I prefer to re-use containers whenever possible.
My preference is strong enough that I can honestly say it was a sock-rotter when an item I ordered from etsy arrived in damaged packaging.
The USPS 'apologized' for damaging the container (a bubble mailer I would have happily re-used to mail off items that get bought from my etsy store). The bubble mailer smelled like smoked salmon - not a scent I want permeating anything I send to a customer, let alone my house! The smell was nauseating so I chucked it, albeit reluctantly.
Recently I had a craving for Brie, the kind that comes in those round wooden boxes with about a 4 inch diameter, and with the help of Mr. Field Notes emptied the container. Delicious! This afternoon I fished out some Japanese paper from my collection and covered the now empty brie container with some really terrific indigo-colored paper that I found in the Origami Center of Japan.
I had enough left over from the small sheet to also cover a now empty tea canister. I had eyed several tea containers while I was in Japan but elected not to buy one - perhaps because I knew I could make one of my own at a tenth of the price. Besides, plain green tea is easy enough to get at home and I prefer spicy chai anyway, so it was after all, a really easy thing to forgo.
I am very pleased with how the dressed up containers turned out.
In general I like re-using things. I spruce up empty toilet paper tubes (they become pen and crafting tool organizers). I have also turned some used calenders into envelopes and magnets. It turns out I amassed quite a collection over the last several years.
One set is from Le Petite Prince, a Little Prince calender I found in Paris.
The words on the magnets are lines from the original book, en francais.
The envelopes were snapped up by a Little Prince fan I know, but I still have the magnets.
It would take a princely sum to make me part with the magnets. Le Petite Prince was the first book I read in French, and I am fond of the imagery. More importantly, I have no idea when I'll be in France again!
Another set is from La Vache Qui Rit, a Laughing Cow cheese calender.
I bought it in Paris at the same time as the Little Prince one.
I think the cow art is very handsome. I left the calender hanging up on the fridge and kept rotating the pictures because the art is so wonderful. It dates back to 2001.
I also converted a Newfoundland dog calender and two calenders from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund into envelopes.
I only have magnets for the newfies. The DFGF didn't set up their calenders the way commercial ones do so there aren't little images on the back cover to show buyers what is inside the calender. They haven't sent one for 2008 so I don't know whether they're not doing them this year or if we didn't donate enough, or some other thing. I like the calenders a lot, and don't need them as a reason or reward for donating.
I'm storing the envelopes in the plastic containers that our Organics lettuce comes packaged in. After the labels are pealed off and the container rinsed and dried, they are perfectly functional and look great. I never have to wonder what is stored inside.
Once you train yourself to consider other uses for packaging and containers, you'll start noticing all kinds of "garbage" that should never end up in the landfill.