Slow packaging

Those of you who have purchased from our New Zealand website in the last couple of months may have noticed the packaging was a little different to items you have received from other online retailers.

The brown paper that was wrapped around your cook book wasn’t part of a branding strategy nor was the reused cardboard box it may also have arrived in.  Avoidance of specially padded/post-paid satchels were not part of a cost saving measure either.

 It was because I thought long and hard about what you could use those satchels at your end for and the only thing I could think of was to pop the bubbles as stress release. They can’t be placed in the recycling bin or compost and I have yet to source a biodegradable option that wouldn’t also necessitate an increase in the cost of shipping to you. I could have purchased pre-cut easy fold cardboard, but once again why purchase something new, when I have an endless supply of cardboard boxes here, that fold rather nicely once scored with a Stanley knife.

Nope, the reason you received your fairly traded gardening glove in that old toner box was because of a decision I made to choose the environment over time.

According to, in New Zealand, we send around 352 thousand tonnes of packaging to landfills each year. Of course, placing that cardboard box into the recycling bin (or even your own compost bin) instead of the landfill would reduce this figure, but why not give it another ‘spin around the block’ if it is still in good condition. The cartons our books, office equipment and calendars come in are sturdy wee holdalls and definitely not ‘single use’.

And what about other factors such as the exercise my brain gets in spatial mapping when fitting a round disc into a square fold? Production lines are not so boring if a little challenge is thrown in now and then.

The New Internationalist office in New Zealand is small, my work day is loosely scheduled and most deadlines are moveable (except paying IRD – they do not move). Our focus isn’t on exponential growth for the business, but on independent journalism and sustainability. Some things I don’t have control over but where I can, our environmental footprint comes first, second and third.

Now, I am sure if I was mailing out 100 packages a day then choosing a suitable box to reuse, cutting the paper to size, and cellotaping each corner together would be extremely time consuming for one person, but I am sure I could still find a way to stream line the process without compromising the footprint. It might take a couple of days longer to receive your parcel but I hope you would appreciate the fact that it hadn’t cost the earth in doing so.

 Therefore, I will continue to send out your orders in re-purposed boxes and brown paper for as long as possible. I hope you take time to open them slowly and re-use the paper and box once more – joining me in a small rebellion against the economics of time.

New Internationalist published an issue on why slowing things down was a good thing in March 2002 and you can read the keynote and other articles from Rush to Nowhere here

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