Since I’m offering my first collection of painting reproductions, I did research to find an earth friendly packaging option. I was surprised at how few alternatives there are. What I discovered is below. Please share in the comments if you’ve discovered any that I’ve missed.
Ideally what I create and share with the world is part of a positive, natural, circular system. Materials are sustainably sourced from nature or are second hand. Work is ethically produced and adds joy to people’s lives. Items are high quality and well made so they will last for many years. Pieces can be repaired, reused, upcycled. Eventually items are recycled, composted or biodegraded so that they return to the earth to start the cycle again.
Did you know plastic can take up to 450 years to biodegrade? It can be even longer if the plastic is hidden in a landfill. While plastic is degrading it releases tiny microplastics and other toxins which are all harmful to our environment. Plastic is made from petroleum that has been chemically altered. It is harming wildlife and our oceans, and tiny microplastics are now found in everything including food, water, air, salt and our bodies. Although plastic does have some excellent uses (like eyeglasses) most of the time it’s completely unnecessary. Why would cucumbers need to be individually wrapped in plastic? I’m asking you Trader Joe’s.
Eco-friendly options for packaging art reproductions:
First consider: does it even need to be packaged?
1. Recycled Paper/cardboard – this is an extremely eco friendly choice. It can be recycled and is biodegradable. Cons: You can’t see through it, and it’s not waterproof.
2. 100% recycled plastic bags from EcoEnclose – You can see through these nicely. EcoEnclose says “recycled content (specifically post consumer waste) (is) the #1 input material to prioritize for sustainable packaging.”
3. Glassine bags – This material is acid free, water and grease resistant. It’s made from wood. Glassine is recyclable and a valuable input for the paper recycling system. It’s naturally biodegradable and compostable. Cons: it’s only semi-transparent, so you can’t see through it, and it’s not waterproof.
4. Compostable bioplastic bags made from FSC wood from Elevate Packaging – You can see your artwork through this material, and the bags look nice. The wood these are made from is Forest Stewardship Council certified, who defines this as “FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.” Unfortunately these bags are not acid free, and they seem to get a little weird in the heat. (Maybe it starts decomposing?) I haven’t found them in very many sizes. Elevate packaging claims that they can be composted in home or city compost. The thing is your customer needs to know this and also have a place to compost. I wonder, what happens if they end up in a landfill?
5. Compostable bioplastic packaging made from PLA (polylactic acid) – ClearBags.com offers these. They are made from plants such as corn and sugarcane.
6. Reusable – Garden Fever in Portland, Oregon displays their greeting cards in individual clear plastic sleeves that are reusable. The sleeves stay at the shop and the customer takes the card home without packaging or in a paper or cloth bag. This is an excellent idea for direct sales at an event or a shop.
7. Zero waste stickers – EcoEnclose has a high quality product that is recyclable and made from 100% recycled paper. Even the liner is recyclable! They have nice bright colors, look great, and are long lasting. Cons: they are not waterproof or super durable.
My choices: I’m trying out the compostable bags from Elevate packaging. I like that you can see through them. If they end up in nature they will eventually degrade, and they are not made of petroleum. The downfall is that they still could end up in the landfill, since not everyone is set up to compost. None of the options are perfect–you have to do the best you can. I’m also using zero waste stickers and self sealing rigid mailers made of 100% post consumer recycled paper from EcoEnclose.
EcoEnclose is one of my favorite eco-shipping supply company. I’ve used their products for years and often refer to the resources on their website. EcoEnclose is inventing new things like algae ink and reusable packaging, which is sent back to the business by the consumer so it can be reused over and over. Very cool.
What eco friendly options will you choose?