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Published on December 11th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans


Spend, Ship, Save the Planet: Eco Options for Packing and Shipping

The total carbon footprint of the American Christmas is staggering, and a significant portion of this expenditure involves the packaging and shipping of gifts.

This holiday season, take small steps to reduce your personal contribution to the excess of carbon emissions and the abundance of items in the waste stream . . .

General Resources

  • Green Earth Office Supply carries cornstarch packing peanuts, reusable gift bags, hemp twine, post-consumer waste (PCW) mailing boxes, and real cellophane tape (made from cellulose rather than acetate, a petroleum product used in most clear tapes).
  • Check out some of the neat, new eco packaging options available:

    ExpandOS, IVOX

Product Purchasing

  • Dolphin Blue and Treecycle offer paper-filled recycled content mailers and other recycled, PCW products
  • Look for large bags of cornstarch packing peanuts at local office supply stores, shipping and mailing centers, or through various online vendors such as Dial-A-Box and Staples.

General Guidelines

  • Choose light and compact gifts—like gift cards, CDs, or jewelry—for your faraway friends and relations.  A creative gift that you can send by email isBiodegradable Packing Peanuts ideal, such as a photo album for your friends or relatives to download from a public use Web site.
  • Use cornstarch-based biodegradable packing peanuts (widely available at office supply and shipping stores) for packing fragile objects.  These peanuts are biodegradable and they can be composted (no plastic or pollutants are used in production), dissolved down the drain, or made into a fun, goopy art project.
  • Before packaging to ship, wrap your gift in a pretty cloth, as in the Japanese custom of furoshiki, re-used gift wrap and ribbon, or gift paper made from non-tree sources.  For more green gift wrapping ideas, visit EcoArtware.

Reusing Packaging

After the holidays, flatten and store or recycle packaging and wrap from the gifts you have received.  Keep them out of the waste stream!  Save and re-use items like shipping boxes, bubble wrap, ribbons, wrapping paper, and loose fill styrofoam ‘peanuts’ (though it’s best to recycle these).

Although polystyrene peanuts are one of the most difficult kinds of packaging to recycle, small pack-and-ship stores will often accept them for reuse (they must be quite clean).  The Plastic Loose Fill Council has a phone hotline and a searchable database of recycling drop-off centers.

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