A guide to sustainable packaging

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” -  Stewart Udall

Issues of sustainability are capital to us as B corp. This is why we decided to partner with Ecologi and promised to plant a tree for every artwork sold. You can read more about this here.

Sustainability also matters to our artists, especially when it comes to packaging. 

As a result, we thought it would be great to let our artists talk about the topic and share their advice on how to progressively work towards a more eco-friendly packaging for your artworks.

For Amy Cundall, it is about reusing materials you already have around the house:

Where possible, try to find recyclable or biodegradable options, and reuse off cuts and materials you already have at home to make custom protections, such as protective corners.

Margaret Mallows also offers some insight on how to reuse existing materials:

I pick up small sheets of bubble wrap from the supermarket – they use them sandwiched between bags of fruit – it reuses the bubble wrap. I also keep the large cardboard boxes my artwork paper arrives in – it’s strong and ideal for making a custom size shipping box for sending large artworks flat (if a customer has bought multiple items).

For Peter Walters, it is about taking meaningful small first steps and working towards a bigger long term goal: 

Over the last year or so I have put in a concerted effort to increase the amount of biodegradable and recycled packaging I'm using. I use paper filler as it’s cheap, versatile and green. This has to be the way forward and while I'm not 100% there, I feel I am moving in the right direction.

Olga Beliaeva advises there are a lot of recyclable* options out there:

The plastic wrap I use is made from recycled materials*. This type of polyethylene can be recycled* for the production of film or for the production of asphalt. Expanded polystyrene is fully recyclable in the UK* for example, where it is reused for new packaging. The paper I use is also recyclable.

Valerie Erichsen Thomson wrote a detailed forum post on the topic, which you can find here and offers some guidance on how to communicate your packaging choices to potential buyers:

It's easier to ship plastic-free with small items. For larger heavier items, it's not so straight forward. My philosophy is to ship large items rolled (especially for overseas shipments) and to write this on those listings. In addition to being an ongoing supporter of The Nature Conservancy, I have also signed up with Ecologi, to plant more trees monthly to offset my carbon footprint.

Here is what I write in my descriptions where I'm shipping pieces rolled:

The larger a piece is, the heavier and larger the package is, requires more packing materials, uses up more energy in its transportation and leaves a bigger carbon footprint on our planet. The couriers have all been raising their rates and surcharges to offset local conditions, and the cost of shipping a larger painting tends to be high.

If a piece is shipped in a cardboard tube, it is a smaller package, requires less padding and packing materials and so leaves a lighter carbon footprint. The buyer can take the rolled painting to a local frame shop for restretching (often at a lower cost than ready to hang shipping would have been) benefitting their local economy. The buyers have to wait a bit longer to hang the stretched paintings on their walls, but good things are worth the wait, don't you think?

Finally, Valerie also points out that it is not just about choosing the right materials, but also the right courier:

In addition to reliability, I look for green initiatives. I rarely use the post office unless I'm sending a letter. I haven't had them lose anything, but my experience is international shipments have been seriously delayed, at times for months, before reaching their destination. That only had to happen twice for me (UK and Spain) before I called it quits with them. The reduced cost is not worth an unhappy buyer to me. For shipments where I use UPS (mostly for domestic, though I have used them internationally too, but I find DHL slightly less expensive, fast and I like their green initiative), I always choose their carbon offset option. It adds 5 cents to the cost. UPS's carbon neutral option supports projects that offset the emissions of the shipment's transport. UPS has supported projects that include reforestation, landfill gas destruction, wastewater treatment, and methane destruction.I like DHL for international delivery. DHL's GoGreen initiative target is to halve its 2007 emissions by 2025 and achieve zero emissions by 2050.

*Recycling criteria vary from country to country so please check your country's requirements before discarding any materials, to ensure they are placed on the correct container. 

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