Reuse your packaging

April 29, 2008

BookMooch volunteer admin Dave came up with a good idea: re-using used mailing packages, and circulating these used packages by using BookMooch itself.

Specifically, he suggested that bundles of a dozen or half-dozen mailing envelopes could be made available by people who have excess packaging, and mooched by people who need them.

Even better, if you’re mooching a book from Dave, or any other user with used packaging, you should also mooch some used mailing packages, so they can include them in his mailing to you, and there’s no extra mailing cost for the sender.

You can find the mooch packages by searching for the word “moochpackages” like so:


if you have your own packages to give away, click on the “dozen” or “half-dozen” link, and then click the “give your copy” link:


92 Responses to “Reuse your packaging”

  1. Denise W said

    Does anyone know if we will be able to still ship Media Mail if we include extra packaging materials? Just wondering.

  2. Samantha said

    As long as it has a book with it I think it is still considered media mail.

  3. Joy K said

    Personally I don’t use bubble mailers. I find that a much “greener” or eco-friendly way to package books is to wrap them in 2 plastic grocery bags, and then for the parcel paper cut apart a paper grocery bag. Then wrap it like a gift, tape it with packing tape, label with pen, and off to the postal office it goes!

  4. Carly said

    If you have used padded mailers that can’t really be re-used on their own because they’re TOO used, one way to recycle them is to put your book in the used mailer and then put that in an unpadded manila envelope (with proper taping). It’s like getting a new padded mailer without re-purchasing the padded part.

  5. Carly & Joy – great suggestions. I will try those if I need to.

    When I joined BM, I bought a few packages to send the first 5 books with. But since then I am strictly recycling packages received, and I really did not need to even consider buying any new ones.

  6. Rachel said

    I have been saving cereal boxes and similar grocery store packaging to turn inside out and turn into a package for mailing.

  7. Amanda said

    I’ve reused before but came across a dilemma. I try to ship first class if the cost is comparable or better and a book I recently sent already had media mail stamped on the reused package so I couldn’t upgrade. 😦

  8. Annie said

    Amanda (and anyone else), whenever you want to use an envelope that already has stamps or something on it, either cross out the markings with a really dark, permanent marker or tape a piece of paper over them so they can’t be seen. Then you can send it whatever you want! I do it all the time. πŸ˜€

  9. Dave said

    If an envelope already has a “media mail” or any other stamp on it and you don’t want to send it that method, just cross out the “media mail” stamp!

    All the best,

  10. Judy said

    When I don’t have packaging to re-use. I use the newspaper as long as the address is on a lable the post office does not have a problem with it.

  11. amanda, you should have crossed out the media mail stamp. i reuse padded mailers every time and 99% of the time, they have that stamp on them and even if i don’t upgrade and use the media mail, well, it just gets restamped. buy yourself a nice black sharpie and cross everything out.

    when i don’t have any mailers available to reuse, i use brown craft paper that comes on a roll like wrapping paper that comes from a dollar store. can’t reuse it, but it can be recycled.

    john this is another great idea for when you’re in a period of giving more than receiving and run out of mailers to reuse.

  12. Carrie said


    If you write the name and address on a piece of paper and tape that paper to cover the entire top of the envelope, there shouldn’t be a problem. You just have to make sure you cover up the old markings on the package.

  13. Denise said

    Actually, I ran out of paper bags and we have our groceries delivered, so I only actually get plastic. Anyway, I went to Home Depot to the paint supplies section and got a roll of builders paper. This stuff is amazing — and thicker and sturdier than grocery bags! I use the plastic ones for the inside wrap against moisture. For about $11 US I should be able to wrap at least 100 books in the builders paper. I use (reuse) bubble mailers in 2 situations: 1) I’m just too tired to “gift wrap” or 2) I’m sending international.

  14. Cece said

    I have learned to open wrappings very carefully, and have been able to reuse even the “wrapping paper” mailings with a new printed front and some shipping tape!

    There are restrictions for media mail-it isn’t enough to just have a book in there somewhere.
    This is what the USPS website says:
    “Media Mail is used for books, film, manuscripts, printed music, printed test materials, sound recordings, play scripts, printed educational charts, loose-leaf pages and binders consisting of medical information, videotapes, and computer-recorded media like CDs and diskettes. Media Mail cannot contain advertising.”
    My postman also adds that if you enclose anything like a letter, and it is found in their random checks, you will owe first class postage.
    Probably the best way to send extra wrappings is to put them one inside the other like a set of Russian dolls-then it isn’t extra, non-booklike material….it’s just excessive wrapping!

  15. Zillah said

    Cereal boxes… what a great idea! Thanks, Rachel!

  16. Schneider said

    Joy K–no, No, NO, *NO*.

    You needn’t use bubble mailers if you object to them on environmental grounds, but please wrap books that you are shipping, especially hardcovers, in something that will absorb the shock when they are dropped on their corners.

    Books wrapped only in plastic grocery bags and brown Kraft paper frequently arrive looking like they have been run over with the delivery truck.

    Not, I hasten to add, that I have ever mooched a book from Joy K. Perhaps she does something special with her paper and plastic grocery bags. But too many books have gotten to me damaged from lack of protection in shipping for me to let her posting pass uncommented upon. Please, protect books in shipment with some kind of padding.

  17. Lia said

    “Media Mail cannot contain advertising.”

    Does that include BookMooch cards? 😦

  18. Sandy said

    I open all “BooMooch” mail very carefully. I recycle everything. I don’t use newspaper because it tends to tranfer ink on the books. At times using a paper bag is not enough, especially if it’s going media mail. When a book goes by media mail it takes longer, which means it’s being bounced around for a longer period of time. I’ve received packages opened, hanging on by a thread. I tend to wrap my books in plastic bags in case of rain or snow. I also cut up cardboard (from used boxes) a bit bigger the then size of the book, place the book in the middle and put it in a envelope. This protects the corners of the book. Also, there are cushioned envelopes made of 90% recycled materials/plastic free. They are made by a company called Henkel and are called “Caremail”.

  19. Newbs said

    From the website:
    “Incidental First-Class Mail matter may be enclosed in or attached to any Media Mail piece without payment of First-Class Mail postage. An incidental First-Class Mail attachment or enclosure must be matter that, if mailed separately, would require First-Class Mail postage, is closely associated with but secondary to the host piece, and is prepared so as not to interfere with postal processing. An incidental First-Class Mail attachment or enclosure may be a bill for the product or publication, a statement of account for past products or publications, or a personal message or greeting included with a product, publication, or parcel. Postage at the Media Mail rate for the host piece is based on the combined weight of the host piece and the incidental First-Class Mail attachment or enclosure.”


  20. jopre said

    “Even better, if you’re mooching a book from Dave, or any other user with used packaging, you should also mooch some used mailing packages, so they can include them in his mailing to you, and there’s no extra mailing cost for the sender.”

    Hmm, nice idea John, but outside of the US most people have to pay for postage based on weight and/or size. You guys seem to have huge amounts of leeway, but we sure as heck don’t – over two centimeters width you get pushed up into the parcels price band, and then it’s something like 50g increments in weight.
    So, while I agree it sounds like a good idea (especially for the US moochers), sending people extra packaging isn’t something I’m going to be doing. Just a little plea for better understanding of the situation of the non-US mooch community!

    Reusing them myself, now that’s a different story. To make the address part nice and clear, I reuse old bits of office paper from my recycle pile, folded in half and taped to the front of the reused package. Nice clear writing surface, and I’m recycling too!

  21. Alan said

    I created a mailing wrapper in MS Word similar to the one used on PBS. Just copy the address in, print it out, wrap the book in two sheets of printer paper and tape the edges. If anyone wants the file, just Email me.
    userid: ajd

    I do want to caution mambers about shippping loosely in manila envelopes (even bubblewrap mailers). I’ve received more books damaged that way than any other. Tighter is better.

  22. Norberto said

    I’m afraid I have to go against the flow here.
    Let me start by saying that I’m a recycle freak. I recycle absolutely anything I can. Paper, plastic (of the various kinds), glass, furniture, CDs, DVDs, the works. At some point I even had a blog about it.
    Having said that, I never, ever, reuse packaging materials. There are several (good) reasons for this.
    Firstly, many people send me books in those nasty bubble-wrap-lined envelopes. I much prefer to carefully separate the plastic from paper and send them to be recycled locally.
    Secondly, these envelopes are heavy and large, adding to the overall mail volume flying around the world. In fact, in many situations, these types of envelopes are actually larger than the books they carry.
    Thirdly, and no less importantly, because of the extra weight, I find that using this type of envelopes makes postage much more expensive.
    What I do is to send books inside regular envelopes.
    So far I sent over 40 books and I never had a complaint about the book being in bad condition due to handling in transit.

    If you really think about it: you can think that you are using these thin envelopes, whose thinness is not much more than two or three pages, and you’re making someone buy one less book, whose average size is 200 to 300 pages. I’d say that’s already a very good rate.

    Obviously, I’m not against reusing any packaging as long as it is thin *and* that it doesn’t add to the overall weight. The problem is that once you turn the thing inside out to make room for writing the address and stamps, you’re bound to be using more paper than is really necessary…

  23. chunnie said

    Protecting corners on books- I know someone who cuts the corners off used paper envelopes. He cuts them at an angle so he ends up with these triangular “hats” that he then slides over the corners of book covers before packing them for posting. It provides a bit of protection to book corneres when padded envelopes aren’t being used as packaging. It also looks suprisingly professional πŸ™‚

  24. irisin said

    I always reuse packaging and always send out in bubble wrap, with addresses on removable paper. I keep receiving books in thin plastic and paper, but since they are damaged by being dumped and bruised and not dampness, that is no good in my experience. Of course it’s better than nothing if you have no used envelopes, but I just hope moochers keep reusing the ones I send to them!

  25. Ingrid said

    Another idea:
    My office uses 8″ x 11″ paper that’s wrapped in a very thick water proof wrapper. I ask the staff to remove the paper from these wrappers carefully and save them for me; normally these wrappers would just be thrown in the trash. They are thick, water proof, and if you wrap the book in them with the print side in, you have a very clean smooth blank “wrapping paper” on which to address your book. If you wrap it like a gift the book corners are protected because the ends have thick layers of wrap where you’ve folded the ends of the “gift”. Although I tape the ends I do then use packing tape to completely secure the package. The book is totally protected from bumps to the corners and water.

  26. SheWhoWaits said

    About tight packaging — Tight is good, but not too tight. I’ve also received books warped by too tight packaging. If you can barely squeeze the book into the envelope, use a bigger envelope. I have been using the inside poly bags from cereal boxes lately for shipping. I wrap the book thoroughly in tissue paper or something else that obscures the cover (whatever I have around the house, I’m the reuse queen) put in the cereal bag, tape closed, and put a mailing label on the front. Another advantage to this method is that it is very light and saves postage in some instances. I buy my postage online to save trips to the post office. I find that if you are sending or receiving thin books with minimal packaging there is rarely damage. When the books are over 1 pound in weight, I try to find a box and pad with crumpled newspaper or wrap very well in bubble wrap or tissue paper before putting in a bubble mailer. I rarely buy or use anything new for mailing our books.

  27. Elisabeth Simer said

    Yes — let me add a few words on packaging! I am all for re-using, and do it myself on a regular basis. However, I am still at the stage in life, where receiving the book in the best possible shape is still more important than not buying new materials. And I have received books — many books, in fact — that have been damaged because of their wrapping material! These were books in plain, unpadded envelopes, or once, a book which had been carefully and tightly wrapped in plain unpadded paper. Dropped from some height on one corner, that corner was mashed in dreadfully. Sad.

    Now, I don’t always wrap a book carefully before inserting in my re-cycled padded envelope, and I frequently am too lazy to wrap them in slices of cardboard first. But whenever it seems necessary, I do. And I never send them out into the world unpadded!

    However, having read your many ideas carefully, I will incorporate those of them which seem useful (get my cereal in bulk, dang it! No boxes!) and do-able! Three cheers for the BookMoochers of the World!

  28. fukahef said

    Is the mashing of corners just a hardback problem?

    I have been sending out books wrapped giftstyle in old calendar pages- thick sturdy paper. Noone has complained yet and I only have paperbacks but I wonder how they’re arriving???

  29. Adeline said

    I was brought up re-using envelopes, so now I re-use any suitable packing that arrives in my house. DVD envelopes from Amazon are just the right size, and will be useful for more than one trip out. They take one book very well, and aren’t heavy.

  30. Jeannine said

    To Ingrid – I too have been using the 8.5×11″ paper wrap from my office; I think it is fantastic!

    I re-use bubble mailers all the time, and just re-wrap them in the above-mentioned paper, or an inside-out paper grocery bag.

    If I don’t have bubble wrap, I find other things to make cushion. I never have to buy anything except tape. I find that if I keep it in the front of my mind, I’m always collecting materials around the house, or saving them from going into the trash, that are great for padding book packages.

    Lots of great suggestions here, everyone! πŸ™‚

  31. bethanyjh said

    One note for US moochers β€” Priority Mail envelopes can NOT be reused for anything other than priority mail.
    I had an old one and I covered up every spot that said “priority mail” but they couldn’t take it. My mail lady said they used to just warn people not to do it again, but recently they’d gotten in trouble for letting that slide.

    That said, for me the workplace is a pretty good source of used padded envelopes β€” especially the recycling bins by the mail room (depends on where you work I suppose).

  32. Rachael said

    Recycling is a great idea and I do it as much as I can (both in BookMooch and in regular daily life).

    However, I just want to chime in with some of the other commenters here: please also consider using padding in the packaging of your books, whether you’re using recycled packaging or new.

    Moochers who take a little bit extra care in sending their books will help ensure that the books they send can continue to be viably traded.

    If books are damaged, it’s much less likely that they’ll be able to be recycled back into the world through BookMooch, or bookcrossing, or a used bookstore.

    Although some people say they use unpadded mailers without problems, I’ve gotten damaged books (and I know other people have too) because there wasn’t enough–or even any–padding.

    I know some people just want a book to read, and they generally don’t care what condition it’s in, and I understand that.

    But I do care what condition my books are in; it really saddens me to get a book in the mail that was damaged because it was placed inside a thin unpadded manila envelope or wrapped in a plastic bag with a piece of paper around it.

    When something goes through the mail, it is not treated with careful handling. I’ve had hardcovers arrive damaged and softcovers, heavy books, and thin books.

    Sometimes you’re lucky and the book makes it without problems even with no padding, but I think that’s luck, not the general rule.

    Generally if I love a book I want to keep it. And even if I love a book, if my copy of it is damaged, I tend to not want to keep it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I highly appreciate getting the book in the first place, but I can’t help but be bummed out if it’s damaged. How easily it could have been avoided using more padding or care in packaging.

    As I’m still pretty new to BM, I’ve been hesitant to say much about it. And of course, I hope that the books I’ve sent to people have arrived safely. I use padded mailers, and hope that they have been enough.


  33. foggylady99 said

    What a wonderful group of creative folks here on Bookmooch.
    I am a resourceful thrifty gal, and still have gathered a lot of great ideas from y’all.

    Huge thank you to all of you.

  34. Leah said

    Gosh, such a great blog going here. Thanks for starting this one. I love so many of the ideas: ceral boxes, ceral liners. I love the envelope corner hat idea as well. I always reuse my envelopes. My problem has been that the PO often returns the book to me. For instance I had a book come back today and asked the carrier why. She said she didn’t know either. I had clearly marked out the first send to info and STILL they sent it back to me. I re-sent it. Hope it arrives. Anyway, I think any and all efforts are worthwhile. Those plastic grocery bags accumulate like mad so it is nice to dress a book in those to keep them clean. I also find that the PO does beat the heck out books in their sorting machines. I have gotten envelopes that have come apart or even opened, black marks on them marring the books as well. Thanks again for all the ideas everyone.

  35. Lonewulf71 said

    If I don’t have used packaging available, I buy a roll of the heavy brown paper at Walmart. It’s basically the same thing paper bags are made out of, but no one around here still uses paper bags. It extremely cheap, I think $1.77 for 50 feet. I sent out about 30 books with one roll. I buy hand tear packaging tape and make sure the corners are well taped. So far I haven’t had any complaints about packaging.

  36. Jill said

    This is advice to bethanyjh. I have found out that if you carefully unseal the edges of the priority mail envelope and turn it inside out and retape the sides Voila! you have a brand new envelope and no one can tell it was once a priority envelope.

  37. Bree said

    And use scrap paper (and not a brand new piece) to cover up the old mailing info on the book!

  38. Claire said

    A word of warning: my post office guy told me about the flipping priority envelopes inside-out (never heard of it!), and he said if it is randomly checked through media mail, that it will be sent back to you, you will be charged priority, and you will have to pay to have it shipped again. Same goes with materials other than wrapping – if they find it, back it comes!

    I moonlight at a bookstore and save our envelopes from incoming shipments. These are not padded but extremely durable and usually come one book to an envelope. I have not heard complaints, but please let me know if these aren’t working for you! I rarely have opened a book damaged in transit on the way to the store in this wrapping.

  39. Sue said

    [Claire said:
    April 30, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    .. my post office guy told me about the flipping priority envelopes inside-out (never heard of it!), and he said if it is randomly checked through media mail, that it will be sent back to you, you will be charged priority, and you will have to pay to have it shipped again. Same goes with materials other than wrapping – if they find it, back it comes!]

    LOL, I sometimes use/re-use old Fedex or UPS Tyvek envelopes turned inside out, wonder if they’d be offended if they found out πŸ™‚ One thing I’ve noticed (I’m in the US) different post office clerks can have wildly different ideas about what’s ok or not. Last week one said that I had to write out *3 copies* of the Green customs form even though I’d paid online for International Priority and the UPS-generated postage label was attached (we send a LOT of mail by International Priority and I never heard that before but never saw that clerk before either). However when sending using the Green form one copy only is required, we do that all the time too, but noooo-oo this clerk had to have 3 copies to keep or else. It wasn’t worth arguing.

  40. Sue said

    Ooopsie, typo, I said ‘UPS-generated postage’ when of course I meant ‘USPS-generated postage’..

  41. Mitzy said

    I’ve received a couple books heavily damaged because they were just mailed in a regular envelope and sent out media mail. Media Mail seems to catch some heavy abuse in transit and I’ve even had some books arrive looking wet or torn out of their packaging almost completely. I’ve never complained before because I didn’t want to make anybody feel bad because I always thought that the reason why the books were mailed out like that was because the shippers couldn’t afford bubble mailers. Now that I know that some people mail that way on purpose I guess I will have to start mentioning when a book arrives abused. Thank for letting me know! I love these topics because they are so informative!

  42. Emily said

    This doesn’t relate to this post, but I’ve received eight notices that a book on my wishlist is available, and it isn’t actually available. Is something wrong with bookmooch? Can it be fixed? Thanks!

  43. Serena said

    I use craft paper or paper grocery bags for mailing. I have never received a damaged book, so I didn’t realize it was a problem. Good thing I read this comment tread!

    From now on though, I’m going to wrap the book in newspaper well, then in a plastic bag to ward off any potential moisture, then into my craft paper. All separate items, can all be recycled. I hope that’s enough protection against those drops.

  44. CarolynS(AU) said

    Just a quick note to those using brown paper or manilla envelopes. We’ve had a lot of very heavy rain lately where I live and I’ve had a few books arrive totally soaked through and damaged. So please think about waterproofing your packages (as well as shock proofing). A clean recycled plastic bag inside the envelope or paper wrap is fine!

  45. kirkmc said

    As others have said, the only books I have received that were damaged were those wrapped simply in paper, or in manila envelopes. Please don’t send books like that; they don’t get far without getting damaged. You may think you’re being green, but you are risking that the books you send be not usable.


  46. Bob Corey said

    Nobody has mentioned the cost and environmental consequence of packing tape, which kraft paper packagings and recycled envelopes use in excess. I recycle bubble pouches that my wife brings home in abundance from work. And I use white poly mailers that I buy in bulk for about 12 to 15 cents each. You can mooch from me 1/2 dozen at a time of those poly mailers.
    I absolutely detest padded mailers that have some kind of loose pulp fill. They make me sneeze. They crud up the room as the fill sprinkles out.

    As for moisture protection — I’ve found that produce bags are a great liner. I have a roll of unmarked clear plastic I bought a year ago at a salvage house nearby. When I get near to running out, I think I’ll ask the nearby grocery if I can buy a roll out of the several that they must buy at a time, and just live with whatever is printed on the bags.

  47. Cece said

    Just a note about waterproofing-I received a book through another trading site-and contrary to clear mailing instructions on the website, it had been wrapped in that self-stick plastic wrap. The sender had turned the wrap inside out, but it still managed to fold up and stick itself to the book. Fortunately, it was to the back cover, but it pulled layers off the cover. So avoid that nasty stuff.

  48. Amy said

    I have a problem sometimes with the “wrap the book like a present” packaging. It’s SO tightly wrapped and SO taped up that the only way to get in it is with scissors and I’m worried I’m going to cut or gouge the book. I appreciate the care that goes into wrapping them so tightly, as to protect them, but then *I* end up causing damage trying to get it open.

    Vive la padded envelope!

  49. Elisabeth said

    Yes — and re: waterproofing,let me chime back in with a story! I live on the Oregon Coast, in a tourist town, and one of the things which the town provides is dog-poo trash bins, complete with rolls of small, sturdy plastic bags. One morning I was taking my morning walk, and saw that someone had pulled out a long strip of these bags and torn them off, and it was lolloping down the street. I picked it up, just out of tidiness, and then noticed that these bags were just the right size for a book! I used them — there were three — and they were perfect! And I saved them from being thrown away!

  50. Elizabeth said

    Can I just add that everyone should be using their zip plus four code? You know, those 4 extra digits you see after your zip on mail you receive?

    These little numbers can shave anywhere from 2 to 4 days off time in transit with the USPS. If we are all mostly shipping media mail, this will speed things up considerably. Not to mention that there will be less “handling” by the USPS so books will have a better chance at surviving the trip with out bumps and bruises.

    I am not sure but there may also be some carbon footprint savings here as well.

    Too find the zip plus four of any address, just go to

    Everyone should make their zips plus four here in their member profile.

    Just a tiny thought.

  51. Stephanie (smoorefu on bookmooch) said

    I have to agree with the people who say that padding is necessary. My mail carrier often folds packages if that is possible, in order to cram them into my mailbox. The books that I have gotten that have been damaged have been ones that were on the thin or small side, and were packaged without any padding or stiffening, so that it was possible to do said cramming operation.

    So here’s another plea for padding or stiffening of book packages!

  52. I try to reuse bubble mailers and I tape up the creases, etc, to make it secure. (I’m a very conscientious mailer and I also tape securely! If anything you’ve ever sent has been lost, you’ll understand.) A manila envelope is good, especially for thin books. I reinforce it with tape at the seams and corners because a book will make the envelope bulge, especially a thicker book which would require more tape so the package is secure and won’t be torn by the post office. I found a pack of 25 manila envelopes for less than $3.00 at Wal-Mart.

    A lot of times I use TWO heavyweight pieces of paper (such as resume paper) to wrap books in. This is a good use for extra resume paper that you may not need. A pack of that type of paper could maybe cost about $7.50 (100 sheets?), but in the long run it’s a good bargain and cheaper than buying bubble mailers or other packaging. I got this idea from another book trading site, They say to use two pieces of printer paper (one is not enough to make the package secure) and the address is printed onto the wrapper.

    Sometimes I’ve also cut up brown paper bags to use as a wrapper. It’s good for hardcovers, but sometimes takes a little more effort to get it the right size and to seal it. The post office may require you to use BROWN mailing tape on this, but I’m not sure. I know you have to use brown tape on a brown box. I’ve seen people turned away at the post office for having clear tape on a brown box. Go figure.

  53. Kelly said

    In reference to the person reusing cereal bags, I do not recommend it as some people may have allergies to the food packed inside. I have a friend with an allergy to wheat and certainly would not want him to receive a book potentially contaminated with wheat product. I think reusing any materials that have actually touched food to be a bad idea. That said, I think there are several other wonderful ideas on reusing packaging noted here.

  54. Nicole said

    I’ve taken apart cardboard boxes and retaped them inside out to make a brand new clean box. Works really well.

  55. Marke said

    I have had great success using file folders to wrap up the book. Since the file folders are thick you can open with a box cutter without worry about damaging the book.

    See for more details.


  56. Stephanie said

    For it to be media mail it can’t include anything other than what is consider media mail.

  57. Bessie said

    I would like to be informed from the recepiant,of any book I send, in the comments space if my package comes thru badly.I can then change my packing process:) I had not thought to water proof but I always put address inside, in case of torn package.

  58. Ranielle said

    Sometimes reusing isn’t worth the hassle when there is so much extra packaging tape used to close it back up again that something akin to a buzz saw is required to pry it open. By then, you can’t reuse the reused package. I use manila envelopes (usually folded over, since a lot of the books I send are small mass market paperbacks), and sometimes wrap them in plastic grocery bags inside the package. I haven’t had any complaints yet. I would hope recipients of my books would let me know if a package came through damaged – because I would definitely adjust my practices. Or request extra packaging/padding of some kind if they think it’s required in their climate/location (as a international moocher once did).

  59. Carole said

    I have two somewhat related questions. I sell in Amazon and when I receive an order I can print a nice packing slip and shipping label. I haven’t figured out a good way to print a shipping label for bookmooch other that highlighting and printing the address; the result is smaller print than I prefer. Last time I checked, one can’t process media mail postage from their computer and isn’t that where you’re directed from the print postage arrow? How do others efficiently print the address label?

  60. Jo said

    I’m afraid I am one of the guilty ‘wrap it in brown paper’ people, I do re-use padded envelopes if I have them, but if I’m sending overseas, less packaging is cheaper and easier to use, re-using some packages are very difficult if they have too much tape on them, if I don’t re-use then I do still recycle them.
    I don’t know about other countries but in the UK you can print the postage and address on the same piece of paper and then just stick that to the parcel.

  61. Stephanie (smoorefu on bookmooch) said

    I agree with Carol. I’ve sold books used on Amazon too, and they do send a nice email that if you print it, you can cut apart to make an address label and packing slip. If John ever runs out of things to improve, copying that method could be added to his list.

  62. Fran said

    I used grocery-bag paper to wrap the first several books I sent. I have never bought mailers; I just reuse the ones sent to me. There are a lot of mailers tossed where I work, because a lot of books are sent there. However, they can’t be sent media mail. Postal employees have told me that the package has to contain media and nothing else for that designation.

  63. Dale said

    For a few years of my life, I worked part-time in the Interlibrary Loan department of a large library. (Interlibrary loan is that wonderful service that allows one library to borrow books–and, depending on the library, movies and music–from another library just for you. It’s a wonderful thing.)

    Anyway, this service involves mailing hundreds of individual envelopes of books. From that experience. As you probably know, libraries don’t have a lot of extra money, so there is a lot of re-use.

    From those years, I agree with a lot of what’s been said here, and will summarize a few points.

    *Bubble wrap is good or the bubble envelopes. They can be reused for many, many mailings. They last longer if the first user tapes the envelope shut, rather than using the adhesive on the flap. (Though I often forget this.)

    *Fiber-filled envelopes are terrible and should be avoided.

    *A larger envelope can be used to mail a smaller book by simply folding it over and taping it shut.

    *A lot of tape is unnecessary. A single piece of strong tape will keep the package safe in almost all cases. Using too much tape or otherwise sealing the envelope too much causes the receiver to be forced to cut the envelope open.

    *Indeed, adding the ZIP + four does save at least one day of mailing time and can save as much as 3 days.

    *If an envelop has been re-used a time or two, it is best to put the new mailing information on a plain piece of paper and cover the front of the envelope. The paper does not need to be covered with tape. Remember that there needs to be space without tape, at a minimum, for the postage!

    *Having unwrapped many thousands of books, there is no difference in the condition of books wrapped “like gifts” and those just stuck in a padded envelope. Less packing material is often better than more.

    Great comments and suggestions here!

  64. Dottie said

    In response to the ever controversial question of BookMooch’s “Green-ness”, I suggest the following from
    “Chopping down trees to make books is good for the environment, provided you then line your walls with bookcases”
    Check it out:

  65. Danika said

    I’ve sent out books in anything from brown paper wrapping to cardboard to re-used padded envelopes and never got a complaint, and I’ve never received a damaged book, even though I’ve gotten at least a few wrapped thinly… Maybe I’ve just been lucky?

    If I can’t find the right size of padded envelope to used, I usually just cut it at the seams and wrap it in that, then cover it with scrap paper and address that.

  66. Rita said

    Great ideas! I especially like the idea of reusing a cereal box. I always reuse the padded envelopes I receive; but I found a roll of leftover wallpaper and started using that to send out my books – much sturdier than kraft paper – and I was able to recycle that leftover wallpaper. Now I buy rolls of wallpaper from the thrift store and use that when I run out of padded envelopes. However, in reading the posts, I find that it’s important to pad the books also. I work next door to a floral shop and they throw away bubble wrap – which, of course, I take and reuse. After reading these posts, I will first wrap books in the bubble wrap and then wrap with the wallpaper. I always use quality packaging tape – that’s one item I do not skimp on. Thanks for the great info!

  67. melissa said

    Maybe it’s my mail carrier, but I’ve never gotten a book from BookMooch with packaging that’s in good enough condition to reuse. Even the bubble wrap envelopes are destroyed by the time they get to me. I’m talking rips, scuffs, scratches, MUD, and other such damage. Sometimes the corners of the books get mushed too.

  68. michelle littleton said

    I, too, have recieved many packages that were “banged up”, and lots of crunched edges.

    I have found that tape is the great equalizer. A package completely covered in tape is a pain-in-the-behind. I have actually damaged a book or two trying to unwrap the mummified books. BUT, the books that have been given a few pieces of heavy duty tape in the weak spots seems to ride the mail train much better, regardless of the form of wrapping.

    To second a prior comment, I probably only recycle 25% of packaging, because a lot of the packaging once opened doesn’t look to me to have a second or third round the country trip left in it. But, I have seen all kinds of creative wrapping that was recycled but worked and weathered the mail system perfectly.

    I for one I am not going to risk a book being banged up on the way to the next person, and I so appreciate those who take the extra effort as well.

    BTW! I love this swap so much more than another one I belong to!


  69. Jaymee said

    I use manila paper! My old ones from my schooldays. Wrapping them first in grocery bags you have no need for sounds good, too; just for the extra cover. πŸ™‚ I love people at bookmooch; booklovers, and also eco-friendly! Perfect combination! πŸ™‚

  70. Coqueline said

    One way I make sure an envelope can be reused is by gluing a small flat plastic bag on the frontside of the envelope, write the receiver address on a piece of paper and slip it inside the plastic bag and then tape the open end (but not heavily, just enough so the paper doesn’t fall off). It works even better if you use small ziploc bag so you don’t have to tape it. That way the next person can simply open the bag and insert new address. Of course the postages will still need to be peeled off or stuck over with new ones.

  71. Frances M. Bothwell said

    Everything I send is basically shipped in recycled materials. I tend to save bubble wrap for shipments to foreign places, thinking that it’s a bit sturdier than my recycled office paper and grocery bag wrappings. Usually, I used grocery plastic bags, cut open and wrapped like a gift wrap around the book or books, then a paper wrap using used office paper. As a teacher, it’s really amazing how much extra sheets of paper I usually have here and in the office. So moochers are likely to get old exams, memos I have recieved, and other bits from my job. Never buy when you can recycle, I say. I also recycle boxes I get in the mail, sometimes cutting them down to size or expanding them, as needed. Only bits and pieces of these end up in my recycling bin.

  72. Jill said

    With all this great advice, and especially the points arguing against using cereal bags or other wrap that has touched food (I’m guilty of using the bread bag turned inside out myself at times) maybe John should have a ‘Packaging Advice’ column with do’s and don’ts somewhere directly linked to on the main page instead of in a blog that will disappear in the bowels over time.

  73. Jill said

    I listed some of my padded envelopes and a half dozen has already been mooched! The advantage to the moocher is that I offered same size or a variety of sizes depending on what she’ll need. Also, even if I have to mail it first class, it doesn’t weigh that much. I think it will cost even less than media mail. I’ll post here as soon as I go to the post office and find out.

  74. Jessica said

    i’ve TRIED to re-use lots of the packaging i’ve received but so far it’s all come to me in pretty poor condtion, obviously re-used to an inch of it’s life. so i’ve been re-using when i can, which is all we can really ask for. just THINK about what you’re doing instead of mindlessly wasting perfectly good packaging. a little at a time always adds up!

  75. Joy K said

    After reading all the comments, I am still undecided on the bubble mailer vs. brown paper/plastic bag vs. cardboard debate. To Schneider, who so vehemently disagrees with my packaging method, I understand your concern, but in my experience 2 plastic grocery bags covered in sturdy brown paper is MORE padded than a bubble mailer. I have also NEVER received damage complaints from moochers– only a compliment on how I packaged it! I package this way even sending internationally, and I’ve had nothing but happy moochers.

    In order to resolve such issues, I added packaging notes to my status that describes my packaging method, allows moochers to request different packaging, and encourages them to give me feedback about the condition their book arrives in.

    To John: perhaps adding such a feature, where one can describe such packaging methods, would be beneficial. That way, those with food allergies will not end up with cereal bags, and those who have had bad experience with a certain type of packaging can either request something different or choose not to mooch from that person.

  76. tara said

    I always reuse my packaging. I sell quite a bit on ebay and reuse my envelopes for sending stuff on there as well as on bookmooch. Everybody always says I pack my stuff well.

  77. Andrea said

    Forgive me if someone else already pointed this out in response to a very early post, but it is my understanding that Media Mail can be nothing but the accepted media items. For example, you can’t include a bookmark or a personal note. However, it’s not likely the USPS would actually open and check the package unless suspicious.

  78. Rachel said

    A word about taping reused packages. Make sure the edges are completely closed, that is, the tape cannot come into contact with the book at all. I received one book with tape glue on it because it had touched the tape that was sealing the reused package.

  79. Katlaoesk said

    I usually wrap my books in a double layer of brown paper bag. I wrap them like I would presents, but twice. Then I tape them up thoroughly. It works well, can be recycled and I get to reuse bags. Only problem is we’ve been running out of bags since we switched to canvas…

  80. dstokes74 said

    I have found a great source of plastic to waterproof books is the plastic bags the drycleaners use when they return your clothes. You can cut these down and use them for many books. I am thrilled to have a use for them too! I wrap them this way and place them in an envelope with a few pieces of tape on the seams when I don’t have a bubble mailer to re-use. πŸ™‚

  81. Helen (Beachcomber) said

    You can reuse padded mailing bags – I block out the address underneath (or peel the label off if they used one), and if it looks like there’s not much off the outer layer left, I tape over it and just put an index card with the address on, on top. And sellotape over the end of the package (leaving a little gap that someone could then peel the sellotape off, or cut the top of the envelope open.

    Padded mailing bags won’t be reused undefinitely, but I can get at least 2 or 3 postages out of each one.

  82. Kaitlin said

    Thank y’all so much for your ideas! I and my friends just got into this, and y’all were very helpful. I can’t wait to start sending. ^_^

  83. Deidzoeb said

    Reusing Priority mailers and boxes. I’ve had heated exchanges with some postal workers over this, and finally understand why they’re doing it, although I still don’t agree.

    At first, I thought they were trying to stop people from “counterfeiting” the Priority mail rate. Like you’d put stuff in a box marked Priority mail, you’d pay for media mail or some cheaper rate, and some postal worker would absent-mindedly treat it as Priority mail. The actual reason they make such a fuss, even to the point of opening packages to make sure the envelopes or boxes are not turned inside out, is that they give away free boxes and envelopes for use as Priority mail. They aren’t giving it out free for other types or rates of mail, and they consider it a kind of theft when people take them for free and then use them for other kinds of mail.

    Unfortunately, that means the box or envelope cannot be re-used by enviro-cheapskates like me who send a lot of media mail. Last I heard, the USPS is talking about printing “Priority Mail” all over the insides of those boxes and envelopes, so people can’t turn them inside out.

  84. Emily said

    Any idea why I can’t “give my copy” on the moochpackages? The button isn’t there (at least tonight when I tried to find it!)

  85. Kim said

    I reuse enveloppes all the time, but don’t have enough to trade on bookmooch because I use them for bookmooch and other sites!
    I stick a large piece of paper to cover previous address, stamps and other things. I use wide sellotape to keep it in place.
    Also, don’t forget to cover up the return details, as items sometime end up back there!

  86. david said

    As a music and books blogger, I reveive at least four oor five packages a day, and think this is a great idea. I am already recycling this packaging through friends and family, but BookMooch users will also benefit (I will offer them to local Birmingham Moochers for free).

  87. Eva said

    Hey, Joy K.- That’s exactly what I do also and every single book I’ve mailed so far has gotten to its destination safely and in GREAT shape! I’m going to continue to do this also because it’s much better in my opinion. Don’t worry about any “shock to the spine”- mine have never had any, on this site or others and I mail A LOT of books EVERY week.

  88. Lynne said

    When reusing mailers, I’ve had no problems obscuring previous markings with liquid correction fluid. The dollar store had 3 bottles of a name brand for $1. Ah, what a magical elixir!

  89. jenisnape said

    I use brown paper.
    But if someone sends be a book in any kind of material that is re-usable, then I will use that (be it bubble mailers or brown paper that is the right size). πŸ™‚

    I do think this is a great idea though! Re-use what ever you can πŸ˜€

  90. Rinji said

    I got a book about a week ago, and the sender’s idea was great.
    He wrapped the book with a couple of regular grocery plastic bags, then wrapped it with 2 sheets of newspapers. and he used the business card sized white sticker to write addresses.
    at first, I was like, “What is this??”
    then I thought it’s really a good idea.

  91. Ashley said

    It is really frustrating that I cannot list more than one copy of the dozen manila envelopes. I work in a business office where we receive a TON of mail in manila envelopes. I have my entire department saving envelopes so I am bring home at least 4 a day (slow days). Can we update this particular item so that we can list it more than once?

  92. re: It is really frustrating that I cannot list more than one copy of the dozen manila envelopes

    Go to Your Profile

    and check the option:

    “Allow multiple copies of the same book in your inventory”

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