Keeping up a low-impact lifestyle during the holidays can be a bit tricky, especially while living in a society that thrives on consumerism. Did you know the US produces 25 million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s alone? While the holiday season may be festive, there’s no denying that it can also be pretty wasteful.
The statistic takes several factors into consideration — gift-wrap and food waste among them, but one of the key components of holiday waste is the shopping. Buying presents creates waste whether you shop online or in person; in-person, harmful car emissions infiltrate the environment and single-use plastic bags are used to bag items, and online, unnecessary packaging often accompanies orders. How do we cut this waste?
Keep reading for tips on how to shop low-impact during the holidays!
Sign up for zero-waste packages from Amazon
Many people don’t even know that Amazon has several low-impact options for orders. The first precaution you can take is emailing customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org, letting representatives know that you prefer to cut back on unnecessary packaging when possible and ship multiple orders together to reduce waste (and emissions). Next, you can sign up for Frustration-Free Packaging, Amazon’s zero-waste packaging program that works to eliminate as much surplus packaging as possible. Not all items are available with FFP, but more than 300,000 items are.
Shop with reusable bags
If you plan on holiday shopping in person, make sure to keep multiple reusable bags in the car. (That way you never forget them!) While more and more cities and counties are implementing local-level statutes banning single-use plastic bags (or charging a fee for plastic bags), that isn’t the case everywhere. Whether your city bans or charges for bags or not, bringing your own reusable bag from home is always the better option. Make sure to bring multiple bags of different sizes; you don’t want to have to succumb to a single-use plastic bag simply because the present you bought won’t fit in a reusable!
Opt for email receipts
Whenever possible, opt for a digital receipt. Not only are receipts single-use items — that are neither compostable, nor biodegradable — but there is also substantial research suggesting receipts are made of harmful chemicals. Receipts used to be made with BPA, but after some regulations were put in place, BPS (a derivative chemical of BPA, arguably even more detrimental) has become the alternative. During a 2016 test of receipts from more than 100 businesses — including Target, Bloomingdales, Rite Aid, and other retailers — the Center for Environmental Health found five businesses’ receipts to still contain BPA, while every other contained BPS, which is equally as — if not more — toxic. With a health risk like that and a negative environmental impact, digital receipts are the way to go.
Support shops with little-to-no packaging
It’s not always feasible, especially when shopping for children or a particular present, but whenever possible, consider supporting shops that use sustainable practices and provide little-to-no packaging. The Package Free Shop is one such store where you can buy sustainable and vegan products, as well as zero waste starter kits. Shopping local is also preferable to big business shopping, as it puts money in the pockets of artisans and creatives, which typically have more sustainable processes and practices.
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