It’s easy enough to shop low-waste in person, bring your own bag, and walk out of the store feeling a little proud about your nod to Mama Earth. (Then again . . . it is NOT easy to remember to bring your own bag. Anyone else juggle all their items in stubborn refusal of using a single-use bag?)
When you’re shopping online, it’s trickier to know what waste will come with your purchase. Excessive filler, bubble wrap, or those air-filled plastic cushions are a nightmare if you’re pursuing a low-waste lifestyle. However, there are ways to avoid waste while shopping online.
Buy from businesses who give a crap. (I really wanted to say another word . . . are we at that point in our relationship? ;)) There are so many businesses that are setting higher standards and paving the way for a more sustainable future. When you can, support these businesses over big-box corporations. This will require you to do some research, but I bet you’ll find some gems along the way.
Look for thoughtful packaging. While you’re shopping online, check to see if the business talks about how they package their items for shipping. Make sure you check out their shipping and FAQ sections. (We have our details over here!) If there’s nothing stated on their website, it doesn’t hurt to send an email asking if they have a plastic-free shipping option.
Request shipping your items together. Some companies will send their items separately to get your order to you quicker. If this isn’t necessary, let them know by attaching a note to your order saying you’d prefer your items shipped together.
Practise conscious consumerism. A great trick for shopping online is leaving items in your cart and coming back the following day or week. Avoiding impulsive purchasing not only saves you money but also cuts out the energy and waste used to ship out products. If you have an online store that you frequently buy from, if possible, fill your cart over the course of a week or a month and then place your order to cut back on the amount of packaging used.
Reuse the packaging. Something we love about our mailers is that you can use them again to send a package to a friend or use it for a return if it’s needed. Once the mailer is no longer usable, you can take off the label and put the mailer in the compost. Our mailers will break down in a backyard compost in 180 days or 90 days in a commercial compost.
If you have mailers that can be used again, but you don’t think you’ll use them, ask a small local business if they could use it. This could save them a few dollars and extend the life of the mailer.
Sometimes waste is unavoidable. If your package comes with more plastic than you expected, don’t kick yourself about it. There might be a way to reuse or recycle it. If you’re super bummed out about it, reach out to the company and see if they’ve thought of switching it up. They might have a reason why they can’t. You never know, it might fuel change towards more online businesses going low-waste.
It can be a gamble avoiding waste while shopping online. Plastic packaging has been normal for too long. Thankfully, that’s changing. The movement away from plastic might seem slow, but it’s still movement. Small growth is still growth.
We’d love to hear from you on this. How do you avoid waste while shopping online?
Jade is a freelance writer and copy editor, living in a sleepy town in Northern Ontario. She loves growing plants, playing with dirt, and staying cozy.