Zero waste and sustainable online shopping


Who doesn’t love online shopping? It’s convenient, helps you get the best deal, and saves time. Yet as the Amazon Prime craze continues to grow throughout our society, it’s important to think about the impacts of our online consumerism — even though we aren’t driving, those two day shipments and even same deliveries have a huge impact.

Though I apply minimalist and zero waste principles in my lifestyle, I still order things from time to time that I am unable to find in my local area - usually consumables from zero waste stores. But I’ve had to navigate through my share of Amazon orders as well, so check out the video above for all the tips, and a summary below in the case you need a reference guide of how to get started.


Three areas to reduce your impact when online shopping

  1. Transportation

    • Choose slower shipping instead of 2-day shipping or less

    • Wait to buy and combine items to be purchased in one shipment

    • Be wary of returns as they’ll double your transportation footprint

    • Find items that are located closer to you - I like to search on Etsy or eBay and use their location function

  2. Waste

    • Contact the business about shipping with no plastic packaging, without the pamphlets, stickers, etc. and ask for paper based packaging. You can also try this with Amazon through their customer service and getting in touch with the individual seller

    • Reuse packaging waste when possible for future shipments

    • Recycle the rest

      • Figure out what is recyclable in your municipality, corrugated cartons and paper are usually highly recyclable

      • Drop off bubble wrap and plastic packaging for reuse or recycling at UPS (call beforehand to check)

      • Recycle #4 LDPE plastic mailers at drop off locations

    • Look out for Amazon frustration free packaging to get less packaging

  3. Where you buy from

    1. Consider supporting secondhand or small sustainable businesses instead of large retailers

    2. Shopping used is often cheaper

    3. Look out for zero waste and sustainable products through zero waste shops close to you (linked below)

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Online zero waste shops and resources to check out

The following are a few noteworthy places I like to shop online from. Most are stores that offer zero waste products and refills, which I buy if I don’t have access in my local area.

  • Etsy - Support small businesses and artists, even find makers of zero waste beauty products - flexibility to communicate with each business owner regarding special requests and packaging

  • The Refill Shoppe (Ventura, CA) - Zero waste products and customizable scents for your refills

  • Refill Revolution (Boulder, CO) - Refills, zero waste products, and raw ingredients for your DIY projects

  • The Good Fill (Nashville, TN) - Zero waste products and refill options

  • Life without plastic (Headquartered in Canada, ships from New York) - Quality and ethically sourced alternatives to plastic

  • Package free shop (New York) - Zero waste store started by Lauren Singer, ensuring that all products are shipped without the plastic packaging

  • Litterless’ zero waste shopping guide by state - Highly recommend this guide if you’re looking for zero waste options in your state