Popcorn is used by a number of eco-conscious companies in place of those infuriating packing peanuts (I can’t be the only one who always manages to get teensy pieces of styrofoam peanut everywhere anytime they are sent to me; even if I didn’t hate styrofoam because of its deleterious environmental effects, it is one of the few substances that could just plain annoy me to death). Popcorn, of course, doesn’t just appear fully formed — energy is needed to grow the corn and pop it, it’s not waterproof, and pests can be attracted to it.
But as long as it’s kept dry, popcorn protects as well as styrofoam peanuts, and it’s almost as lightweight, depending on the type of popcorn used. For packages that are being shipped quickly in dry conditions, it can work well. It’s also totally biodegradable, composts quickly, and though I wouldn’t chance actually eating it, if you have a backyard, local birds will have a feast if you leave it out for them. Popcorn is a great material for small businesses or individuals to use (be sure to air pop and find other tips here).
Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick and author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life (St. Martin’s Press). A green living expert, she contributes to The Huffington Post and Mother Nature Network (MNN.com)