Designing Reusable Kits

Carolina Biological Supply Company, the leading school science supplier, is setting a global example and doing its part to protect the environment by making choices and investments that reduced its use of plastic and packing materials. Carolina decreased its environmental footprint by encouraging reuse of plastic parts in its science kits and making chemistry products safer for students and teachers. The company was able to cut down the size of product shipping packages in 80% of outgoing orders since investing in a custom box-making technology, Box On Demand®, several years ago.

A company full of scientists, Carolina has a natural interest in being environmentally conscious; it continuously investigates alternatives to materials and business practices that may harm the environment. With more than 17,000 science products for K–12 schools as well as colleges, Carolina considers materials that keep costs low for its customers and can be reused. Every material Carolina selects for manufacturing its products is tested for safety, durability, reusability, and ability to perform the intended task.

“As a member of the scientific community for almost a century, making sure we constantly explore and adopt better ways to reduce our footprint in the environment and keep our products safe for teachers and students is very important to Carolina Biological,” Jim Parrish, president at Carolina Biological, said. “The Box On Demand investment allowed us to reduce the amount of filler we were using by as much as 80% and reduce our carbon footprint by shipping less too. That’s huge! It has helped our company make a dramatic reduction in waste over the last six years. We are now in the process of replacing all the lights in our shipping facility with new bulbs that use a minimal amount of electricity.”

Minimizing Plastic Waste

In developing science kits, Carolina reviews how they can have the least environmental impact. In its classroom kits, it looks for ways that plastic items—such as cups and containers—can have multiple uses, allowing teachers to reuse the components multiple times.

Recognizing global concern about the use of plastic straws in the food industry and their impact on the environment, Carolina investigated alternatives for the plastic straws students use in some of its science kits. These straws serve as axles, not straws for drinking beverages. Carolina found that paper straws are not durable enough and don’t work well as a replacement for plastic for these science tasks. Also, after disassembling their projects, students can reuse the plastic straws for classroom activities.

Some Carolina kits contain their contents in durable plastic totes for classroom storage. This benefits school districts that rotate the kits among multiple schools by keeping the contents together and in good condition for reuse. The company also provides resources that enable teachers to save paper by assigning students digital tasks instead of copying sets for the class.

When choosing Carolina products, teachers can be confident that the company considers environmental impact and classroom safety, and delivers its items in the closest-fitting packaging possible. Carolina learned about the cutting-edge Box On Demand® technology at a tradeshow and saw it as a progressive opportunity to make custom-size shipping boxes as small as possible for each order. Concerned that the equipment might not be able to meet the needs of the company’s wide range of products—including glass test tubes, sensitive microscopes, and full-size aquariums—the Carolina team visited the most innovative shipper, Amazon. After seeing the equipment in action, the team was convinced and developed a plan to install Box On Demand® equipment. This required re-engineering the entire packing line and automated conveyors.

Carolina now makes more than 80% of its shipping boxes “on demand,” and the amount of packing materials it requires plummeted by 70% to 80%. Also complaints about packaging from customers have disappeared. For information, visit Carolina’s website, call 800.334.5551, or email


Julie Gates for Carolina Biological Supply Company
562-429-5972 or

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