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Useful And Fantastic: Why Not Re-Use Envelopes?

"Millions of envelopes are thrown away daily,'' says Val Yule, going on to outline a number of brilliant tree-saving ideas.

Millions of envelopes are thrown away daily. This wastes paper. This wastes trees. Envelopes are also becoming more expensive to buy, so you save by re-using them. What can be done?

You can start by doing as much correspondence as you can online. However, there are two caveats. If it means the other person has to print out what you send, it may be counter-productive, and if either of you need a permanent record, you cannot trust your obsolescence-mad computer applications to save it. You may also press the wrong key occasionally and lose it all.

There is still correspondence which needs envelopes. You can start by re-using envelopes in correspondence with like-minded friends, then with any friends, businesses and charities. Save the envelopes which you can use again. I keepthem in old Weetabix boxes.

You can re-use envelopes when they do not have too many postage marks. Simply cross out the address and add your own stamp and the new address, or you can cover old addresses and stamps with sticky labels or stamp-selvedges. Post-office staff will save packets of stamp-edging for you.

A neat skill to practice is to open envelope flaps with your finger so that they do not tear. You can become very fast at it, like an Olympic skill. People who send envelopes can do their part by not sealing them as if they were Top Secret. When you send ordinary correspondence, don’t write the address all over the envelope, and do not seal it down all the way. Then others can open your envelopes more easily to re-use, and have room to write another address on the cover.

The Post could do its part, especially with large envelopes, in having cancellation marks that are easily covered, to facilitate re-use. The plastic envelopes for express mail are not easily re-used, except as rubbish containers – prizes should be given for the design of express envelopes that can be re-used.

Envelopes could be designed to be re-used by having postmarks and addresses that are easily covered.

An important means of saving is for office envelopes to have standard-size windows, so that they can be easily re-used by everyone. Addressee’s addresses could then simply be printed in a standard place on the correspondence, to be seen inside the window, and a new logo stuck on the cover of the envelope. (This is like the way dairies used to share re-used milk-bottles. Three different sizes of windows could be labelled, Window 1, 2, 3, so offices would know what to purchase.)

Some businesses and charities design envelopes for return-use. Others send newsletters and the like with no envelope at all; the newsletters are folded and stapled shut. Charities send thousands of return-envelopes for donations, to make it easy for donors. One way of saving this is to have the donation-form foldable to make its own envelope. What other ways are possible?

Plastic envelopes have become common for magazines. These are more attractive than paper ones, but the cost to the environment is considerable, however biodegradable these are, being based on petrochemicals and made with emissions. You can re-use these envelopes if you keep them in four drawers – small, average-size, fits A4 papers, and large. You will be surprised at the uses found for them, especially the A4 size. Bouquets can even be made more decorative. But there comes a time when your stock of plastic envelopes becomes too much.

One solution would be for the covers of the magazine to be made the envelope – that is, four pages of it are larger and printed in a way that makes an envelope, including your address. You keep it as you receive it, and if you save that issue, there it is neatly in order.

What happens to the firms and their employees who make envelopes when no more are made than we really need? And the makers of materials for envelopes? This is what happens with all progress; some jobs become redundant and some businesses collapse unless they diversify. Diversification is essential. Thinking is all-important.

We are brain-washed into thinking that “jobs” is the main thing – and not what those jobs are. There are thousands of new jobs needed in the coming times – including those that we currently are stupidly sending overseas, where the cost of freight is among the considerations why jobs here will become more competitive.

There are businesses we should be keeping at home, and new businesses we need. Every day you can think of some way of saving something. We are so used to wasting that we don’t bother to think when we do it.

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