At UetC, we've long been keen on not throwing away good stuff. We use wood chips and dust from the shop's dust collector to use with our food waste at home (it cuts any bad smells) and constantly try to maximize our usage of wood.
For instance, many people don't know that about a third of the wood we order ends up not being used on projects it was purchased for. This wood is leftover cuts that we couldn't use because of cracks or simply because in woodworking, we always want to make everything larger than necessary and cut at the final dimensions at the end, to keep a small margin of error.
These small pieces of wood will be used for smaller products, our Delta hooks for instance.
Another way we try to reduce our environmental impact is by using only water-based products for any finishing that is sprayed. It's been years since we hear through our suppliers that solvent-based products are eventually going to be restricted more and more. We didn't wait for that to happen and chose long ago to go with something more environmentally friendly.
Today though, I want to talk about boxes. Shipping boxes more specifically.
In any given week, we receive between 5 -10 boxes of various supplies for the shop: sandpapers, screws, hardware, etc. More often than not, these boxes are still good and in almost perfect shape.
Over a year, this makes 250-500 boxes that could be thrown in the recycling bin. Before thinking about recycling them (apparently, although no statistics are recent in Canada, 85% of packaging is recycled), we can and should look at the first R of the 4 R's.
You may or may not be familiar with the concept: The 4'rs is an approach commonly accepted as a good way to think in a more eco-friendly way.
The four R's stand for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover.
The principle is simple. Before thinking about reusing something, we should ask ourselves if we really need it and try to reduce our general consumption of goods. This is something we follow generally in everything we do, including the management of our cash flow. But that's for another post.
Reuse is where we come back to the main subject of this post: our supply boxes. I'll come back to it in a moment.
Then there is the obvious Recycling step which is far from a given. A lot of what people put in their recycling bins is actually recycled. Depending on where you live though, plastics and glass are often the hardest to recycle.
And after that, the Recovering step represents the idea that these recycled materials need to be transformed into something else. It may be packaging (our box suppliers tell us that more and more corrugated boxes used in the shipping boxes are already made of recycled cardboard) or even energy.
Back to the boxes.
We try to repurpose any box we can when we ship smaller products: bookends, shelf brackets, hooks, etc. Yes, it may look funny when you receive a made-to-order product that can be quite expensive in a box that has obviously been reused. After all, we've all been conditioned to expect a perfect customer experience, starting from the unboxing stage. But this makes for a really polluting experience sometimes.
So we decided on one small tweak. We now label our boxes that have been reused with a sticker that mentions that we gave a second life to a perfectly usable box. We did that cause we want people to know where our values stand. But we think it may also encourage them to do the same.
We believe that if each person makes a small gesture many times a week, we'll all benefit from it.