I’m an online shop that creates products to support a waste free lifestyle. But I can’t ignore the big baddie in e-commerce — carbon emissions created when shipping packages all over the US and the world. I’ve shipped eco-friendly products and gifts to Australia, Singapore, The Netherlands, Germany, St. Thomas and more in 2018 alone! So yeah, carbon emissions are happening.
Is It Worth It — Buying Eco-Friendly Products Online?
I think this is a personal question that only you have the answer to. I personally think it is awesome that I can ship reusable snack bags to Singapore. I think it is amazing that someone recognized the quality and my mission and loved the prints enough to say, it’s worth it.
And I imagine my items also make it to someone’s cart and they think, “Hey, that’s a pretty far distance to travel. Maybe I can find something local.” And I love that choice too!
Can I Shop Online and Still Be Eco-Friendly?
Some people say no way. Some people say any shopping at all is not eco-friendly. Those items in Target were shipped a few times before they ended up being “local” to you.
I say, there are ways to make great choices. I’ve outlined just a few things to consider below.
Choose Companies That Offer Carbon Emissions Offsetting
Etsy recently announced that they are offsetting 100% of carbon emissions. Yes, it brings up a lot of questions. How do they calculate how much the CO emissions are for a sent package? Who exactly are they donating to? But it is something and appears to be a responsible step in the right direction. Planting trees and supporting wind and solar power is awesome. And while it may be debatable that these steps actually offset carbon emissions, these steps are applaudable and better than doing nothing.
Ask About Packaging or Request Less Packaging
I once received an order and the buyer requested that I didn’t ship with any extra plastic packaging. Aside from my mailers (which are going green very soon!), I don’t use any plastic bags to wrap or ship my products. But even still, I skipped some of the packaging extras I like to include to respect my customer’s wishes for minimal packaging. I was absolutely happy to!
Not sure how a business packages their items? Ask! You may not always get the answer you want – or an answer at all – but good businesses are always striving to know what their customers want!
Is the E-Commerce Shop Local? Skip Shipping and Pick Up Your Items
When I started my business I was a primarily local business. And although the transactions occurred online, my customers picked up their items or we scheduled to meet up locally. See if your favorite online shops are local and offer that option!
I’ve done the same with an online shop (ittikid.com – omg! cute organic kids’ clothes) that is run locally. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask if local pickup is an option!
Check Into Behind-The-Scenes Policies
Buying handmade products is already an awesome idea. You know in most cases who is making the products and don’t have to worry about child labor, low wages, non-existent customer service. For example, I’m doing it all at pen&thimble – making, wrapping, shipping, all of it.
But if you’re curious to know more. Ask!
“After you make this adorable reusable snack bag, where do your fabric scraps end up?”
“Do you have organic options?”
“Where do you source your gemstones?”
Again, you may not always get an answer, but it’s good to ask and support businesses with similar values to yours!
Is There a Mission Beyond Making and Shipping Items?
For me, this business is not just about the products I make. It isn’t just about making money and shipping products.
It’s about these #wastefreecurious challenges. It’s about making waste free decisions in my personal and business life and inspiring others to waste less too. My desire to reduce waste inspires my products as much as my products inspire me to find new ways to curb my waste even more.
Other missions may have equal value to you. There are shops that donate to causes and volunteer their time!
Shipping Has A Big Impact, And So Do Your Choices
If you want to shop online, I say go for it! I do and my business relies on online shoppers. But you have choices. Choose to purchase from companies that offer minimal to no packaging, recyclable mailers, ethical practices behind the scenes — for things like waste, sourcing materials, and making. Shop from stores with missions that are in line with your values. pen&thimble strives to be an online shop that values less waste behind the scenes as well as in product offerings.
Are You Waste Free Curious Too?
If producing less waste is something you might be into this year, I’d love if you’d join me! Follow my personal and business waste-free journey from the comfort of your inbox. Sign up to so you don’t miss a thing: Click here to sign up! You’ll get a plastic-free produce storage cheat sheet just for signing up! Also, I’m using the hashtag #wastefreecurious on Instagram to share our waste free journey. I’ve just started the hashtag and I’m sharing our waste free wins and fails and tough spots with a mix of posts and Stories. So come on over!