3 Tips For Plastic-Free Postal Packaging

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My name is Jan Campbell and I run a small Etsy store where I sell pendants, buttons and figurines that I carve from avocado seeds. I first started carving avocado seeds as an attempt to creatively reuse the waste I make. I would usually toss the avocado seed into the bin without much thought, but one day I decided to put it into my pocket, carry it around for a few days and wonder what I could do with it to save it from the bin. I soon realised that carving funny little faces and other things onto the seed brought me great satisfaction and enjoyment. I was gathering rather a lot of carved seeds when I thought of selling some of my creations online. You can visit my shop here or see more of my work on my Instagram page: @avocadostonefaces.

In my personal life I try my very hardest to use as little plastic as possible. It upsets me to see plastic waste clogging up this beautiful planet that we live on (read here how I woke up to plastic). Naturally, I also wanted to keep my Etsy store plastic-free. As a new seller, I read many tips on how to package your items for the post. I frequently saw references to things like bubble wrap and plastic tape, and feeling a little intimidated by it all, I worried that I would have to use these things to be a good online seller. I put some thought into it, and decided that if people want to buy my recycled avocado seeds, then they probably wouldn’t mind if I used other recycled materials to package it. I want to share with you some of my ideas of eco-friendly postal packaging, and I would absolutely love to hear of any other suggestions you might have!

Avoid Plastic Tape

This one is probably easy enough – I use paper tape instead. Many paper tapes have a very low-tack when their purpose is for helping painters to get a straight edge while painting a wall. This low-tack makes it unsuitable for packaging as the parcel might fall apart. It is important to get one that has a higher tack. I found a roll of perfect brown paper tape in a lovely eco-shop called Small Changes, in County Wexford, Ireland. I think that it looks so beautiful and it is a high-tack tape, as sticky as plastic tape. It makes it much easier for the recipient of the package to rip it open – plastic tape is always impossible to prise apart, and has the added annoyance that you can never separate the plastic tape from the paper for recycling.

Avoid Plastic Bubble Wrap

I post my little avocado seed creations in standard sized paper envelopes. I was concerned about them getting battered so I made a paper form of the bubble wrap. Bubble wrap is a useful material because of the air, not specifically the plastic. Since becoming concerned about the waste I create, I have formed a habit of hoarding certain materials that I think will prove useful at a later point. I had been collecting that thin tissue paper that shops sometimes use to wrap their more delicate items. Newsprint paper works also. Crumpling up about three layers of this thin paper creates a similar effect to bubble wrap. You are just trying to create layers of air. I cut the paper so that it will fit the envelope and gently line the inside, trying not to squish out the air caught in the layers of crumpled paper. I secure it with paper tape.

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Make Your Own Gift boxes With Recycled Materials

It is satisfying to send off a parcel that you know will be pleasant for the recipient to open. I decided to make some little gift boxes that would serve to safely house my avocado seed carvings and improve the gift receiving experience for the buyer. I knew that I could buy pre-made gift boxes in the shop, but I felt that that would steal the fun and satisfaction of making them myself. I drew up a simple template for a small gift box – you can print it out here, it is a good size for small pieces of jewellery. It is a simple design and you can adjust the measurements to fit your own items better. A lot of cardboard food packaging is perfect for creating these boxes. I chose a spaghetti box that has a beautiful brown card interior.

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Instructions for DIY Gift Boxes

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1. Cut out the templates and place them onto the card. Space them out carefully so you can use as much of the card as possible. Use a pencil to draw around the outside of the template and cut along your lines. You can rub out any pencil marks after.

2. Make all the appropriate folds – on the template I have the folds marked with a dotted line. Folding against a ruler helps you to get a straight neat line. (Like my recycled plastic ruler? My mother bought it for me when I was a child when I knew nothing about the damaging effects of plastic. It definitely started me thinking about it. I used to enjoy pondering about the ruler’s previous life as seven plastic cups.)

3. Fold up the box like in the photo below. Tuck the triangular bits underneath the folded other sides. It is difficult to explain with words but hopefully you can get the idea from the photo!

4. The box should fold up neatly – if the sides keep popping up out of place, you can secure them down with paper tape. You can use the excess bits of card to neaten the inside, covering up the glossy print, but I quite like how these elements tell a story of where it comes from. I love when I buy recycled paper and see little pieces of shredded text here and there – the detective in me gets excited as I imagine where the paper was before.

The lid should fit neatly onto the base and there you have a nice little gift box. I wrap my avocado seed carving in some tissue paper, and then stuff shredded egg box in around it. Egg boxes are filled with air and are a great material for protecting delicate objects (like eggs!). It is convenient for me that the egg boxes I buy are avocado coloured. To secure the box and stop it from opening, I tie hemp thread around it decoratively.

Being waste-conscious brings with it many unexpected joys. Reducing my waste, and reusing the waste I make feeds my creativity and innovation. I hope that these postal packaging tips can be of use to you, or help to inspire other eco-friendly packaging ideas. I am still learning and as I mentioned before I would love to hear some experiences and tips from other online sellers.

Enjoy reusing and reducing. Happy Plastic Free Tuesday!

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