online shopping and packaging

Online shopping is convenient.  You can find anything and everything, and often you are probably tempted to buy more than you need because of how the internet works nowadays, making all sorts of suggestions, recommendations, or “Others who bought this product ALSO BOUGHT…”.  However, if you are at all environmentally conscious then you will know (and expect) that your online purchase will come with packaging, or more often, excess packaging.

I am a firm believer of shopping locally, or as close to locally as possible, not just to support the local economy, but also to reduce the carbon footprint; why buy a Pink Lady apple in September that has been flown over from New Zealand when there are plenty of varieties in season where you live right now?  Not that I’m discussing apples today, but that’s just one example.  Back to online shopping.

This year we moved into our first home, and with that home came necessary, and probably some unnecessary, purchases.  I would have loved to buy local, however, there are many products I simply cannot get anywhere close to me.  What are my options?  Either I drive four to five hours to the next biggest center and spend my day looking for the items I need/want, or I purchase them online.  It’s a pickle.

Recently I have made online purchasing experiences with Evolatree, Kawaii Baby, Wayfair, and Life Without Plastic.

Evolatree seemed to have a philosophy of environmental friendliness.  From them I purchased a comb made of horn and wood, and one impulse buy.  There was a comment box, so I politely requested minimal or eco-friendly packaging.  The items were both wrapped in plastic after having already been packaged in a paper sleeve and cardboard box.  Both items were delivered in a plastic envelope.  I contacted Evolatree, encouraging them to match their environmental philosophy to their packaging.

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Having become a new parent this year, I was excited to start cloth diapering.  It was recommended by Anna from made right (here) to try various brands and styles of diapers to see what would fit my baby best.  I was able to get all of my diapers second hand, and they included brands like bumGenius, Swaddlebees, Charlie Banana, Applecheeks, and Sweet Doll Baby.  Then I discovered Kawaii cloth diapers that were made in Canada.  I decided to buy one cloth cover, bamboo inserts, and flannel washcloths.  Again, in the comment section I requested little or eco-friendly packaging.

The items were delivered in three separate plastic bags within one plastic envelope.  This is the feedback I sent to them:

Good evening! Just today I received my first order of a Kawaii diaper, bamboo inserts, and flannel washcloths. I love your selection, prices, and designs on your items. I also highly value our environment and our impact on it, which is why I switched to cloth diapers instead of wasteful disposables. I can feel good about using your cloth diapers and inserts. However, your packaging methods could use a healthier alternative. My items were individually wrapped in a flimsy, non-recyclable plastic that was unnecessary; the items could have been packaged into one bag or no bags and just in the mailing envelope. I think your packaging should match your product, so something more Eco-friendly would be fantastic. I’d be delighted to see this change for your company in the future so I can continue to support your business. Kind regards.

This is the response I got:

Hi Nadine.  Thank you for your order with us.  We really appreciate you taking the time to let us know about the packaging.  There is one thing you do not know, once the item is leaving our warehouse, many possible damages could happened during transit once the order reaches the customer. Common damages including truck driver throwing packages onto their trucks and onto the facility sorting belts. Custom officers open the packages for checking, they will not repacked the item properly. Potential rain and snow will damage the products if it is not properly packed. Although the exterior of the packaging is a bit dirty upon arrival but the diapers are clean and properly wrapped. I understand your concern but secure packaging can reduce the number of products that get damaged during shipping.”

I understand their point of cleanliness and all that, but this cannot mean that plastic is the ONLY option for packaging.  What about cardboard?  Or paper?  Or some other more sustainable product than plastic?  Also, instead of using three separate plastic bags, they could have used fewer.  And I really do not see how flimsy plastic will protect items from getting damaged.  It’s not even recyclable!  What do you think?

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I ordered household items from Wayfair.  One item came in a cardboard box with paper “stuffing” on the inside.  The item was made of metal, and for some unknown reason it was wrapped in a flimsy plastic bag.  I do not understand why the bag was necessary considering it was already padded with brown paper and cardboard.  And it was metal.  So how does flimsy plastic protect a metal item?!  There was no “Contact” option that I could see, but there were two options for me to leave a review, in which I stated the packaging would deter me from buying from them again.  Hey, you have to use your power as a customer, right?

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not the metal item from Wayfair…

One happy discovery I made was with Life Without Plastic.  I had been looking forever for a wooden toilet brush, and finally I found it on their site.  Again, I requested little or eco-friendly packaging.  And boy did they deliver!  The item arrived in a cardboard box with brown paper padding, and even the tape on the box was eco-friendly.  No plastic!  It is possible!  This I can compost.  This I can work with!

There is a lot that needs to improve when it comes to shipping and packaging, and I hope that when we voice our concerns or recommendations, companies listen.  All I can do as a customer is to speak up, and stop purchasing from them until they change.  If we all did this…

What wins and challenges have you come across with online purchases and packaging?

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One thought on “online shopping and packaging

  1. Pingback: A Plastic Ocean | The Zero Journey

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