Here is a chance to take advantage of some economic inefficiency: Recycle your envelopes. DW and I used to sell used books and recycling the padded envelopes which I got from buying other used books is really a no-brainer when padded envelopes easily cost north of $0.75. Some used book sellers would even take the chance on the purchaser’s good faith and include a stamped return envelope to send the padded envelope back. In this system the same envelope could take three trips or more! Another advantage is that it cuts down on the garbage as well. If people paid directly for the volume of the garbage they had to dispose of like they do in Switzerland, I believe we would observe some change in attitude towards recycling. Getting rid of things without throwing them away. What a concept!

I must admit that my envelope recycling bin started earlier and included regular envelopes as well. I had a very small stash of pristine envelopes for business matters, mailing resumes, and things like that. This was followed by a stash of semi-pristine envelopes. You know the envelopes that sometimes come with subscription offers or credit card offers or mutual fund statements and don’t have a return address nor one of those prepaid postage marks? Score! These are useful for things like birthday cards, christmas cards, and letters to strange people. Finally there’s the category of nicely opened but clearly non-pristine envelopes. We got to remember that the point of the envelope is to protect the contents of the envelope, not to convey a message. Still many people are as concerned with form as they are with function. Don’t send class three envelopes to them. However, they are ideal for people who are environmentally conscious or know you well. Simply use tape to close them and cover the old address with some white paper and more tape or a white sticker. The savings are fairly miniscule here unless you send a lot of letters like the amazon example above. You are sending a strong message though. This message being either that you are an ueberfrugal tightwad, a walk-the-path environmentalist, or a total cheapskate. Pick your recipient carefully.

PS: A lot of unnecessary mailing can be avoided by signing up for automatic bill payment(*) and using email for personal messages.

(*) It’s sometimes easier just to get rid of the bill.

Originally posted 2007-12-29 17:39:18.