Do you ship your goods in corrugated boxes? Do you ship out hundreds of boxes a month (or even hundreds a week, or even a day!)? If you’re using eco-friendly packaging -- recycled shipping boxes that are also recyclable and compostable -- that is awesome! The good news is, there is a good chance those recyclable boxes are actually getting recycled (almost 70% of corrugated is recycled in the US). But still, single use is disheartening and it is always better if boxes are reused, at least a few times, before they are recycled.
Here are 10 ideas for how to reuse your shipping boxes. In addition to the detailed ideas below, We're providing this image that can printed and added to your outbound shipments, so you can easily share these ideas with your customers.
1. Reuse for shipping
This may feel like a big “DUH!” but many people don’t realize they can reuse a shipping box for...shipping! We do this in our own warehouse. When we receive things like office or equipment supplies, we consider these “reusable boxes” and use them to ship out appropriately sized orders.
In order to send items out in an older, previously used shipping box, you’ll want to make sure that all of the old shipping labels and information are either ripped off or covered by your new labels. You’ll also want to make sure the box is in solid structural shape, with corners and sides that are clean and strong, rather than crushed or bent in. For anyone who send items often (perhaps artisans and entrepreneurs, or folks that love to send gifts out to their friends!), it works well to find a spot at home to store old, strong, flattened boxes you’ve received goods in and sort through this stack every time you’re packing items up to get shipped out.
2. Fire starter logs
If you have a fireplace at home, a fire pit in your backyard, or go camping frequently, you might find yourself purchasing firewood from the grocery store or campsite. DIY logs made with old cardboard boxes are a great, environmentally friendly alternative! To make these, first breakdown and flatten out your shipping boxes. When you have a stack of 10-20 corrugated boxes, soak the pile with enough water to make the cardboard pliable (but not so much that it is soaking and dripping). Then, take each sheet one at a time, and roll it as tightly as you possible can. When you’ve rolled one sheet, tie each of the ends off with hemp twine, again, as tightly as you possibly can. The step of rolling and tying off the cardboard is sometimes best done with two people to ensure the rolls are tight and secure. Once you have all of them rolled, lay them out in the sun until they are completely dried all the way through. Viola! Bring them on your next camping trip for a more sustainable alternative to your firewood.
3. Coloring books and artistic inspiration
We at EcoEnclose obviously have no shortage of excess recycled boxes - test prints, manufactured boxes that didn’t make the quality cut to get shipped out, or inbound boxes we receive materials in. A lot of them end up at my house for my two little kids who like them even more than blank paper for coloring. Why? Custom branded shipping boxes are the best because they are printed with cool designs, so they act as built in coloring books. Boxes are also sturdy and hard so you don’t need a hard surface behind them the way you do with a sheet of paper. Using cardboard as backing for collages is easy even for tiny humans who are just starting to use glue sticks. Once these corrugated masterpieces are done, kids can just lean their art up against a wall for all the world to see. No need for tape, magnets or thumbtacks.
4. Organize your...playroom, jewelry, socks, cosmetics, fill in the blank here
At EcoEnclose, we refer to tab locking boxes and literature mailers as “presentation boxes.” Unlike traditional, large shipping boxes (Regular Slotted Containers, or RSCs), these are typically small shipping boxes, are more visually appealing and fold into themselves to close (rather than being taped shut with packing tape). To learn more about the difference between box styles, check out our Guide to Shipping Boxes.
So they make for great organizers. Perhaps your children’s markers and crayons are constantly scattered everywhere and are driving you bonkers. Or you’re not sure how to keep your essential oils in one place. Presentation style shipping boxes work great at organizing those knick knacks you plan to use day and day out.
5. Cards, stationery and postcards
E-flute is the ultra thin, sleek corrugated that is used to create many presentation style shipping boxes today. E-flute not only makes for a stylish shipper box, it also is thin enough to be reused as a postcard. When you receive corrugated shipping boxes in e-flute, get a utility knife out and cut out 4” x 6” rectangles from the box. Design them with your doodles and sketches, kids art, cool magazine cutouts...the options are limitless! Then flip them over, draw a line down the middle for your note on the left side and recipient’s address on the right side.
6. Weed protection in your garden
Do you have a raised bed garden? If so, laying flat sheets of corrugated down (with 1-2 feet of soil laid on top) before you start planting is an excellent way to reduce weeds throughout the season. Flatten out extra corrugated boxes you receive and store them in a safe place. Then, on that perfect spring day when you start to prepare your garden, get them out!
7. Eco-Friendly Picture Frames
So often, I take a picture I love and it stays on my phone forever. What good are photos if you aren’t looking at them throughout your day. Upcycle your cardboard boxes into picture frames to help you get one step closer to making those pictures part of your home and your life. The main supplies you need are boxes, two types of paper (if your shipments arrived with tissue and packaging paper, use them here!), a utility knive and glue. Check out this blog post for a step by step tutorial.
8. Paper mache
I say paper mache, you think newspaper strips dipped in gluey syrup and wrapped onto balloons. But did you know you can actually turn cardboard into paper mache pulp that can then be dried in molds to make cool sculptures.
Start with some recycled cardboard boxes. Tear them into thin strips and soak them overnight in water in a large basin. Then drain the water, add Elmer’s glue and boiled linseed oil, and blend it with a drill and paint mixer bit. Keep blending and adding glue until you get the consistency you need. Then add it to your mold and dry your sculpture out in the sun. This could take several days. Once dry, remove it from the mold to smooth it out, add detail and paint.
9. Homemade guitar
If you haven’t already, search Pinterest and you’ll be blow away by how many creative ways to use large shipping boxes to make activities, playhouses and mazes for kids. A guitar made from upcycled corrugated is my very favorite. Why? You get to use a hot glue gun, a drill and a utility knife! You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the cool ways to reuse materials (rubber bands for guitar strings, a paper clip to hold the strings in place, an old pencil for the bridge). And because the guitar actually works and makes a pretty good sound in the end. What a fun way to help kids understand how things work! Click here for a tutorial.
10. Weaving loom
I’m not a weaver but this idea and the tutorial totally inspired me to try it!
You can actually repurpose corrugated sheets cut from your shipper boxes into a weaving loom. Cut a few corrugated rectangles out the size you’d like your wall hanging to be and glue them to each other to make a sturdy loom. Then follow the instructions here for a statement piece for a room in your home!