As record temperatures hit, fires blaze and a world crisis brings the world economy to a complete standstill it's scary to think about the future of our planet. Quite honestly even as I write this post, I have a knot in my stomach, thinking about the future. But I do believe that we are all becoming more conscious and realising that the path we are on is not sustainable.
My sustainability journey started a few years ago, and it can feel very overwhelming. I have moments of feeling that I am doing my part, beating myself up for forgetting my water bottle and then even more anxiety when I feel completely hopeless,like nothing I do will make a difference. But what I have come to learn is that this is a journey and not a destination. Progress is made in small incremental steps.
I believe as small businesses we have the power to make a change, ensure that people are paid a fair wage, source more sustainable materials, donate to the causes that move us and most importantly, inspire change in others.
I get very scared when writing these types of posts, because I know that others are further along in their journey or have more knowledge than I do. But the point is, that we don't need to be perfect, we don't need to let this be another thing we bash ourselves with overly critical comparison. All we have to do is commit to doing a little better everyday. One small commitment, leads to another and another and another.
So how do we have more sustainable packaging? I will speak in terms of the packaging we provide, which is small scale artisanal packaging designed to bring a tangible element in the client experience for mostly service based businesses (photographers, coaches, graphic and interior designers), but also small scale indie brands (clothing brands, online stores, jewellers etc) .
Here are my tips to having more sustainable packaging
MY TOP TIP - LESS BUT BETTER
“Good design is as little as possible. Less, but better, because it concentrates on the essential aspects,
and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.”
― Dieter Rams, Weniger, Aber Besser/Less But Better
Your main focus when designing your client experience & packaging should be to cut out everything except the non-essentials. This starts by knowing and understanding the purpose of your packaging, what it’s intended purpose is and how you can say everything you need to say in as few words as possible.
Instead of having layers of cheaply produced packaging, outline exactly how you want your clients to feel when opening up a parcel from you. How can you say everything you need to say, with just a few well designed, and carefully produced pieces.
This would enable you to choose better finishes, more sustainable options and know that what you have supplied your client has been made with intention, and with the aim of supporting another artist or maker, which will make a difference to your client, the planet and the small business you support.
Also, by purchasing shipping boxes and packaging made specifically for your products you can avoid unnecessary fillers and excess packaging. We are so passionate about printing in smaller quantities to avoid over ordering, unnecessarily large print runs, risk of stock becoming damaged or obsolete.
This is why most of our products are made to order.
SEE WHAT YOU CAN REUSE, COLLECT AND REPURPOSE
We have some storage bins in our studio that we use to keep fillers, papers and anything that can be reused. We get a lot of deliveries, so most of our packaging can be re-used a few times before it cannot be used again.
Also, think outside of the box. Often a beautiful bouquet can be dried & preserved to use in your packaging. Perhaps you have a beautiful lavender bush in your garden, be sure to grab a few sprigs, dry them and use them in your packaging. Some of my favourite things to dry or press include Lavender, gypsophila, eucalyptus and hydrangea.
Another tip would be, to see how the packaging you send out can be reusable. For example our clay USB bowls work beautifully as a ring or trinket dish. A cotton bag can be re-used for so many different purposes.
A pouch or box that can be treasured, re-used or repurposed and is better than something mass produced, that will get thrown away easily.
CONSIDER THE PAPERS / MATERIALS YOU USE
Choose papers that are FSC certified - which means they meet the highest environmental and social standards. We are always on the hunt for beautiful papers made from recycled materials, made using wind / solar power as well as handmade paper & seed papers made from other artisans.
We have a fantastic range of papers that are made from 100% post-consumer waste, or recycled coffee cups (how cool is that). Be sure to inform your packaging company of your desire to have more ethically sourced stationery. You would be surprised how many eco-friendly paper options there are.
We do our very best to learn about new materials, we still have a long way to go, but I know that the more we demand more sustainable, fair trade and ethical materials the more options will become available.
Bear in mind that these materials do tend to cost more, but the benefits to people & the planet far outweigh the cost. Remember we need to do less, but do it better.
Also, consider the size of your stationery. Not all standard sizes are the most economical. Often, the difference between an 80mm square card and a 100mm square card can make a huge difference, reduce waste, and reduce the cost per card. We try to keep as many offcuts as we can, using them for tags, our own packaging, as well as donating them to our daughter’s Nursery. Please feel free to ask us what we can make from your paper offcuts.
CONSIDER YOUR FINISHING OPTIONS
There is much debate in the printing world as to which print method is the most sustainable- we are still trying to do more research, and sometimes getting an honest / helpful answer from our printers can be difficult. But we are committed to doing more research and trying to be as ethical as we possibly can.
As I mentioned all of our paper is firstly reused, and then only recycled. We keep all of our foil die blocks in the studio, so that we can reprint your orders (we are all about building long lasting relationships with our clients). We also responsibly recycle our cartridges, toners & drums. We have also committed to trying to source mostly second hand printing equipment. Our excess foil goes back to our supplier who has a zero foil to landfill policy.
As I say, we still have a lot to learn and discover in this area, but we are committed to reducing our impact in small manageable steps. We have also committed to buying second hand printing equipment wherever possible.
Some of our favourite finishes include, hot foil stamping, embossing and debossing
OUR LAST TIP WOULD BE TO DOUBLE UP
Instead of including a thank you card & info card, try and combine the two. Better yet make your thank you card so beautiful & personal that people will automatically want to keep it and not toss it in the bin. Our quote cards are the perfect example of doubling up. They show how much we care,, thank our clients for supporting us and work as a beautiful piece of art. I love seeing how people frame them and put them up in their homes.
You don’t have to eliminate packaging from your business to make it more sustainable. By making small changes you can make a huge difference! Remember, these small changes can make a big difference, one or ten years from now.
This is how we have made our packaging more sustainable:
- We deliver all of our products in recycled kraft boxes (we sourced the correct size boxes for most of our products, to ensure we don't need to include excess fillers).
- We switched to paper bubble wrap, paper tape and recycled tissue paper. I love our new paper bubble wrap, and it really aligns with our brand perfectly. You can purchase it HERE
- We created reusable thank you cards, with paper made from recycled coffee cups. You can create yours too. CLICK HERE
- All our stickers are made with recycled & compostable sticker paper - you can get your HERE
- We make use of Sustainable Papers - we have a fantastic range of papers that are made from 100% post-consumer waste, or recycled coffee cups (how cool is that!).
- Let us know if you would like to have more ethically sourced stationery, and we can try our very best to create packaging that is ethical & sustainable too.