Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Today an interesting post came up in a group I am a member of.  The topic of the post was packaging, and whether other artists recycle household packaging, like food containers, as shipping containers.

After I stopped cringing I explained why I don't.  Packaging is a personal and business choice that reflects on you and your art.  Here are some of the reasons I don't use recycled materials, presented here for you to make your own decision.

  • They are all different sizes, weights, and construction quality.  Some are single-walled and flimsy, others are triple-walled overkill.  You will spend more time cutting them down to fit what you're shipping, or cobbling boxes together, than you would spend in money to just purchase appropriately-sized boxes.
  • They might be dirty or smelly.  I know you cleaned them out really good, but one crumbled Lucky Charm is all it takes to turn somebody off of your business permanently.  I have personally received clothing items that were stained by a greasy container.
  • Bugs are notorious for nesting in paper goods.  The glue used to turn the watery paper pulp into actual paper is irresistible to pests like cockroaches.  I did battle with cockroaches when I lived in Arizona, and if I ever see another one in my domicile in my lifetime, I will need to be hospitalized.  I don't know you, I don't know how clean you are, for all I know maybe you slept in that box last night or took it from someone who did.  Maybe you used it to haul your used baby diapers out to the curb.  Maybe your cat has ringworm and spent six days sleeping in it.  Does this sound crazy?  Too bad, these are all things I have seen cardboard boxes go through.
  • To me, it feels like, "Oh nice, they sent me their garbage."
  • Boxes are usually meant to stand up to one trip.  That's all they're really built for.  Repeated crushing, denting, dropping, and crunching ruin the box's structural integrity and make the cardboard mushy and useless.
And on and on.  I think used boxes are nasty.  Not everybody feels the same way!  But even if 10% of your customers feel the same way I do, that's 10% who probably won't come back.

Packaging doesn't have to be expensive, in fact it is probably the cheapest part of my business.  You can buy boxes in bulk from a ton of different places.  My personal favorite is PaperMart.com.  They sell all kinds of boxes, tubes, bubble envelopes, bags, peanuts, bubbles, wrap, you name it.  If your products are all roughly the same size, pick the size of box that works best for you (leave at least 1" all the way around the largest item for packing material and crushing) and order a bundle.  Most of their boxes are flat and you fold them up as needed, so they don't take up a tremendous amount of space either.  For bubble mailers, just cut a hole in the box large enough to pull them out of and stick it under a table.  Now you have a bubble mailer storage cubby with a dispenser.  And it was free!

Do I recycle some things?  Yeah, of course!  Clean bubble wrap, peanuts, and tissue paper all get reused around here.  But boxes are something we RARELY ever reuse, and we NEVER, EVER, EVER use food boxes.

In fact, the only boxes we reuse are the boxes that are plain white and come inside of bigger boxes.  Those smaller boxes usually contain things like tiny prints, bookmarks, or postcards that we've ordered from a printing company in bulk.  They've been protected by the larger box, so other than a label that says they're from a printer, they're new boxes.  But we don't reuse those anymore, since we now have a lot of small products and have bought small boxes to go with them!

Stop using your cereal boxes for shipping prints!  They are not meant for that!  They can barely protect cereal!  Gah!

Okay, rant over!

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