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Eco-friendly packaging ideas for your creative business

Environmentally friendly packaging – 7 ideas for your Folksy shop

Artists and makers are becoming increasingly aware that, just like other bigger businesses, they need to make considered choices around the packaging they use. Customers are calling for more sustainable and eco-friendly packaging, but many designers and makers are also looking for better options to help protect the planet.

The most-eco-friendly packaging option is often to reuse any existing boxes, envelopes and materials you have at home. But as your small business grows, this isn’t always possible and, although using 100% recycled packaging is great for the environment, it’s not necessarily the best option for keeping your products safe, building your brand and communicating your design skills.

So if want your parcels to go green, Ahmed from Folksy partner Packhelp has put together seven environmentally friendly packaging ideas for your creative business…

1. Avoiding over-packaging 

This one is pretty straightforward. By using the wrong size box or packaging, you:

  • risk damaging your product, as it will bump against the walls
  • need to use more filler material to protect your product, which creates more waste. 

To avoid this, choose packaging with dimensions best suited to your product. That doesn’t necessarily mean opting for custom-made packaging but do consider the size of the product you’re sending and choose the smallest box or mailer that the product can fit safely inside. Ensure your product fits nice and snug to avoid breakage or damage and, if you need a filler, use it in moderation. 

Too much packaging or the wrong sized box and your customer might ask:

  • Has this shop taken enough care packaging my product?
  • Is all this packaging necessary?
  • What can I recycle? 

A huge cardboard box stuffed with useless paper doesn’t just cost more to send and create more waste, it can reflect badly on your brand. By using packaging with dimensions adapted to your product, you’ll communicate your values as a brand that cares about the environment, your products will be more secure, you’ll have fewer returns of broken products, and you’ll do good for the planet. All wins. 

Eco friendly packaging ideas for creative businesses

2. Embrace the humble cardboard box 

Cardboard is a simple and environmentally friendly material. It’s biodegradable, reusable and, in most cases, made from recycled paper pulp. Cardboard boxes are available in a huge range of shapes and sizes, and as well as having a small environmental footprint, double- and triple-walled cardboard boxes are as sturdy as it gets, keeping your products safe and sound throughout the shipping process. Even if cardboard boxes aren’t segregated when thrown into the bin, they easily break down in landfill. All this means cardboard is a surefire way to keep packaging clean, cheap and eco-friendly.

As we’ve talked about before, customprinted cardboard boxes or envelopes can be a great option for creative businesses as they can form an important part of your branding and help grow your visibility and strengthen your brand identity – but when choosing a supplier, look for one that uses recycled materials and water-based ink, as this adds even more sustainability to an already sustainable packaging solution. 

When it comes to cardboard, you can also think out of the box. Cardboard envelopes work well if you need to send small goods like jewellery and accessories that need a little more protection than a normal paper envelope but you want a more sustainable alternative to plastic mailers and bubble-lined envelopes. And if you use Royal Mail, there are custom-designed cardboard packaging options made specifically to fit their Large Letter or Small Parcel dimensions – find out more here. This means you can get value for money when it comes to shipping, but in a completely branded way. Or if you sell your products at craft fairs or through pop-up shops, paper bags are just as environmentally friendly. 

3. Make your packaging reusable

Monday’s Child designed a box that doubles as a toy

Whether we’re talking about primary packaging (the one surrounding the product), packaging intended for displaying on shop shelves or packaging used for shipping products, you can reduce waste by making the packaging reusable. Use your creativity here – if you knit children’s jumpers, maybe you could design a paper bag that somehow turns into a clothes hanger, or perhaps you could design a shipping box that also works as a pen pot or vase for paper flowers?

Or if you sell handmade skincare, bath and beauty products or hand-poured candles, could you encourage your customers to return their bottles and jars for a reduced-price refill?

Be creative! For instance, Monday’s Child, a British clothing brand aimed at children, has designed a box that not only acts as a parcel, but also as a toy in itself.

4. Support the eco-system with plantable packaging

plantable packaging

Packaging that turns into trees? Mind-blowing eco-fumes. Pangea Organics sells 100% plant-based beauty products. To ensure brand coherence across the board, they engineered a way to incorporate organic seeds into their boxes. Slip the label off, soak the box in water and plant it. Voilà! 

Plantable packaging is taking the zero-waste concept to a whole new level. It not only leaves no trace but actually contributes to improving our environment by growing more plants and trees that draw CO² from the atmosphere. A quick Google (or Ecosia) search will lead you to companies in the UK who supply seeded papers and envelopes.

Silverpasta, badgers
Badger hanging decorations by Silverpasta

You could also follow Folksy seller Jess Smith from Silverpasta‘s lead and pledge to plant a tree when you reach a certain number of orders. Jess does this through onetreeplanted.org but there are other schemes out there too. If you go down this route, be sure to mention it in your product listing and description, like Jess has here..

Protecting the environment and the natural world is very close to my heart and, therefore, I have now switched to plastic free packaging. All orders will be sent in either a cardboard box, sealed with biodegradable paper tape, or a ‘green’ jiffy bag which is lined with recycled paper and is 100% recyclable. In addition to this, Silverpasta Crafts have teamed up with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every 10 orders received.

Jess Smith, Silverpasta

5. Consider compostable packaging

Compostable packaging
‘Compost is Beautiful’ print by Hannah Bailey from HB Illustration Shop

Compostable packaging degrades under specific conditions of temperature, oxygen, humidity, the presence of microorganisms and, above all, suitable equipment. Depending on its composition, packaging can be composted:

  • at home, in a compost bin (most often in the garden) with bio-waste, like kitchen and green waste
  • or in an industrial composting plant, where temperatures reach 70° C

It then transforms into natural fertiliser.

Compostable is always biodegradable, but the inverse isn’t always true. One thing is certain, like any packaging, compostable or biodegradable packaging shouldn’t be thrown in nature: it doesn’t degrade in the same way in all environments – and while waiting to deteriorate, it could have a negative impact on biodiversity.

So if you choose to go with compostable packaging, like compostable mailing bags, be sure to include instructions so your customer knows what to do with it.

6. Use your packaging as part of your craft fair display

Display by UAU Project

If you sell at craft fairs, what about using your packaging on your stall to display your products, give extra height or even double as your stand itself? If your packaging is particularly clever, beautiful or custom designed, this could even work at trade fairs too.

This creates a good talking point, and if you do it right it can reinforce your brand identity too. Plus, not only does your customer get to see the packaging that comes with your product, but it also makes packing up and transporting all your products to and from the show much easier!

7. Educate your customers

Eco Mailer Boxes by Malimo Packhelp.
Eco Mailer Boxes designed for Malimo, made by Packhelp

Amplify your positive impact on the environment by educating your customers about what you’re doing and why. Make YouTube video, do an Instagram Live [read our tips here], post about it on social, or give your customers clear instructions on how to reuse, return, compost, plant or recycle your packaging. You could do this by on a note in your parcel or to be even more eco-friendly, drop them an email or include it in your shipping notification, or even print it on your packaging!

This is also a way to do some nice storytelling and brand building.

cardboard box packaging

If you’re considering testing out custom packaging, you’re in luck. Folksy has teamed up with Packhelp to bring you your custom packaging exactly as you’d like it – at a price that won’t send you broke, and in a timeframe that you can rely on.  Whether it’s a box with a separate lid for jewellery or a paper bag for craft fairs, Folksy and Packhelp can give you exactly what you need. Just click this link and head over to the Packhelp store. As a Folksy user, a 10% discount will be applied automatically to your total cost! 

Get your Packhelp x Folksy Offer

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