{Business Tips} How To Ship Plastic-Free

This week’s business tips is a tutorial.  I’ve had several members contact me looking for advice about greening-up shipping practices using paper, reclaimed materials, paper tape, and other plastic-free alternatives to conventional shipping materials.  Many of our customers come to our shops looking for green businesses, find us through the Team Eco Etsy Blog, and expect that what they purchase will be shipped in the most eco-conscious possible ways.  Furthermore, if you are interested at all in promoting your shop by submitting your product samples for review by a green blogger, sending your products in plastic-free packaging goes a long way to show your commitment to being an ecofriendly business, in word as well as deed.  I sent samples to Beth Terry for review several years ago, and her site continues to be one of my best sources of traffic.  It is definitely worth your time to make connections with big green bloggers like Beth, but don’t even think about sending a package using plastic tape or other plastic packaging.  If you are not already using paper tape, here is a super easy tutorial to get you started.

Photos illustrating steps 1 through 9, going left to right, then top down. Click the image to enlarge it in a new window, if needed.

1.  Gather your materials.  In this package, I am using 1/3 of a brown grocery sack.  Personally, I use fabric bags, but I have some friends who keep me in good supply of paper bags, along with other useful packaging materials, like cereal, cracker and granola bar boxes.  You will also need a roll of paper tape.  I use the unreinforced kind, since the threads in the reinforced kind are actually fiberglass, and will render your package un-compostable and un-recyclable.  A pair of scissors and a spray bottle are also needed.  A gift card, hand written note, or business card also makes a nice touch.

2 – 3.  This package is going to a friend who is expecting a baby.  I am sending her one of my Tummy Kisses Belly Balms with my NEW plastic-free packaging (yea!!), along with a super cute pair of baby shoes I won back in the Earth Day Auction from Growing Up Wild.  I couldn’t resist bidding on the baby set, even though I didn’t at the time know who would be receiving these lovely treats.  I love sending out these little gifts here and there as I find friends to give them to!

4.  Cut the bottom of the paper bag off.  I am just using the bottom portion today.  The top part of the bag can be cut in half to make two more packages, using a different technique.  In this way, I get three shipping envelopes out of one paper bag.

5.  My baby shoes came with a lovely muslin drawstring bag, which I slipped my Tummy Kisses Belly Balm into.  But otherwise, I would use some paper to wrap up the contents of the package.  I reuse calendar pages, tissue paper, gift bags, and even used butcher paper (from my classroom, not the real butcher!) as an inner wrap for my packages.  This goes inside the bottom of the grocery bag.

6.  Fold over the sides of the grocery bag, and start to roll the package up.

7.  Cut a long piece of paper tape, enough to go around the package twice.  The tape actually adds to the rigidity of the package (think papier mache).  And the tape is so inexpensive, you don’t need to feel like you have to skimp.  Go ahead and wrap it all around your package.  It’s compostable, recyclable, and the adhesive is wheat-based, so there’s really no guilt here!  Spray your tape with plain tap water.  I don’t usually spray right on my counter like the photo shows, usually I just hang it out over my workshop floor and spray from a distance of 8 inches or so.

8.  Lay the package seam-side-down on top of the wet tape.  Fold the ends of the tape around over the top and back to the other side, if you have left over length.  Press the tape firmly to activate the adhesive.

9.  Decorate your package in a way that shows a little love.  I use a label that promotes our team to draw attention to the intentional use of reclaimed materials.  I also use a circle hole punch to cut out additional sections of paper tape, which my children stamp with rubber stamps custom made by other etsy shops, like these by StudioMo.  A little squirt of the spray bottle, and these make the coolest little stickers or seals to adorn your package with!

What tips and tricks have you discovered for reducing plastic packaging?  You can also spread the word about plastic free packaging by pinning the lead post image on your Pinterest page!

– Tiffany Norton,



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  1. I’m using glue instead of tape to put the labels on the packages.

  2. Jill Marin says:

    I love the green idea, I have begunb to sell on Etsy myself (with lots of AMAZING help from http://craftsellerskit.etsy.com Etsy craft sellers kit) and am hoping to ramp up my shop. This is a great idea for shipping GREEN! Thank you.

  3. I’m so glad you both enjoyed my post! Paper tape can be found by searching for “kraft tape”, “water activated tape”, “gummed tape”, etc. You can click the link in the post to find a source for paper tape. I bought some more just this morning from Uline.com. I like the three inch wide stuff, personally. I have also bought it by the case on ebay. Good luck!

  4. Paper tape! Where do I find it? I always ship in re-used/upcycled envelopes and you are right, the tape adds to the strength of the package. But I am excited to hear about paper tape…!

  5. So much great ideas !! Thank you !