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Can You Shop Online and Be Zero Waste?

Can You Shop Online and Be Zero Waste?

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Last Updated on April 3, 2020

A modern day conundrum. The internet can be a great resource for finding eco-friendly items – especially when you live in rural areas. But, is shipping eco friendly?

Can you shop online and be zero waste?

It can be tough living in middle America, y’all.

My dad was in the Air Force, so I spent most of my childhood divided between AR, TX, and FL. Most of the places I lived aren’t exactly the eco-friendly capitals of the world.

In fact – I question whether or not some of them are even on the “save the planet” bandwagon.

But, if you’re on my blog, I hope you’re on the “save the planet” bandwagon or at least thinking about joining the party!

We do cool things like pick up litter and carry around kick ass water bottles! 

But, don’t worry we’re totally normal; we still eat junk food (palm oil free, of course) and binge netflix. 

Ideally, we’d be able to find everything we needed in bulk, and we’d be able to buy all of our supplies locally made, compostable or 100% recyclable, and without packaging.

But, that’s kinda a pipe dream for anyone not living in a major city.

So, what are you to do when you lack not only access to bulk food, but also without access to eco friendly products like tiffins, cloth produce bags, safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes, compostable dish brushes, and the list goes on. 

You ship them in. Is it zero waste?

No, not really. But, with all choices in life, we can find a way to make it better! And, that’s what it’s all about. Doing the best you can – where you can. 

This also applies to eBay or other second hand online shops. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find second hand items in a thrift store.

I bought some staples in my 18 piece wardrobe on Poshmark, and I bought Justin a pair of really nice, pre-loved cowboy boots on eBay for his birthday. 

So, repeat after me, “It’s not about perfection; it’s about making better choices.” 

step one:

Make your packaging requests known!

At the bottom of every online purchase sometimes before or after the purchase, there’s a place for notes to the seller.

You can request plastic free shipping. Ask for paper tape and brown paper.

Make sure to emphasize no plastic. Most of the time they’ll honor your request. 

step two:

Let’s hope they honored your request.

Now you have brown paper which is recyclable and a box which is also recyclable. But, here are some more ideas. 


  • Compost it
  • Recycle It
  • Wrap presents with it
  • Cut it up for grocery lists
  • Use it for scratch paper or drawing
  • Use it to ship another package
  • Bring it to work if they have a shipping department
  • Bring it to a UPS Store or other shipping store which will re-use packing materials


  • Recycle it
  • Ship something else in it
  • Offer it to someone who is moving or needs a box for ship ping

step three:

So, they semi-honored your request.

The box was filled with paper, but your item came with plastic wrapped around the outside.

Go to and find your nearest location to recycle film.

You can’t usually recycle this stuff curbside, but most grocery stores have a location at the front where you can recycle your old plastic bags and plastic films. 

step four:

So, they didn’t honor your request at all, and you’re stuck with a load of styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap.

Salvage what you can and take them to a UPS Store or other shipping location and they will re-use them.

While this is isn’t a perfect option, at least you’re reusing something. If everyone kept re-using packing peanuts it would lessen the demand for new peanuts to be manufactured.

And, check with the link above to see if your location will take bubble wrap.

step five:

Use the hell out of your new eco-friendly product, and just look at how much waste you saved!

A little waste on the front end may just prevent a whole lot of waste in the future. So, don’t beat yourself up. Look at the positives! 

Sometimes, there’s no perfect solution. And, that’s ok. Remember our mantra?

It’s not about perfection – it’s about making better choices! So, get out there and make the most eco friendly choice you can make! 

What are your experiences with buying stuff online? 

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