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1. What is sustainability?

2. What is Sámi?

3. What is packaging?

4. Examples

5. Birch bark as packaging


Create your own basket!

Logo Jordklode

"Sustainability is something we
do together, making it easier!"

Folk som jobber sammen

What is

Solidarity – togetherness – fair consumption of the earth’s resources. Not only today, but for the future as well.

All shall get what they need, both socially and economically. This means that those who have a lot must share with those who have little, so that it evens out.

Sustainability contains many parts: nature, people, resources, economy and society. How do we get these to fit together in a way that makes sure that our actions today make the world a better place tomorrow?


What is

The Sámi are an indigenous people in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. To be an indigenous people means that it is an ethnic group, which lived in an area before the borders between the states were drawn.

There are many different Sámi languages, and diverse traditions. In Norway we have south Sámi, pite Sámi, lule Sámi, north Sámi and skolt Sámi.

At Várjjat/Varanger Sámi museum we are responsible for conveying the sea Sámi cultural heritage, which is a part of the north Sámi language group.


Markør for Nesseby Kart over det samiske området Nesseby kommunestyre Maghnild og Sunna
Flaske Glass melkekartong Melkespann Neverkurv Pappeske Penal Plastpose Pose

What is

Packaging is everything that something is packed, transported or stored in.

Packaging is products used for wrapping, storing, protecting and transporting of goods from producer to consumer.

Packaging is used both for raw materials and processed goods and can be made of many different materials such as glass, wood, plastic, metal or paper. Packaging is designed according to it’s use: bottles, cans, boxes and bags.

Now a days most items are packaged and stored in plastic. Up until World War II people in Varanger had little plastic packaging, but what did they use in stead?

Examples of Sámi sustainable packaging

All these are made by hand from raw materials fetched from nature or animals in the adjascent area. They are made of natural materials, which will degrade and go back to nature without polluting.


Salt bottle

Butter box




Gunpowder horn


Needle house

Match box


Root box







Birch bark as

Birch bark is an example of sustainable material for packaging. In the municipality of Unjárga/Nesseby, birch bark is widely available, free and renewable. A birch bark basket is an example of how one can make something from nature, which can go back to nature without leaving traces behind. This has been a fundamental ethical rule of life in Sámi areas.

At Várjjat/Varanger Sámi museum we have baskets made from birch bark, in northern Sámi language called geavllet or guošši. These have, among other things, been used for berrypicking and egg collecting. Birch bark is a material which is sustainable, provided that you cut the bark in a gentle way. Birch bark was used for many purposes: roofing, underlying turf on turfhuts, floating devise for fishing nets, and storage. Historically birch bark has also been seen as having magical significance. In old Sámi graves the dead have been wrapped in birch bark. We are not sure why.


You cut very carefully with a sharp knife down along the tree trunk in the time of year when the birch has most sap, around mid summer. Then the bark is loose and will let go of the tree trunk. The tree will look ugly afterwards, and it will take several years before the bark has grown back. It is very important not to cut too deep, as you will hurt the inner layer of the bark. Then the tree might die.

It is best if you can take bark from birches that are already cut down for firewood, because then the tree is already dead. Then you can use the length of the firewood, and cut down along the trunk. The wood has to be fresh, not dried. Then you will get a sheet of bark, which you can make a basket of.

If you are not making the basket right away, then you have to spread it out flat and put something heavy on top of it while it dries. Otherwise it will curl up into a hard roll, which is difficult to use.

To tie together the sides of the basket and to make the handle you can use a thin twig of willow, roe or other soft wood. It doesn’t have to be birch. You will need three twigs, which should be 50-70 cm long. Use a knife to scrape off the bark of the twigs. Thread the twigs through holes in the bark, that are made by using a hole plier or knife.


Because birch bark is free, it only demands some effort. At least if there are birch trees in your surroundings, and you are allowed to use them. It is very important to ask permission to cut down trees or cut loose bark!

Birch bark is antiseptic, which means that it kills bacteria. Therefore it is nice to store food in.

Birch bark can be shaped and you don’t need a lot of tools. You can make a basket using only a sharp knife.

Birch bark is a renewable resource. That means that it will grow out on the tree again, if you cut it loose in the right manner.

Birch bark will turn into soil if it is left in nature. If you forget your basket on a berry picking trip, you have not polluted, as it will become a part of nature again.

If it is difficult to get hold of birch bark or fresh birch wood, you can use paper in stead. It is also made from trees, and will become earth again in nature.


Create your own
paper basket


You need:

  • A3 Sheets
  • Scissor
  • Pencil or pen
  • Thread or yarn
  • Needle
  • Ruler