One thing Recycla has to do every year at this time is take packages to the post office to be shipped hither and yon. She has relatives scattered around the country, which means sending gifts to loved ones near and far. Over the years, she has learned to be efficient, eco-friendly, and budget-minded when shipping packages.
The first thing Recycla tries to do is order gifts online and have them sent directly to their recipients. This saves her the steps of wrapping the gifts, packaging them to be mailed, and then going to the post office. Recycla’s late mother-in-law, on the other hand, felt that it was impersonal to ship directly from a catalog, so she would have things mailed to her, whereupon she would wrap them herself, and then she mailed them to their intended recipient. While Recycla appreciates the sentiment behind these extra steps, she felt that they were a waste of money and resources.
If Recycla has bought gifts locally and thus must mail them herself, here is how she packages them in the most environmentally- and budget-friendly ways possible:
Recycla saves shipping boxes throughout the fall so that she doesn’t have to buy any. Throughout the year, she also saves packing materials like bubble wrap and large sheets of paper. If you don’t have any bubble wrap to reuse, you can use old newspaper or tissue paper. If you have a shredder, you can shred your old documents and then use the resulting confetti to pad fragile gifts, but bear in mind that you’ll be mailing a mess to your mother-in-law or Aunt Myrtle. (However, if your intent is to annoy someone, you will definitely succeed.) On occasion, Recycla has also padded mailing boxes with old towels, so think about things like that that you could use.
Some people use packing peanuts when they ship gifts and Recycla always curses loudly and profanely when she gets a box in the mail that is full of those wee styrofoam demons. She loathes packing peanuts with the passion of a thousand white-hot suns and not just because all they are an environmental travesty — she also hates the way the peanuts spill everywhere, then skitter out of her reach when she tries to pick them up. While it would be tempting to throw them away, she instead saves them in a large garbage bag and, when the bag is full, takes it to a local shipping store to give to them. (Click here to find out where you can recycle packing peanuts in your community.)
If Recycla does need to use packing peanuts, she first pours them into smaller bags — usually she reuses plastic newspaper bags and ties off the ends — so that she won’t be mailing someone a mess. Yes, it is possible to buy biodegradable packing peanuts, but she thinks we all should end the packing peanut madness now and not perpetuate the horrors onto the next generation.
To seal the package, the most environmentally friendly way to go would be to tie twine around the package, but the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t like twine. It is possible to buy paper tape, which you should be able to find at the big box office supply stores in your town.
Recycla recognizes that mailing gifts across the country is not the most eco-friendly way to go, so she has been trying to minimize it as much as she can by giving gift cards, gift certificates for experiences (e.g. dinner out at a favorite restaurant), or an IOU for a future gift.
Tell the Eco Women: How much shipping do you have to do during the holidays? What tricks have you learned to save resources and money?