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4 tips to reduce packaging waste from shopping online

Visit resale shops, consolidate shipments — and think twice before hitting "add to cart."
/ Source: TODAY

We live in a consumer nation. And now, we especially love to buy online. The convenience of next-day or even same-day shipping has made it easy to succumb to shopping impulses.

But there are ways to curb our spending habits to make a smaller dent on the environment — not to mention, the checkbook.

1. Buy less

First and foremost, just buy less stuff. It’s that easy. Reconsider whether you really need another pair of shoes or a new blender. If you do, be thrifty about it. Secondhand stores are the ultimate recyclers. Resale shops offer everything from kitchen appliances to a new wardrobe filled with high-end and luxury labels. The pickings may be even more ripe now that organization guru Marie Kondo has inspired countless of people to clean out their homes.

plastics and packaging
Thrift stores are a great way to give clothes and furniture a second life and save some cash.Getty Images

But most people these day prefer to do their shopping online. The expediency of Amazon Prime has been both a time saver and an environmental nightmare. Walmart, Target and the online services offered by other major retailers also have helped make shopping easy — and habitual.

2. Cut down on excess packaging

The packaging that frequently comes with those online purchases, however, can be confounding. Twitter feeds often show bottles of nail polish or batteries packaged in boxes the size of a microwave oven, filled with plastic bubble wrap or air pillows.

But there are ways to cut down on the excess.

Amazon offers “frustration free” packaging on some items. The option allows certain products to be shipped without excessive packaging. It’s a way to avoid getting items packaged in a box — and then shipped in a bigger box.

3. Request items be shipped together

When ordering multiple items, request everything be sent together or in as few packages as possible. Businesses sometimes offer a discount or perk if you request this option because it gives them an extra day or two for delivery. Keep in mind this option is available only if items are shipped from the same warehouse or vendor.

plastics and packaging
You may even get a discount.Shutterstock

In 2019, Amazon announced its Prime members are eligible to designate a particular day of the week to have their orders delivered. The orders will be grouped together whenever possible under the “Amazon Day” program, but that really depends on whether the multiple items come from the same warehouse or vendor.

plastics and packaging
Not every part of packaging is recyclable, but some of it is.Getty Images

Amazon occasionally ships its packages in plastic bags or padded paper mailers. Follow the guidelines on Amazon’s recycling page to understand which parts of these bags might be allowed in your recycling bin, what needs to be thrown away, and what can be taken to a recycling center.

4. Shop from companies that use recyclable materials

Also consider buying from companies that adhere to strict delivery policies. The Package Free Shop ships everything from health and beauty items to pet supplies in “100% post-consumer” boxes with paper tape and wrapping. All of its shipping materials are recyclable and compostable. Olive is a delivery company that offers package-free shipping.

If all else fails, speak up. Write to the companies you patronize. Contact customer service and complain about oversized packaging, or let them know you want plastic-free options. Companies listen to their customers, especially if enough of them are saying the same thing.

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