Recyclable Boxes: Reusing Gift Boxes

(This story won’t sound relevant to recyclable boxes or setup boxes, but I promise it’s getting there)! Last December, I received a glass tumbler from Starbucks that I absolutely loved. Although it technically *just packaging,* I also loved the box it came in. Starbucks does a great job creating attractive packaging, and their two-piece setup boxes for the holidays are durable and always feature rich colors. Each year has a different color: last year was red, this year was green, and so on. They also design a brand new series of tumblers every year, so when they sell out, they’re gone forever.

Starbucks recyclable boxesBut I used the setup box to package another gift, keeping the lovely tumbler for myself. However, maybe as a lesson regarding growing too fond of things, I accidentally dropped the tumblr at a gas station in sub-zero temperatures. It shattered. I was sad, and I must have mentioned the fact to my mother (we bought the tumbler together).

Lo and behold, this Christmas, I took the wrapping paper off a present. I recognized the red box, but in the back of my head, I knew that the gift boxes from Starbucks this year were green. I opened the box, and there it was. My shattered tumbler, which she had found online, whole again. Added bonus: I got to keep the box this time around!

As the major December holidays pass, most households are left with a lot of new things which need to find homes as well as a lot of boxes and wrapping paper. Recyclable boxes aren’t a problem (wrapping paper is another story, since the majority of it isn’t recyclable).  There are plenty of ways to take sturdy gift boxes and repurpose them around the house. 

Tips for Reusing Recyclable Boxes

  1. Re-gift
    The easiest thing to do with when you receive a nice gift box? Reuse it for its intended purpose.  The wrong attitude is to think of it as someone else’s problem; rather, think of it as spreading the joy of a nicely-packaged custom gift box. 
  2. Use it as a desk organizer
    Full disclosure: This is how I’m using my own Starbucks setup box. My workspace at home has drawers with organizers, but I’m always looking for something to help me out on top of the desk that doesn’t look like it came from an office supply store. The red box is colorful and not too big. It’s made of sturdy chipboard with sharp edges, so I know it won’t look battered in a few weeks. It’s perfect to hold my oh-so-necessary supply of Gin-Gins, lip balm, favorite fine tip marker pens, and other random necessities, all in one place. 
  3. Holiday storage
    It’s nearly time to pack up all those holiday decorations. Use the sturdier of the boxes you received to switch out any older packaging that’s starting to wear, or to keep any new items safe. In my house, the holiday decorations are pretty secure, in one spot, but occasionally there might be some jostling. Keep your memories safe and secure with an updated custom gift box. 

And When All Else Fails

Break them down and put them in the recycling. Reasonable sentimentality can only go so far. But next year, keep in mind how someone might get some enjoyment out of a nice setup box for their gift. 

How do you upcycle recyclable boxes from the holidays?

What is a Designer Box?

Let’s start with what a designer box isn’t: plain cardboard.

Medela-OpenedIf you’re shipping out blouses, candy, promotional material, or whatever in uninspired packaging, you might as well be replace the word FRAGILE with DON’T BOTHER OPENING.

But why? A box is a box is a box, right? False. If that were true, everything you ever ordered online would arrive as though it were homemade cookies from your great aunt: cardboard, duct tape, and a scribbled address. But companies don’t spend all this time and money on cultivating top-tier products just to have them look like something you bought from somebody on eBay. Sure, there’s lots to love about corrugated. It’s cheap, padded, and disposable…but are those really words you want associated with your product?

Even e-retailers are being told to “ditch the brown box” by experts. Frankly, it’s a little on the boring side. Not to mention, it’s hard to establish brand identity with a box that looks like everyone else’s. Which brings us to the designer box.

Like designer anything, a designer box has features. It could be a unique opening, something outside the standard top flaps. Maybe it’s shiny foil trim, gold or silver. Perhaps it’s embossed handwriting, magnetic clasps, or a flocked interior. Maybe it’s all of the above.

gate_fold_designer_box_minnesota_vikings

One place to start is packaging that is rigid. This means the walls of the box are assembled using chipboard, a condensed form of cardboard that mimics the stiffness of thin particleboard. You might have experienced this type of packaging in smartphone packaging, or even with high-end board games. The result is more durability and, ultimately, reusability. That’s another designer difference: boxes can be eco-friendly as the day is long, but reusable packaging is smart packaging. It’s multifunctional, and therefore valuable. Pop quiz. What’s the better choice for bagging your groceries–paper or plastic? The answer is actual secret option C, a reusable bag. No matter the material, disposable products still contribute to waste.

As with most things, it’s important to remember your audience. Or maybe, recipients in this case. If your product is an all-organic, environmentally-minded soap, you might not want to include all the bells and whistles on your packaging. (You might not want to have packaging at all, but good luck with that at retail.) In this case, you might want to opt for the cardboard box. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce it up–even eBay knows that. And it’s totally possible with soy-based inks and water-based coatings. But for items with a higher price tag (think: electronics, tools, clothing), don’t you want packaging that matches the quality of your product? More than that, don’t you want the security and storage that comes along with designer packaging?

Case Study: The VBS Eco Binder

Renew: The VBS Eco Binder

It’s hard not to stop and look twice at this eco binder. It’s imaginative design and eco-friendliness combine to create a green look all of its own. Used as a program guide for Renew: The Green VBS, its creators wanted to make a statement on environmental stewardship.

Sunrise Packaging found a great solution for the customer that not only included an eco-friendly look, it demonstrated sustainable packaging. The eco binder is made out of 100% recycled chipboard and is silk screened with UV inks that contain no solvents making it 100% recyclable at the end of its life cycle. The ring metals can easily be removed and recycled through a local scrap metal recycler. Sunrise Packaging can customize your eco-binder to catch the attention of your audience.

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