Zero Waste Shipping: Padded Envelopes & Mailers

By Liesl Clark

Refuse & Reduce: We never buy anything for shipping like envelopes, bubble-pack mailers, Tyvek pouches, padded envelopes and boxes because we receive so many of them. Why would I buy new ones when I have plenty coming in the door?

“Because they’ll look used and that won’t look professional if you reuse them,” you might say.

Well, we’re a company that’s all about reuse, so there’s no problem gussying up a used envelope to resend to a client or partner. We have no problem reusing boxes for shipping, why not reuse padded envelopes? And, frankly, when I see a corporation reuse an envelope, said corporation goes way up in my estimation because of the positive action I see them taking in reusing perfectly good materials rather then sending them to the landfill. Don’t you feel the same?

I’ve gone so far as to send a note of thanks when I receive a little something in a reused mailer. Kudos to that employee for doing the right thing! It usually means you’re simply sticking a new address label over the old one. A little piece of scrap paper will do of course, and you’ll likely need some glue or tape as well. Staples can be used to seal up the mailer and you’re good to move on to your next task.

Reuse and Share: I save up my mailers so I can Freecycle them to others who need them. Just before Christmas, I was able to offload a pile of padded envelopes to a Freecycler who needed them for a company mailing. Using my old mailers surely saved him some money. And he was truly thankful to receive them. I included some blank mailing labels so he could cover up my address, but I often use a Sharpie to black-out the addresses and bar codes on previous mailers.

Don't Buy New! Reuse Your Padded Envelopes.

Don’t Buy New! Reuse Your Padded Envelopes.

I often add a small heart to the envelope with the words “Reuse Me” in it to encourage the recipient of my envelope to reuse it.

Have Fun and Encourage Others to Reuse

Have Fun and Encourage Others to Reuse

If you are a company that regularly uses padded envelopes for shipping, post a WANTED on Freecycle and get the word out to others that stockpiling them is a good idea because others can use them.

Can You Reuse Plastic Mailers & Envelopes? What about Tyvek plastic envelopes that have logos on them or come from FedEx and yet you want to use the good ole’ USPS? I simply turn them inside out!

Reverse Fedex Pak Filled With Some Goodies For Grandma, Photo: Liesl Clark

A plastic padded envelope can be used both inside and out.

Inside-Out Fed Ex Paks Make Excellent Second Hand Mailers

Turn Your Padded Envelope Into Something Cool! Creme de la Craft has a great tutorial for transforming your padded envelope into an ipad case. Simple. Smart.

Recycle Tyvek Plastic Envelopes & Mailers: And if you ever have too many to use and can’t offload them, did you know you can recycle Tyvek envelopes through Dupont? For small quantities (less than 25 envelopes/month), turn any Tyvek® envelope inside out, so the unprinted white surface shows on the outside. Stuff the inside-out Tyvek® envelope with other used Tyvek® envelopes for recycling. Address and mail the envelope to: Tyvek® Recycle Attn. Shirley B. Wright 8401 Fort Darling Road Richmond, VA 23237. Easy!

Make Your Own Mailers: If you’ve run out of mailers and no one has them for you on Freecycle, make your own using cereal or cracker boxes. Adventures in Fluff has super simple instructions for how to make your own paperboard envelope. You’ll wonder why you ever bought them in the first place after making one or 2. And they’re very cool because they send a nice message of reuse to your mail recipient.

Now your shipping is getting closer to zero waste!

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to make envelopes or reuse those you receive in the mail, please visit our Trash Backwards app where all items in your home and office can be reused, recycled and rethought.

Click Through for Envelope Reuses at Trash Backwards

Click Through for Envelope Reuses at Trash Backwards

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Categories: DIY, Reduce Your Use, Repurpose and Reuse, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff


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13 Comments on “Zero Waste Shipping: Padded Envelopes & Mailers”

  1. Linda
    January 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I have always done this. Have any tips on storing things like this? I also use paperboard (cereal boxes) to make cd mailers or postcards or art work mailers. Turn the plain side out and use staples or packing tape and it is sturdy and simple.

    • January 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      Hi Linda! It’s good to know I have a fellow envelope maker and reuser. We tend to store ours in a box in a supply closet and can pack in quite a few mailers in there. When the box gets to overflowing I pull out what I think I’ll need for a month or so and then Freecycle the (hundreds of) leftovers. Since I’m also a small production company, I get a lot of DVDs in the mail.
      — Liesl at Trash Backwards

  2. January 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I do the same thing for my business, Krmbal. I either reuse mailers or small boxes that are sent to us. When I’m out of those, I turn food packaging boxes inside out and ask the recipient to recycle or reuse it. It works perfectly and it’s definitely on-board with the Eco-conscious mission of my brand. 🙂

    • January 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Hi Tessa! Thanks so much for getting in touch. I love what you’re doing at Krmbal and would love to link to some of your great posts in your blog from our Trash Backwards app, like your laundry detergent and aluminum foil balls as static deterrents. Cool! I’m so glad you’re not afraid to reuse envelopes or create your own from the resources that come from the products you buy or that you get for free in the (often junk) mail. Receiving a reused envelope is like getting chain mail!
      — Liesl at Trash Backwards

  3. January 9, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    I always leave a positive and encouraging comment if I get something from ebay which has reused packaging. I have had one or two replies that they are glad I didn’t mind! Whoever these people are who ‘mind’ getting reused packaging need a change of mind 🙂

    • January 9, 2013 at 4:12 am #

      Another great idea, knotrune. That’s what’s great about Ebay and the ability to then comment about the experience. The more people see that we, the recipients of the shipping, love to see creative reuse, the more likely they’ll do it. Thanks for helping spread the word!
      — Liesl at Trash Backwards

  4. January 9, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Thanks for the tip about checking Freecycle. I’m usually in need of padded envelopes, but I hadn’t thought of checking there. I’m making my own right now out of glossy book pages and bubble wrap.

    I describe them here:

    • January 9, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Hi Claudia. I absolutely love your reuse of old book pages left over from your Etsy shop creative work! Thanks so much for your link. I’ll put it in our Trash Backwards app under padded envelopes. If you have other great ideas for us to link our app users to, do use our “add a solution” page so I can promptly connect others to your posts! You’ll find it here: We currently have one of your ideas under bookshelves for your beautiful upgrading of an old shelf into a pretty yellow piece. Thanks for all the great work you do.
      — Liesl at Trash Backwards

      • January 9, 2013 at 7:42 am #

        Next time I’ll definitely use your app, Liesl! I’ve added your blog to my site as well. Thanks for the useful info you provide.

  5. June 6, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

    Kudos! Poly mailers, heavy duty bags and other plastic envelopes which are durable can and should be used more than once. There are manufacturers who accept the returned mailers and thus there is no reason why we cannot reuse them.


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    […] Get into zero waste shipping: Set aside packaging from shipments you receive and send them back out the door with new goods. Shipping envelopes can be turned inside out and repacked if you can’t fit a new label on the outside. Shredded paper, air-popped popcorn, even plastic bags can be used to cushion items for shipping. Get creative with your packaging, and include a short note on the package to expose the materials you’ve reused and help spread the idea. […]

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