To Reuse or Not to Reuse, That is the Question
The Whitefish Bay Friends of the Library in Wisconsin use recycled packing materials for two reasons. "First, it is the Earth friendly approach. I like the idea that when I re-use packing materials I am getting one more use out of a piece of cardboard, Styrofoam peanut, or balloon bag before it goes into recycling or to a landfill. And secondly, used, recycled packaging materials keep my cost of operations down…and more money from book sales can go back into the library. I have noted numerous times in the feedback comments that customers appreciated how well items were packaged."
Ralph at Dan River Books in Virginia also uses high quality reusable packing materials. These are generally boxes, Styrofoam noodles, and cardboard. This seems particularly appropriate, given that one of our specialties is natural history, ecology, and environmental studies. We have a little slip of paper that we place in the box titled "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." It informs the buyer that we use high quality reusable material and the slip has check boxes that indicate what has been used in the shipment. We place a high value on packing our shipments very, very well and we screen these materials carefully to insure high quality.
At Terrace Horticultural Books in St. Paul, Minnesota, says Kent Petterson, "we have thought since the beginning that we were recyclers of books and packing materials. We sometimes refer to ourselves as a "green" business, but lately at least in my circle, green has become so ubiquitous and in some cases co-opted, it has become a bit tedious. Of course the less expensive used books are our primary recycled item. We also have sought to reuse packing materials as much as possible."
George Cubanski from Rarities, etc. says; "I recycle packing peanuts and bubble wrap, but I don't reuse old boxes because it sends a poor message to the customer, especially if you are selling books at $100 and more (I was startled to hear from another well-established seller that he used the meat boxes scavenged from the deli next door to his store!).
Denise Choppin, Owner of Turtle Creek Books in Canada liked my idea of the stamp, but she wondered if wrinkled paper was offensive to the customer. She tells me that she recycles everything; "bubble wrap, cardboard, wrapping. Cardboard inserts can be used to make boxes or slip cases and we turn used priority boxes inside out to use again. To fill boxes that may be a bit big we use recycled Styrofoam peanuts if available, shredded material or newsprint." They also use a solar power source for the lighting in the book repair/binding shop as part of their conservation efforts. "In these times and with the emphasis on going green, we truly believe in this. In fact, other than manila envelopes and tape, we have not purchased ANY new packaging materials in the last EIGHT years.
“Stiffeners, padding, etc. are always recycled. Books occasionally arrive here wrapped in newspaper. We draw the line there: even the ink on The Times of London smudges and rubs off on books. As for warehouse operations such as the big A, who discard booksellers' packaging so they can wrap the book anew in more cardboard and paper and tape, the less said about them the better. Maybe the world-famous detective, Mr. Monk, could explain their attitude."
One California bookseller felt that "the distinction between re-use and recycle is important. Re-using is much better, but there are times when the cardboard just gets too tired, and then it is time to recycle. And wrapping paper usually can't be re-used, but can also be recycled."
Pat Saine at Blue Plate Books tells this story. "Three years ago, we moved south from New Hampshire to Virginia for my wife's career. I took the opportunity to leave my career and start a second hand bookstore. When we moved, I saved all of my household packing material - bubble wrap, boxes, and cardboard - and have been using it to mail books. Of course, in addition to these items, there was the packing from the new appliances we needed to purchase. All told, these items have lasted me my first 15 months in business. I'm just now starting to think about looking for good places to replenish my recycled packing supplies."