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Eco-friendly (and affordable) packaging for startups and small business owners

Eco-friendly packaging is both easy and accessible, – if you know what you’re looking for. In this quick and easy guide, I’ll share with you my favorite picks of Earth-friendly and plastic-free packaging that I use for my small business, – and how I find them.

Pink boxes: 100% recyclable and made from recyclable materials

When I first started my small business, I was searching for things such as:

  • eco-friendly packaging 101
  • earth friendly packaging for artists
  • biodegradable packaging

– and I couldn’t really find an easy-to-follow guide on how to keep my packaging Eco-friendly, particularly on a small budget. So now that I’ve done a bit of research, I thought I’d share my own guide! 🙂

Please keep in mind that I’m not an expert on what’s best for the Earth. But based on the research I’ve conducted over the past six or so months, this article will show you packaging alternatives that I myself use and believe are good alternatives to keeping my business Eco-friendly and Earth-considerate.

Paper mailers: strong, durable and biodegradable

The word “paper” has an unfortunate fragile sound to it. Don’t let this fool you! There’s a rich variety of strong, durable and water-resistant paper boxes and envelopes out there that are just as good as plastic. – Plus, they’re often made from recycled materials, and often also 100% recyclable, compostable and biodegradable.

My top choices for Eco-friendly mailers:

Pink Pip Boxes

A5-sized baby pink boxes by Meg4Tech, available on Amazon UK. These are made from recycled materials and are fully recyclable.

A pin club subscription box using the pink eco-friendly boxes mentioned in the article.

I use these boxes for my Pin Club. They’re incredibly quick to fold and easy to use. They also fit the UK Large Letter size, which is excellent!

Kraft Pip Boxes

I use the pink alternatives for my subscription boxes because they match the color scheme. For anything forest-themed, I prefer to take full advantage of the kraft aesthetic.

The seller INERRA has A5-sized kraft mailers with a beautiful and earthy look to them: perfect for the Earth-friendly look! These come in a whole range of different sizes too, so definitely check out the seller’s shop if you’re interested.

Kraft paper mailers by INERRA. Available on Amazon UK.

I use these for anything forest-themed, such as my Winter enamel pin collection and upcoming Once Upon a Woodland and Bohemian Burrows collections.

Ready-to-use Jiffy mailers:

Not a fan of folding boxes? When I first started out, I bought a giant box of Jiffy’s “Green Padded” envelopes. These are really nice and strong, fit the UK Large Letter size, and are a perfect replacement option for your classic bubble mailer. They’re also made from recycled materials and are fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Eco-friendly packaging tape

Got your recyclable and biodegradable paper mailers? Awesome! If you now make sure to use recyclable tape with natural adhesives, your packaging will be fully biodegradable and recyclable! <3

Eco-friendly packaging tape used on kraft pip boxes.
I used to be able to buy this lovely tape with an eco-friendly message on it. It brought in so many positive shop reviews! <3 Sadly this tape is no longer available on Amazon, but I’ve found a great alternative(see below)!

On the topic of Eco-friendly tape

A lot of Amazon listings will include the term “eco-friendly” because their tape is made from recycled plastics. Using recycled materials is wonderful, but if you want to be extra-super-eco-friendly, you want to go for kraft tape with natural adhesives, also made from recycled materials, and biodegradable. I use, and highly recommend, this tape from Tesa UK. Their tape is biodegradable, unbleached and strong.

Acid-free tissue paper

Acid-free tissue paper seems to have become nearly just as common nowadays as acid-containing tissue paper. There also doesn’t seem to be much of a price difference, so if you’re buying some it’s worth adding “acid free” to your product search 🙂

I use white acid free tissue paper from the Amazon seller Storm Trading Group, and yeah, it looks just like your regular tissue paper:

A pin club subscription box using the pink eco-friendly boxes mentioned in the article.

Biodegradable plastic alternatives

To keep your packaging eco-friendly, it’s best to stay away from plastic. In most cases this is not a problem. I’ve been using paper mailers for roughly six months now, and have never had a complaint of wet packaging or any other issues caused by packaging.

However, you’ll sometimes come across a product that does require waterproof and clear packaging, i.e. if your products are to be exhibited in shops or at conventions, and you want potential customers to be able to see the content of your packaging. In such cases, I like cellophane(cello for short).

February's Pin Club pangolin bundle: packaged in cellophane pockets. Demonstrating how cellophane and plastic looks the same.
February’s Pin Club pangolin bundle: pins and stickers packed using cello pockets.

Cellophane: a waterproof and biodegradable alternative to plastic

Did you know that cellophane is biodegradable? I had no idea when I first started out! Cellophane is a very common material. It’s plant-based and looks exactly like plastic! If you’re using clear pockets to package your pins or other merchandise, you might already be using it… 🙂

Below are some of the cello products I use in the cases where I do need a plastic alternative, such as to keep enamel pins safe from getting scratched while also being able to see which pins are in which pockets.

Parakeet enamel pin packaged in cello packaging.
100 x 70mm clear cellophane pockets by NBEADS.

For my cloud-shaped backing cards and Pin Club sticker sets, I use clear cellophane pockets from the Amazon seller NBEADS. These pockets are 100 by 70 mm, which is perfect for slightly wider backing cards.

Orca whale enamel pin in hard enamel and silver plating: mounted onto a backing card and packaged in a cellophane bag.

For my regular-sized backing cards(55 by 85mm), I use 3″ by 5″ inch cello pockets from the Amazon seller Outus.

Showing sticker sets packaged in biodegradable plastic alternatives.
In the past I’ve also used A5 and A6 cello pockets to wrap sticker sets.
Planner sticker sheets with biodegradable cellophane packaging.

In the past I’ve also used larger cellophane pockets for packing planner sticker sheets. Nowadays I only do this if I’m sending a on a very long trip. For orders within Europe, I now use paper bags, as the cellophane simply isn’t necessary.

Plastic vs. cellophane: which one’s better?

(cellophane) – Okay, keep in mind I’m not an expert. We all have an individual choice to make here. -And I choose cellophane.

The truth is that neither option is good for the environment and the best thing to do is to stay clear of both. But in cases where you do need it, I would personally recommend cellophane. Why?

Cellophane vs. plastic

Cellophane is plant-based. It can’t be recycled, but it is both compostable and biodegradable. Plastic, on the other hand, can sometimes be recycled but is not biodegradable.

It takes cellophane an average of two to three months to degrade naturally, whereas plastic has been estimated to take 400-1000 years. A plastic water bottle, for instance, takes roughly 450 years to degrade naturally. Read more on this topic here 🙂

To me, it seems like the biggest argument against cellophane is that it’s “not good for the environment”. But neither is plastic. So although cellophane is not necessarily good for the environment, my research tells me it’s a lot better for the Earth than plastic is. Especially when we’re talking about crinkly or thin plastics which usually can’t be recycled.

On recycling

Thick plastics can often be recycled, but this doesn’t apply to plastics we’d generally use to package enamel pins, stickers and more: those plastics are more often too thin and/or crinkly to be recycled, and will, therefore, be sent to landfill and eventually wind up in the ocean.

Plastic mailers are often recyclable, -unless they have bubble-wrap in them which is more often not recyclable. However, my opinion is this: just because something is recyclable, doesn’t mean it will be recycled. Not all countries have established accessible recycling systems, and there’s also the not-so-happy truth that not everyone cares, or more often don’t have the opportunity to send plastics for recycling.

Affiliate links

Please note that this article uses affiliate links. It doesn’t change the price for you, but if you purchase something using the links I’ve provided, Amazon will toss me a small percentage of their profits 🙂

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