Zero Waste Online Shopping

    With online shopping, you are never sure what you are going to get.

    The manufacturer and the distributors decide how to package and ship your items, and you have very little control over the situation. And it is rare to see an online retailer give details about their shipping practices.

    I never know if what I am getting is packaged in recyclable or compostable material, or wrapped in unnecessary layers of plastic and environmentally unfriendly packing peanuts.

    I used to do at least 50% of my shopping online, but since the pandemic started it has increased dramatically, sometimes to 100%.

    It has had a huge effect on my Zero Waste goals.

    Of course during the earliest stages of the pandemic, my activities were more focused on keeping my family safe than worrying about my trash. But as we come out the other side and life begins to return to normal, I am back in full Zero Waste function but still shopping online more.


    For me, there is nothing as addictive as prime shipping. Order it today, and get it at my door tomorrow. Instant gratification. It is hard to believe how far we have come. When I was a child, the standard shipping time for products ordered through the mail was 6-8 weeks!!! Now that I have been spoiled by Amazon, even 6-8 days feels unbearably long to wait for a package to arrive.

    In 2008 Amazon began programs of sustainable packaging and Frustration-Free packaging. This packaging uses recyclable materials and reduces excess packing materials. These programs have eliminated thousands of tons of packaging material and promoted recyclable packaging and when possible shipping items in their own packages without adding additional shipping boxes.

    Amazon has also made a climate pledge. Their goal is to be net zero carbon by 2040 and run on 100% renewable energy by 2030. Learn more about our packaging programs here. To learn how to minimize your impact on the environment through reuse, refurbishing, and recycling, visit Amazon Second Chance, which provides information on how to recycle Amazon packaging, devices and products, along with information on how to find open-box and refurbished devices.

    There are three main avenues of sale on Amazon. 

    1- Amazon produces and sells their own products

    2- FBA- Fulfilled by Amazon- Independent sellers ship their products to Amazon warehouse and list these items for sale on Amazon. Then Amazon processes the orders and ships out those products

    3- FBM- Fulfilled by Merchant- Independent sellers list their products on the Amazon site, but the sellers retain their inventory and handle the logistics and shipping once the products are sold.

    When sellers ship their items to the Amazon warehouse, they must follow strict guidelines about how the items are packaged. However, if the products are not going through Amazon’s warehouse, then the sellers are free to use whatever packaging and shipping methods they choose.

    For any items shipped from an Amazon warehouse, they provide this guide of how to recycle each different type of packaging that they use.

    Other Online Retailers

    Although no one can match Amazon’s size and scale, there are many other online retailers who are making great efforts to reduce waste, not only in their shipping, but in the production of their products.

    I use Misfit Markets for produce shopping, and they ship their items with compostable package fillers. I simply cut them into smaller pieces and add it to my compost piles. 

    Fortunately, if a company is using any Zero Waste production or packaging methods, they will advertise it somewhere on their site. 

    There are many Zero Waste shipping options open to retailers.

    Optimizing package size

    Reducing packing fillers

    Compostable or recyclable packing fillers

    Paper Tape

    Recyclable Shipping Labels

    Algae Ink

    Return packaging

    One of the most innovative Zero Waste packaging solutions I have seen is from a company called Ecovative. They grow their packaging from mycelium, and it is an excellent styrofoam and other plastics used in packaging and shipping. There are other companies that use these same methods, like  Mushroom Packaging. They grow their packaging from hemp and mycelium. It is compostable in as little as 30 days. 

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