There was a very serious message on my answering machine this morning from my sister, Ellen, who was worried about the Christmas present she was wrapping to send me. “Help. I’m standing here paralyzed. I reused the wrapping that you used for my present last year, I got a cardboard box, I filled the empty space with scrap paper, I thought you would be so proud, and then I went to tape the box shut… with plastic. Please tell me what to do. I’m serious. I respect what you’re doing. I don’t want to send you something that you don’t want. But I can’t finish packaging your gift. Please call me back.”
This message was heart-breaking. I never, ever want to cause such distress to the family that I love. But it was also really sweet to hear how hard she was trying to send me a plastic-free gift. Of course I called her back and told her to use whatever tape she had and not worry about it. And I thanked her profusely for what she was trying to do for me.
I just thought it was such a funny coincidence because she hadn’t read the blog post I wrote last night about wrapping gifts without tape. And then, to add another coincidence, I got an e-mail update this morning from a blog I subscribe to, Sustainable Is Good, which was all about using less plastic tape in packaging! While the article is geared toward industry, there are a few things we as individuals can do:
1) Use less tape on the box. As the article says, “When plastic box sealing tape is applied manually, it is almost always over-applied. Packers perceive tape to be flimsy, so they tend to apply several long strips when a single, shorter one will do. In reality, most grades of plastic tape have outstanding holding and cross directional strength.”
2) Use paper tape. This is the kind of tape I’ve been using the few times I’ve needed to package something since I stopped using plastic. I don’t know where we bought this tape because I found it in a drawer a few months ago, but I’ve seen it in a local office supply store in San Francisco (Patrick’s) and also on Amazon.com). It’s probably coated with a little bit of plastic, but this is what we have for now.
Of course, there’s also the kind of reinforced paper tape that requires water to activate the glue. I don’t know how practical that kind of tape is for home use. Maybe if you were moving and had to pack a lot of boxes at once it would be worth it.
Another reader asked me what I use to seal envelopes that I reuse. So far I’ve been using either a bit of masking tape or some free stickers that I got from another junk mailer. Sorry I don’t have a better answer than that right now.
This post feels kind of disjointed, but I need to get back to house organizing and kitty-proofing! Also, I have a couple of kitchen experiments I might try tonight, if I have time, and post the results tomorrow.