Earth-friendly packaging

Apr 18, 2023
By Christy Johnson, founder & CEO of United Goods

We've only got one earth. So at United Goods HQ, we do our best to be as kind to it as possible. 

From Day 1 when I started my business, I sought to make as little impact on our planet as I could. You may remember that in the early days I created blank-inside note cards that on the front featured my illustrations and cute messages. I used recycled cardstock, digital printing, and corn-based sleeves that were biodegradable. Most of these materials cost me more money, but I felt it was necessary; a non-negotiable. My shipping materials consisted of USPS cardboard sleeves that were both sturdy and recyclable.

When I made the transition a few years later to make State Icons—my mini landmark prints that come in handmade frames—I continued my goal of being as nice to Mama Earth as possible.

My dad Jeff makes my frames, and each of my prints is protected by a small piece of glass. My dad found a local business that sold him their scrap glass, so it's recycled, which I love! He then asked a nearby stained-glass artist to hand-cut it for him (she still does it today, nearly 20 years later).

Just like my note cards, I use digital printing to produce my mini prints, which is more "green" than other forms of printing. I lay out the artwork on 9 x 13–inch paper so that only the smallest amount of waste is left behind when I cut them out by hand. 

Since my frames are wood, I'm sadly aware of the impact we're leaving on the trees that sacrificed themselves for my art. But my dad finds wood that's high-quality so he doesn't have to cut around knot holes and other damaged areas, which would produce more waste.

hand cut wood frames for mini state icon prints by united goods

I've considered trying to find a source of reclaimed wood, but the time and costs that would come from my dad planing and trimming down the pieces wouldn't be feasible. Instead, my dad has been diligent about Tetris-ing the cuts so that only a tiny amount of waste is generated from the cutting process. In fact, he even saves his sawdust from the CNC machine, and I use it in the compost bin at my house. I also take the scraps that end up on his cutting-room floor and burn them in my bonfire pit throughout the summer and fall. 

As for packaging my State Icons, I've found the most sustainable packaging materials out there. Each little frame is wrapped in wax-coated sheets (they're actually deli wrappers!) that are biodegradable, and I use washi tape to seal it, which is made of rice paper and biodegradable adhesive.

When I mail my little prints, you can rest assured my shipping materials are also eco-friendly. Each deli-wrappered State Icon is also carefully cushioned in recyclable and biodegradable tissue paper and honeycomb paper. 

I stuff the USPS-provided (recyclable) cardboard boxes with (recyclable) Kraft paper that's enjoying a second life because it's re-used from shipments I have personally received in the mail. I rarely need to use packing peanuts, but when I do, they are biodegradable.

Finally, our Kraft packing tape will also break down in a landfill (although I'm looking for a new brand because I'm not a fan of the one I'm currently using. It's ultra-sticky when I pull it off the roll, but then inexplicably does not stay stuck very well to my boxes. Fun.)

So that in a nutshell is how we at United Goods do our damnedest to be kind to the environment. Do you have additional ideas on how we can do even better? I'd love your suggestions. Be sure to comment below this blog post or contact us directly.

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