What is green packing?
Get your items there safely and sustainablyWhether sending a homemade sweater to great aunt Agatha for Christmas, or fragile crystal ware to your newly wedded niece, preparing a package for shipment requires some amount of packing material to get the items safely to their destination. Once the parcel is opened, however, most of that excess material will go to the landfill.
If you are looking for alternative ways to package your pretties without adding miles to your carbon footprint, you are green packing. And if you want to ensure that your efforts produce the greenest packing job possible, just follow the three Rs--with a little twist.
This one is easy. Don't use more material to protect your parcel than you need. This does not mean you should neglect that fine china and send it off across the continent in an unpadded box, on a wing and a prayer. It does mean, however, that you should closely scrutinize the situation before bombarding your items with every packing material you can put your hands on.
Is the cargo really fragile? If so, there are ways to protect it without encouraging the spewing of more carbon emissions or contributing to our overflowing landfills. We'll get to those solutions in a minute. But if your goods are not particularly delicate, take a minimalistic approach.
For example, that sweater could be shipped simply by wrapping it in some butcher paper or a large envelope, or you could send it in the aforementioned unpadded box—one which is just the right size and no larger. Books are another item which require very little padding, other than to keep them from jostling around in their container. The best way to package a book (or several) is in a box or envelope which fits snugly around it, with little to no wiggle room.
Finding ways to reuse items to safely bag your baubles is where our greatest potential for lessening our environmental impact lies. On the most obvious level, you can always save packaging materials which come from packages that were sent to you, and reuse them the next time you have something to send.
But if you don't have any used packing peanuts or bubble wrap around, what do you do? Get creative. That sweater would actually make a nice protective wrap for the little ceramic cat were mailing along with it. Last Sunday's newspaper does double duty as wrapping and, if shredded or balled-up, to fill in spaces and keep your valuables secure.
Instead of buying new boxes for mailing, see if you have any lying around. If not, the liquor store or grocery store are good places to find used, yet perfectly suitable, boxes for free.
If you must buy something new to complete your packing project, do a little research and try to buy recycled products rather than virgin paper and plastic. Many companies now offer recycled boxes, mailers, and bubble wrap. With all the post-consumer recycled options out there, there's no reason to sacrifice another tree or burn more fossil fuels to make more plastic just to get your special delivery from point A to point B.
For the sake of the planet, don't be afraid to do something different! Instead of packing peanuts, wedge baggies of popped popcorn around your breakables. In place of Styrofoam or plastic "air pillows," add a few soft reusable items as space fillers--small throw pillows for housewarming, stuffed dolls for children (and appreciative adults), or skeins of brightly colored yarn for knitters.
As we reassess our world and look for ways to be more responsible for the waste we create, our imaginations are our greatest asset. If we think outside the shipping box, we can save money, sanity, and our precious environment.