Monday, November 17, 2008

Packaging, marketing, and the environment

I've really been struggling with packaging lately. I want the things I make to arrive beautifully packaged. I do think that's part of the experience, and I want to put the same care into the packaging of the product that I do into the making.

At the same time, I think that packaging is a huge source of waste, and I abhor the preponderance of packaging that litters our marketplace and, ultimately, our landfills. I read something on BaublesButtonsBeads blog banner (now there's a mouthful) that said "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I've heard it before, but it was nice to be reminded, especially since -- for the most part -- I try to live by that philosophy.

For this reason, I started making little origami boxes out of paper that would otherwise be considered trash. One of my favorite instances of this is the little boxes I made out of the pages of a Thomas Guide which lost its usefulness after I got a navigation system for my car.

This box is perfect for the little earrings I was making, and I was able to make a larger one for the bracelets. The problem then becomes shipping. The box itself isn't sturdy enough to stand up to being shipped in an envelope, so instead of shipping in a Priority Mail flat-rate envelope, I need to ship in a small box.

Acquiring small boxes turned out to be easy -- I was at Staples one day (no endorsement should be inferred) and they were unpacking an abundance of school supplies. There was a cart full of little boxes, and after asking the store associate, I greedily pilfered the best of them. I was at Henry's a few days later (feel free to infer an endorsement here, I love Henry's) and did the same. So as far as boxes in which to ship, I'm golden!

I got an order for a tree trio last week, and was scrambling to find a packaging solution when I unearthed some of the lighter-weight boxes that pens were shipped in. I came up with what I think is a swell solution. I took a paint swatch, stamped my logo on it, and glued it over the logo on the box. The trees nestled in quite happily.

I tied a piece of jute around the box, then put them inside another, sturdier box, and off they went! I have to admit, it was pretty adorable!

Yesterday I got an order for two sets of bowls. One was listed as being sent in a handmade origami box, with a picture of said box. This is one that I made from cutting apart a gift bag which had ripped. The box itself is pretty, but not as sturdy as I would like. My bext problem was that the second set of bowls she ordered was MUCH larger, and wouldn't fit into the same box. I found a box from Crate & Barrel which I turned inside-out and tied with some gorgeous ribbon. Each box, individually, was lovely, but together, did not create the experience I would have wished. I found it a little jarring, in fact.

I put both boxes into yet another free box, this one from Henry's, which again, I turned inside out.

I'm less satisfied with this solution, and extremely irritated at the amount of time it took me to put it together. Any profit I might have made on that sale was negated by the hours -- yes, HOURS! it took me to package it. Part of it is that I'm so disorganized right now, and part of it is that I don't have a system -- every time I package something, I have to experiment with a bunch of different options just to find one that works.

At this point, it would probably be easier AND cheaper to just buy some damn pre-made boxes. But I'm so not okay with that. I am really conscious of the impact I have on the environment, and even though I reuse everything I get time and time again, I can't control whether or not someone else does.

Unfortunately, every minute (or hour) that I spend making packaging is another minute (or hour) that I'm not making money. And as I am just barely scraping by as it is, it's something I need to carefully consider, and find a viable solution for.

And if and when I do, you can bet you'll be the first to know!


tamdoll said...

Just found your blog, I think through ecoetsy. I like how you got those Staples boxes, I should keep my eyes open when I'm out shopping next time. And I'm in the same boat as you, sometimes it takes so long to pack an item because I want to do it nicely/recycled and it takes so long, I wonder if I'm even making money anymore. Everything you do is so nice, I'm sure your customers appreciate it very much.

km said...

Thank you! I found your blog and commented there.

The boxes from staples are GREAT, and ended up being PERFECT for my trees. I'm playing with other options, reusing cereal boxes and other such things.
Once I figure it out, you can bet I'll post it both here AND on ecoetsy!

Nancy said...

Ok, first of all, let it be said that your packaging looks gorgeous. Second, don't fret. I think the time is totally worth it over wasting materials. My boyfriend always make fun of me for my "janky" looking reconfigurations like taping together cardboard to make my own boxes of the right size. But, you know, if we are in business of shipping stuff, who best than us to create great solutions to shipping waste!?!