Home Seller TipsPackaging Tips Creative ways to package your products by recycling and reusing

Creative ways to package your products by recycling and reusing

Postage and packaging ideas for planet-friendly sellers

It’s more important than ever to think of ways to reduce waste and make your creative business more sustainable. Over the last few years we’ve seen a shift in expectations around packaging. Gone are the days when everything has to be wrapped in cellophane and fresh, clean bubble wrap. Today, packaging needs to be planet-friendly – and eco-credentials have become more important than good looks. But there are ways you can do both, using your creativity as a maker to craft a fun, sustainable unboxing experience that your customers will love.

In this blog post, I’m going to share my top tips for inventive, creative packaging made using things we already have and a little imagination.

Scroll down to hear about our new #folksypost hashtag – a chance to show us your fabulous, inventive, waste-free parcels.

Creative ways to package your products by recycling and reusing

“You can be sustainable and still showcase your brand identity. Do it well and it can even be an asset, letting your customers know you care about the planet and announcing your creativity”

Rule no 1: Reuse everything you can!

After many years of filling my flat with gorgeous artwork and makes from friends and Folksy sellers I have a nice collection of used packaging. Parcels, envelopes and boxes (unless badly damaged) can be reused multiple times. Just make sure you block out the previous address on the packaging with a permanent marker or glue some paper over with your own address written on – it’s as simple as that. If consistency is your thing, you can also find custom printed address labels on Folksy.

When you think about the life cycle of packaging, in most cases it’s incredibly short. The packaging is made, sold, delivered, which uses materials and energy, an item is posted in it and it usually ends up ripped up and tossed into the recycling. By reusing packaging once, twice or multiple times you are extending its life and ensuring there’s less demand for new packaging. That’s worth some brownie points for sure – and it’s such a simple change to help the planet.

Customers will appreciate the sustainable touch and hopefully it will encourage those who haven’t thought to save their boxes and envelopes instead of buying them new every time!

Remember to scribble over any details printed on your packaging or stick some plain paper over.

Pre-loved but still professional

I know what you’re thinking: “What if reusing packaging looks scruffy and unprofessional?” Well, fear not – that’s what I’m here for. You can be sustainable and still showcase your brand identity. Do it well and it can even be an asset, letting your customers know you care about the planet and announcing your creativity to everyone before they’ve even looked inside – even the postie!

Here are some simple but effective ways to personalise your parcel…

1. Doodle and decorate

The most straightforward way to make your packaging look appealing is to decorate the box or envelope. A simple doodle ensures a memorable and personal touch which your customer will remember – they might even show their friends! You can even add your Instagram tag so they can share it on social.

Your drawing could range from a few simple shapes to a proper little sketch, depending on how much time you have. A good idea is to sign your drawing so it feels like a work of art in itself. I once received such a nice drawing on an envelope that I had to frame it!

Little drawings make the packaging look fun and add to the overall customer experience.

If you aren’t feeling confident with a pencil or need a quicker way to personalise your packaging, there are inexpensive ways to save time but still make a good impression. 

2. Rubber stamps

Rubber stamps are a great way to tie in your brand identity with your packaging. We have an abundance of makers selling ready-made stamps as well as do-it-yourself carving kits, so whatever you want to try have a little look on Folksy to see what’s available for your budget.

If you feel like doing it yourself, you might want to carve your own stamps using rubber or lino, or check out our very own lino print tutorial on the Folksy blog. Lino printing can be an imaginative way to add a touch of your own art to packages, ensuring consistent branding that customers will recognise as yours. You can also find custom stamp carving kits over on Folksy, if you fancy giving this a go.

Alphabet stamps can be used to add a personal message to the packaging or your shop’s initials. They are also a super fun way to speak to your customer before they open the envelope. A friendly hello ensures a smile when they pick up the post. You could also use icons to show what you do or just things you like. We love these cute rubber stamps by Asking For Trouble.

Why not use letter stamps as a playful invitation to open the envelope.

3. Sustainable stickers

If you want to keep fingers ink-free you could always opt for stickers. Be careful here though, as most stickers are non-recyclable as the adhesive get caught in recycling machinery. They are also often made of plastic, so check that your stickers are eco-friendly first.

There are many companies who now offer recycled, recyclable and eco-friendly stickers, which you can customise to suit your branding. We’ve teamed up with our friends at noissue to offer Folksy sellers 10% off their wonderful custom printed delights, which include stickers, tissue paper and even compostable mailers. Head over to our post about this offer to find out more.

If you’re more keen to give it a go yourself, there are easy and cost-effective ways to print your own stickers at home. Simply buy a sheet of pre-cut stickers online and print them on an inkjet printer. I printed my own at home like that and I like to add them to my packaging to make it more interesting. There’s certainly something extra satisfying knowing I made the stickers myself.

Did you know stickers can survive multiple uses, so if your customers like to reuse their packaging too, your stickers may end up being seen by lots of potential customers. Some people enjoy peeling them off and keeping them as a little extra souvenir of their shopping experience too. Another super simple trick is to get a pack of coloured sticky dots in different sizes and stick them all over your envelope to really bring it to life!

You can print your own stickers at home or simply use sticky dots to lift the mood.

4. Washi tape

It’s all to easy to automatically reach for the sticky tape. We’ve all grown up using it and, of course, it still serves a purpose, but it’s no surprise to discover that it isn’t the best choice for the planet, from manufacture to disposal. Luckily, there is a wonderfully decorative and eco-friendly alternative: washi tape!

Washi tape is a durable Japanese rice paper tape, which is made from the gampi tree, bamboo, hemp, rice or wheat. It comes in a variety of designs and patterns and it’s completely biodegradable and compostable. Not only is it made from fully renewable materials, it’s easy to tear, so you don’t even need to get the scissors out. To add to all this, washi tape is waterproof and reusable – you can peel it off and use it again and again. What’s not to love?

Using washi tape can add extra decoration to your packages. Custom printed washi tape featuring your own design can help match your brand colours to your packaging or add a seasonal twist. There’s lots of washi tape on Folksy to choose from, perfect for any colour scheme and occasion. Who says being sustainable has to be boring?

Washi tape is a sustainable alternative to plastic tapes and comes in a variety of designs.

Think inside the box

Once you’ve decided how you’d like the outside of your packaging to look, you can start to think about how you’re going to continue the unboxing experience inside. Of course, the most important thing for your customers is that their package arrives safely and in one piece. But you can do this by reusing bits and pieces you’ve already received in the post, reducing your environmental impact, while still making your parcel look pretty when it’s opened.

1. Keep a store of recycled packaging

Firstly, don’t throw away any useful packing peanuts or tissue paper – this can all be reused to ensure your beautiful pieces don’t get damaged or broken. The same is true for bubble wrap – as long as you don’t give into the temptation of popping all the bubbles yourself!

2. Shredded paper

If you don’t have a collection of packaging fodder yet, you can always use shredded paper, as this forms a useful cushion to protect against knocks in the post. Just grab any paper destined for recycling – anything colourful works really well – and shred! (Remember not to use any payslips or documents containing personal information, though). Don’t worry if you haven’t got a shredder, it’s easy to do it by hand – simply fold up some paper and cut into strips with scissors.

3. A crackers idea

If you saw our cryptic Instagram post about keeping your Christmas Cracker hats, all is now revealed!

There’s a lot of paper waste after Christmas – a whole day of opening gifts and pulling crackers means a lot of paper waste. One way to cut down on your waste footprint is to keep hold of any scraps of wrapping paper that can’t be reused to wrap gifts and those paper hats from crackers. These lovely hats are the perfect way to add some colour to your parcel and protect items on a bumpy journey. You can put them in whole or cut them into paper ribbons for multi-coloured protection!

Paper hats leftover from Christmas crackers can be re-purposed for padding.

4. Add a thank-you note

As a maker, one of the joys of sending your hard work to a new home is being able to personally thank the person who bought it. Likewise, as a customer, finding a personalised thank-you note inside is one of the best bits about opening parcels from small businesses, especially if you’re an avid fan of their work.

A handwritten note adds a personal touch that lets your customer know they are valued and special. It shows them how much you appreciate their support, and also makes them feel more invested in your brand and involved in your journey. It helps build that connection that designers and makers rely on.

Our printable compliments slips being used by Sarah Myatt Glass

A simple handwritten thank-you note on good quality paper or card is a thoughtful way to end the unboxing experience. Write them a sweet personal message and it becomes a happy memory they associate with opening your parcel.

You don’t need to go to the expense of a professionally printed compliments slip – you can use any interesting bits of paper or card you have in your craft store, unused revision cards left over from cramming sessions, or maybe luggage tags you bought for a different project. Tie them into your packaging by finishing them with the same stamps, stickers, doodles or washi tape you used on the outside of your parcel.

We’ve even designed Folksy-branded thank-you cards that you can download for free and print at home! Just download them from our blog, then print out when you need them.

If you are worried your handwriting isn’t the best, you can always try letter stamps or even use an old typewriter. For my commissions, I use some gorgeous old lined paper and type out my thank-you on a typewriter, then hand sign it at the bottom with a scribble of my logo.

A personal note from you makes for an extra-special customer experience.

Share your parcels on #FolksyPost

We’d love to see your creative, recycled parcels! So before popping it in the post, take a pic of your package and share it on social media with the #folksypost hashtag. Wouldn’t it be great if your packaging was so gorgeous your customer then reused it, and sent it on to another destination where it could collect even more decorations? Imagine how much creativity could be showcased on its journey around the world and the wonderful places it could travel before it needs to be recycled!

So let’s see what those parcels look like and where they get to on their #folksypost travels!

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Bianca Paterson February 11, 2021 - 1:13 pm

What a great informative blog,
I absolutely love when I order from small businesses the creativity that goes into some of their recycled packaging.
I adore the notes and scribbles. I wish some of the bigger businesses would be more sustainable and think outside the box! where packaging is concerned
Thank you

Anna February 11, 2021 - 1:25 pm

Ah lovely website Ethan, Congratulatiions! 🧘‍♀️🙏
Love Anna x

Jo Catling February 21, 2021 - 7:47 am

I am now inspired, have thought of a logo and have perfect justification for all the stacks of ‘rubbish’ that are stored around the house.
Thank you for sharing these simple but brilliant ideas.

Helen February 24, 2021 - 1:36 pm

This is really informative, thank you Ethan. And I love the idea for the Christmas cracker hats!

Kat February 25, 2021 - 1:52 pm

I just threw a paper crown away today!

Jo South February 25, 2021 - 2:45 pm

Excellent blog thanks so much for all the inspiring ideas!

Donna February 25, 2021 - 3:58 pm

I use recycled everything all the time but feel like I have to apologise for using recycled packaging as customers expect fancy layers and layers of sprinkles and paper and protective paper and a box and a card and a few stickers and a freebie – the list is endless if you look at the social media sentry aligned packages for posting – you never see and misaligned odly shaped recycled exteriors – time to change expectations and let it be all about your creativity what’s inside and outside – not just about colour coordinated branded excess !!

I love all the creations from stationers I really do I wish I. Oils have everything matching so very beautifully and perfectly but truth is I make my own at home – that’s my contribution
I reuse delivery boxes and amazon card – if not the whole envelope I cut it up!

My eBay stuff I’ve sent out in animal food boxes undone and folded in reverse ( so the plain inside is now on the outside !

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