Eco friendly packaging
I've been looking for a more eco-friendly / plastic-free way to package my sets of greeting cards, postcards and art prints. Up until now I've used the standard resealable 'cello sleeve' to protect my card sets and prints when posting out to customers, thinking that these were cellophane and made of cellulose (plants). A couple of weeks ago, I ran out so went to order some more and found that, here in Australia, the resealable 'cello sleeves' are mostly not cellulose at all, but plastic. In fact, I read that (correct me if I'm wrong) if they are resealable (in Australia), they are almost certainly plastic.
As I'm trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use, I had to find a new way to package my cards for mailing to customers. So I did a bit of research and here's what I discovered...
Compostable, cellophane bags
These are made from biodegradable cellulose, which is a product made from plant fiber. Just make sure they are not plastic and that they are definitely made from cellulose (plants). The bags come in a range of sizes, look and feel like plastic but can be home composted. I couldn't find any that self-seal here in Australia (lots overseas but I'm trying to shop local) so ordered some open cellophane bags at Buy Eco Green. I just use my logo sticker (paper) to seal the bag, and I think they look great. You could even use a bit of washi tape (made from paper, see below) or tie some twine or cotton string around the whole thing.
Glassine paper envelopes
Glassine is a specially pressed, smooth, shiny and transparent paper that is apparently water, air and grease proof. Much stronger than tissue paper and doesn't tear easily. It's also acid free and PH neutral so is perfect for storing precious artworks, photographs and collectible stamps.
You can buy it in sheets for wrapping, or as envelopes or bags. I ordered small glassine envelopes for packaging my card sets. I think they look really sweet and I love that they're completely compostable and recyclable - I'd love them even more if they were made from recycled paper.
Plastic sticky tape has always made me feel uncomfortable. Every Christmas morning as a child, I would try to take the sticky tape off all of the used wrapping paper strewn across the living room floor, before either carefully smoothing and folding the paper, or putting the un-salvageable paper in the recycling bin (a big job in a family with five kids). But what do you do with the sticky tape??? I guess you could put it in with the soft plastics recycling at your supermarket (if you have that in your area) but even that concerns me. What did we do before sticky tape?
Some alternatives to plastic sticky tape:
Mailing bags and envelopes
Tough paper or rigid cardboard mailers and envelopes are great as they can be composted or recycled (as long as there's no plastic tape). You can even go one step further by re-using old mailers. I keep my my used cardboard mailers (and my local post office holds on to their used mailers for me). I'm a bit over particular about how things look so I've started turning mine inside-out and making new tough envelopes for mailing my card sets to customers (see pics below). I find it fun :)
Of course, larger items can be mailed in used cardboard boxes, but I'll be trying to avoid the plastic tape from now on (see above). And, while I'm on the topic of larger items, I'm always torn as to whether or not I should use the plastic bubble wrap that I've been hoarding from parcels I've received in the mail. I do use it to protect some of my soft sculptures when posting, hoping that the recipient will then re-use it and that it will be used over and over in this way. Maybe that's wishful thinking. I guess I could put it in with the soft plastics recycling... and find an alternative.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on the packaging I'll now use for my cards (and other things) and I hope it's been helpful. Maybe you'd like to share some ideas that I haven't thought of, or correct me if I've got anything wrong! I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
6/12/2019 05:05:48 pm
Here in South Africa, the plasticker the better. I don't think people will ever get the idea. However, when I'm in Germany, I'm wowed by ecowarriors and how much they care. I'm so happy to know that you're doing your bit too!
7/12/2019 11:07:20 am
It's so great that you're aware of this important issue and doing the research, and trying to be as sustainable as possible in your packaging! I thank you and the Earth thanks you!
8/12/2019 08:18:23 am
Thank you Andrea. Obviously, there's more I could do. One step at a time I guess.
Thank you for sharing this Jacinta! I'm currently designing all my packaging, thank you cards and bits and pieces to go with my art prints and there is so much to consider and research when you're trying to it all environmentally friendly.
19/10/2020 09:36:43 am
Thanks Jess. Yes, there is quite a bit to consider and, depending on where you are in the world, tricky to source as well. Less is best I think.
19/10/2020 06:16:08 pm
Hi. May I know where you got your Glassine paper envelopes?
21/10/2020 10:38:58 am
27/1/2021 01:34:36 am
Hi. Thank you for this wonderful information! I was just reading my latest copy of UpperCase (I think your company appeared in there if I'm not mistaken) and reading how everyone was using Eco-friendly packaging made me want to do the same with my art. However, I didn't know where to turn. I searched on it today and your article was the first one to appear!!! Lucky me. Thank you for providing this to all of us!!
27/1/2021 07:23:11 am
You are so welcome Janelle. I was hoping that, what I discovered, would be of help to someone looking for plastic alternatives.
4/11/2021 12:05:36 pm
love your article! Just researching exactly the same issue myself. Interesting re the cello bags, I too thought mine were cellulose and compostable.
8/11/2021 05:41:25 pm
Thank you Megan! I wish biodegradable packaging was the norm and not something that has to be researched. Maybe one day :)
29/12/2021 03:39:22 am
Thanks. I would like to note though that glassine is not waterproof.. It may resist but if your package is in the rain, it does risk the possibility of getting the artwork wet. My problem is I tried looking at eco friendly cellophane, which I have seen, but they are not acid free, which is unfortunate.
29/12/2021 09:13:54 am
17/8/2022 10:53:48 am
Ah thank you very much Shannon! I'm so glad it has been helpful :)
5/2/2023 05:47:25 pm
Hi! While searching for a solution to display my handmade greeting cards at craft shows, I came across your site and this article. I realize this article was written years ago but better late than never, right? Anywho...let me first say that your work is just amazing! I love it and I am so thankful that you completed this research and shared it for people like me to find years later. It is very helpful (even for those of us living in the USA)! Thank you, thank you!!
8/2/2023 03:35:05 pm
My pleasure Brandi! And thank you for your kind feedback. I'm so pleased you found it useful.
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My name is Margeaux Davis. I'm a doll-maker, sewing pattern designer and children's book illustrator, based in northern New South Wales, Australia.