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Eco-friendly approaches and alternatives to laminating

NB: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase an item, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

ID: The Exploring Nature With Children 'Pond Week' portrait pack from Inquisitarium. You can find the names of these portraits on the Inquisitarium website.


Brace yourself for the most rock and roll blog post you’re going to read today. We’re talking laminating. One day you’re drinking treble vodka vimtos on a Tuesday night amongst the pulsing base of a hideous club track in some dingy bar somewhere, the next you’re dutifully arranging board books by colour theme and writing a blog post about eco friendly alternatives to lamination. How times change. I’m also happy to say I find more joy in the latter. I never liked vimto (hohoho).

In all seriousness though, I don’t think I’m alone in having gone through a ‘LAMINATE EVERYTHING’ phase. For me it was when I taught a class of 30 sticky fingered souls and wanted to preserve the various resources that I’d printed off the internet. Did these resources get used? On occasion. Did they warrant the sheer amount of plastic I used in giving them immortality? No. Probably not. Now that I have little person of my own in tow and my passion for learning and play has returned, my organised mind veered back to old faithful. The laminator calls me. Yet so does the environment. Now I have a chance to actually breathe, since I’m not in the fast pace of the classroom and the resources I want to create are just for one little person (with sticky fingers all the same), I’ve started to reflect in this strangely mundane but satisfying aspect of educating small people. It can’t be that great to make something that’s biodegradable (paper) into something that’s… very much not, every time you want to use a resource you’ve printed. I reached out to the wonderful home ed/parent community I’ve come to love on Instagram, and alongside a few ideas I received from wonderful folk who’ve been doing this for a long time, I got a huge amount of folk saying ‘please share what you find out!’. So, here I am, sharing lots of alternatives for giving your lovely art cards life everlasting in the form of plastic, as well as giving some ideas on how you might approach carefully selecting what you do laminate (because it’s all about the balance).

The alternatives

When it comes to finding alternatives the biggest question to ask yourself is: what’s the purpose of making this print out more permanent? If you’re like me, the answer is probably one of the following, and I have an option for you for each one. Note that a lot of these items will still require using plastic - it’s very hard to avoid; but if plastic is used, then it’s off the reusable variety, so less waste.

It’s just so darn beautiful and I want to make it shiny and majestic so I can keep it for longer

I absolutely hear you on this one. Sometimes laminating is the answer to this, as it certainly prolongs the life of a printed item. However, that’s not the only way. Here are my alternatives!

Print onto better paper/card stock

You can print it directly onto photo quality stock paper for starters, which is often enough to make the item a bit hardier. Print onto thicker card or print it on thicker card stock. These have varying levels of sustainability, as photo shiny card stock will contain less biodegradable materials than plain card.

Card: https://amzn.to/3ugyMrw

Photo quality: https://amzn.to/31LngrZ

Frame or mount

For an even fancier finish, back your item onto thicker card stock if it’s hard to print directly onto it, or alternatively, pop it in a cheap frame. You can get these from Ikea, or go all eclectic and use secondhand/thrifted frames. I haven’t done this myself but I think they’d make a lovely little addition to a celebration ring or seasonal display.

It’s something that’s likely going to get messy/wet/sticky


For worksheets/A4 or bigger: reusable pop in wallets

If you’re wanting your child to be able to get the item messy, or perhaps it’s a worksheet or written task that you want to reuse, then you’d do well with some kind of wipe clean wallet. If it’s A4 sized, you can purchase velcro ones like this: https://amzn.to/3mkj0Jg. You can literally pop whatever item you’re wanting to straight into the wallet, scribble/smush food/sneeze all over it, and it’s completely protected!

For smaller items: ID holders

If you’re wanting to preserve something smaller, say a picture for a visual timetable, a clever little hack I’ve discovered is using lanyard card holders, the kind you might have used at work: https://amzn.to/2OlsNCi.

I want to display it and paper won’t stand up enough

Yep. Been there! A great alternative here is framing or mounting, as I said before. It’s often a lot more aesthetically pleasing, that’s for sure, and definitely reusable. You can also use acrylic menu card holders or display cases, the kind you might see at a cafe https://amzn.to/31LWOyv if you’re not wanting to have any background or bordering to the item.

Knowing when to accept defeat

A lovely person said to me earlier that sometimes you have to be kind to yourself. The fact that you are reading this obscure but requested blog post means you’re likely already doing what you can to prevent additional waste going into the world. It’s totally understandable if you want to laminate something special, or something you’re going to use for years to come!

And here we come to an end. I could never have predicted I’d be writing an article all about laminating in 2021, but there you go. I hope you got a small sense of satisfaction from thinking about how you might make your organisational processes a tad more eco-friendly. Enjoy!


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