12 Eco-friendly and creative tips for packaging your handmade products

Aug 5, 2021 | Etsy, Small Business Life

We all know that part of the joy in purchasing from an Etsy store is the care taken over a handcrafted item. When the small business owner shows consideration shown to the packaging of that item – it only enhances that customer experience even more!
closeup of a female's hands wrapping a parcel in brown paper, with colourful wrpaping materials on the table
Today, I’m covering some ideas of what you can do to be more mindful of the way you package products in your small business. Along with details of some suppliers of shipping materials that you may like to try.

(There’s an added bonus tip at the end, as well, for more packaging inspiration.)

To begin with, a reminder of why packaging matters to your product-brand, more than you might think!…

For starters, it’s giving a strong first impression – one that lasts! Being memorable really counts for Etsy business owners, it increases your chances of a great review, of repeat buy by that customer and of a word-of-mouth referral. Who doesn’t love watching an unboxing video these days?!

Also, it’s a chance to emphasise your brand values. The qualities that are important in your maker-business. When you give mindful consideration to this via your packaging, you can reinforce the fundamental ethos you stand for – vegan-friendly? No frills? Luxe? Attention to detail? Spell it out.

At its most basic, packaging is about function. The practicality of your item arriving safe and sound, without scratches, breakages, or water damage. All are key factors to think of through your packaging, to ensure security and protection.

Finally, it’s a chance to reinforce consistent messaging… echoing your brand story again, but mainly this is about visuals. Bringing your handcrafted, creative flair out (and adding the special touch that mega-brands can’t!)
Adding a custom thank you note, using logo-branded wrapping paper/ tissue, including a business card to drill down the brand awareness, even applying custom tape in your brand’s colour palette – these are just some ideas open to you.

So, grab a cuppa for my round up of 12 ideas (or should I say, 13 with that bonus one thrown in!) to be more conscious of your packaging choices, and ways to consciously present your small business brand in a creative way.

1. Opt for poly mailers with low environmental impact

‘Plastic bag’ poly-package options, usually with a sticky self-seal opener… they’re lightweight, inexpensive and easy-to-use. (Easy-to-store in your studio, too.)
Compostable made from corn or vegetable starch… recycled and/or recyclable plastic… bubble-lined and padded mailers such as ‘Jiffy green’ bags that are recyclable… there are many options. Try providers such as Eco-craft, NoIssue and bag it Plastics.
I personally use compostable mailer bags in my Etsy jewellery business, Sparkle Peony Studio – ones from NoIssue are my preference, to be biodegradable. Maybe they’re not the prettiest mailers ever, but I think these are great to reinforce the message of minimising single-use plastic consumption.

NoIssue and Sticker Mule are able to produce premium custom-printed dispatch bags, for added brand recognition.

pile of unused compostable poly mailers

2. Mailers can be recyclable and also beautiful

If looks are a crux point in your business, you may like to go for a printed mailer option. Even though these aren’t custom-designed for your brand, the ones by Packaging Products Online or Magical Mailers (US) are worth a look for contemporary-patterned designs in fun prints.

3. Cardboard mailing boxes are simple to recycle

Available in a huge range of sizes, and they’re easy to store, flatpack-style. Often they’re made of recycled material too.
Many businesses are able to use ones that fit through a standard-size letterbox too, which adds to the convenience for customers.  Are you ‘selling’ this benefit, that buyers won’t have the hassle of waiting in to take your delivery? That your item is slim enough to fit through the postbox?

Look out for shipping boxes by Tiny Box Company, Eco-craft, or Priory Direct, amongst others.
They’re easy to add a custom creative touch too, by applying a sticker, or inked with a logo stamp. (See tip no. 7!)

smiling Caucasian lady behind a market stall selling handmade items
Denise’s Etsy business is EvaLilyCo, creating pet accessories and matching hair accessories for their human owners. She’s very conscious of her packaging, saying, “I love writing personal notes – I use custom branded note cards for a handwritten thank you. And shopping around for competitively priced packaging products helps.”
She adds, “I always use cardboard boxes rather than plastic packaging.”

If you’re a pet lover, give her a follow on Instagram and visit the EvaLilyCo Etsy shop here for cute dog bandanas, cat bow ties and more.

4. Tissue paper adds cushioned padding and consistent branding

Sure it’s serving a practical purpose – plain options from NoIssue or Eco-craft are ones to watch, likewise a pretty printed option by TissueAndTape is worth a look. They’re all also eco-friendly choices, recycled and recyclable.

Remember that you might like to consider acid-free tissue which won’t cause discolouration, degradation or damage over time, for sensitive materials such as fabrics, art prints and vintage items. Tissue at bag it Plastics is acid-free and food-safe, in a range of colours.
Why not take a look at the NoIssue option for custom-printed tissue, too, to splash out on a branded design?

5. Go eco for specialist packaging, too

Whether it’s…
✅  polystyrene-substitute chips, aka packing peanuts, that are water-degradable – made of starch, they’re ideal for packaging fragile items like ceramics.
✅  shredded corrugated cardboard, (known as void fill) to fill boxes around awkward-shaped items – recycled and recyclable.
✅  tubes (and boxes that can contain tubes!) are great for rollable items such as posters and art prints – cardboard is again the material of choice.

These kind of shipping materials may not be super-pretty, but better your item arrives safe and protected, than pretty and broken!
Look for all these and more specialist solutions (as well as the ‘everyday’ ones) at Kite Packaging or Priory Direct.

Sush and Dee run Tinga Treasures, selling African art, gifts and homewares, by partnering with the artists themselves to support them at the source.
Sush says, “We use Kite Packaging for shipping all our fragile items, and not least, the art, which needs particular care of course. They have great packaging solutions, such as the eco-friendly triangular postal tubes. The tubes are sturdy and provide the much-needed protection for our paintings when we ship them. We appreciate the fast delivery too!”

Click over at Tinga Treasures to see more, and support them on Instagram too.

contemporary living room scene with abstract painting of a rhino in rainbow colours on the wall

6. Bags are helpful for packaging at in-person events

Paper is the most eco-savvy option for these – a simple greengrocer-style bag… one that’s plain or printed in colour… what about the custom-branded version, again?
There are lots of possibilities, and in a range of sizes, so try NoIssue, Eco-craft,  and bag it Plastics again.

I’ve even found cheap-and-cheerful ones available in bulk at a wholesaler before! They’re an inexpensive choice, and I chose to give them personal oomph with branded stamping.

Speaking of which…

7. Show off your creativity with a rubber stamp that’ll reinforce brand awareness

Designed from an image of your logo, or with a personalised message in text, these are easier to come by than ever. The ink pads are readily available in high street stationers or from online craft stores, so you can add your customised accent to boxes, paper bags, thank you slips, fabric totes and beyond.
Ink it up, stamp firmly and wipe to clean and keep your stamp in good nick. No craft skill needed!

I’ve ordered bespoke rubber stamps from Etsy before, uploading my chosen image, or try NoIssue or The English Stamp Company.

collage image of handmade soap and rubber stamp showing logo of the soapmaking company
Steph runs M.I.F Soap Co where she makes tiny-batch soaps and other bodycare products.
“Using my logo stamp from local hardware store Frome Hardware really gives my gift sets a little touch of handmade pizzazz” she says.

Check out Steph’s gorgeous creations over at M.I.F Soap Co and follow for updates at her IG page.

8. Stickers are for grown-ups, too

They’re fab for raising brand visibility, sending a little ‘Thank you for buying’ message or simply go for a coordinating colour to echo your business palette.
Not just simple circle stickers either, it’s possible to find many shapes and sizes of stickers in bulk (on rolls or sheets), recycled paper ones, plastic vinyl in clear or full-colour… have your own printed. And even to buy blank labels for addressing and for printing your own labels on candles and such.
So. Many. Possibilities!

Shop around at suppliers such as Sticker Mule (which has a squillion-and-one varieties!), Eco-craft, Priory Direct, and there are even many suppliers on Etsy itself. Many traditional business print services also offer sticker-printing at a great price.
You could even design and cut your own stickers, if you’re handy with a Cricut diecutting machine.

9. Seal up your parcel with paper tape

Ditch that plastic tape, which is breaking down and ending up in the ocean – paper tape is the eco-friendly option. Recycled and recyclable? Yup. Water-activated gummed tape – just wipe with a damp cloth? Yup, that’s available too. Different widths? Yup, you got it. Custom-designed tape in patterns, colours, branded? Yup, yup, yup.

It’s great for the mindful touch to your parcels, and extra fun with the printed choices.
Look for the options at Sticker Mule, The Plastic Free Shop, NoIssue, TissueAndTape (who also plant trees for every order!)

10. Try display cards and boxes with a conscience

These are most suited to items which are delicate, or which benefit from being displayed carefully – so if jewellery or ceramics are your Etsy thing, for example, extra-careful boxing is a must (before you even get as far as the packaging box/ wrapping for mailing purpose).

Tiny Box Company and Eco-craft each have a fantastic range of boxes in different styles, card finishes and sizes, with the option for ones made from 100%-recycled card.
At the latter, there are even necklace-card inserts to sit inside the box, so you can say goodbye to the need for synthetic foam.
I like their pillow boxes, as well, supplied flat for compact storage and ready-to-fold – they’re great for small items and give a classy, gift-worthy feel.

If you sell gift boxed sets, subscription boxes or mini-hamper-style parcels in your maker-business, the larger boxes are fab for this! Ready to be branded, glammed up and tied with a bow or kept simple, as you see fit, spelling out your present-worthy vibe.

Bianca, the jewellery designer and maker behind BiancaRosewood on Etsy told me, “Everything I use is now completely recycled and recyclable.
I get my boxes, jewellery box card inserts and tissue from Eco-craft.
Their recycled card is useful for me, as well, to make non-standard inserts for some of my pieces.”

Take a look at her Etsy shop, BiancaRosewood, for artisan jewellery from beautiful reclaimed woods, which has a lovely contemporary feel.
And why not click to follow Bianca’s page on IG here?

overhead photo of handcrafted earrings, a handwritten thank you note and gift box on a table

11. Cello bags needn’t be plastic-cello

A plastic-free option is the way forward to replace those single-use plastic sleeves for cards or photos, and also deeper/ gusseted cello bags used for food items, for example. You can still keep items dry and protected, using ones made from biodegradable starch, wood-fibre or glassine, or paper-based pouches, and in various sizes.

They’re an ideal answer to pop a flat product in, and then use a board-backed envelope in order to keep shipping costs down while still offering protection. Or for the 3D products, to still show them off, keeping up the eye-candy factor.

Head to Eco-craft, and Tiny Box Company as just a couple of options, to bulk order.

12. Add to the custom-branded experience with printed note cards

A thank you card is a fantastic way to enhance the personal experience for your customer, especially if it’s handwritten. Choose paper products that are recycled and recyclable!
The most inexpensive method is one hand-designed, hand-written or printed on your computer, but you can take that to the next level with a card-printing service.

Including a business card with your details and social media handles in your package is a fab option to remind customers of your brand, encourages them to spread the word by passing on your card, and can support repeat buys.

Business service print providers – on many high streets – offer great value deals, and will be able to advise on the format they need for your print design. Many can also provide graphic design services!
Online print services are also widely available, such as Moo for business cards and beyond.

Oh, and that bonus tip?

Follow the hashtag #PackAnOrderWithMe on Instagram or search ‘packaging ideas’ on Pinterest.
You’re sure to pick up some fab inspiration for packaging your items from fellow creative sellers.
Watch a few Reels, click a few posts, save the Pins… And don’t forget to leave a comment to tell those makers how they’ve inspired you. Community over competition!

I hope these ideas gave you food for thought to step up your product packaging.
Leave a comment if you have tried any of these suppliers, or maybe you like to express yourself through other creative packaging ideas? Do tell.
Ruthx

Revisit these tips by saving this graphic as a Pin to one of your boards! ⬇️
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