One of the questions I get from readers is, "Do you still shop online?" Yes I do, but not very often. Here are my online shopping guidelines.
Guidelines For Shopping Online:
Research: I like to shop second hand first, but if there is something I absolutely can't find or don't want to get secondhand (like underwear), then I have an opportunity to do some research and find a company that's in alignment with my social and environmental values. I opt for products that are made to last and designed to be repaired--this keeps them from going to landfill.
Only Buy What You Need: There have been a few a plastic free alternatives that I wasn't able to find in my area, like my safety razor and metal tiffins for my DIY body care products, so I bought them online. Living zero-waste is all about paring down to the essentials, which helps me stick to my guideline of only buying what I need.
Communicate. Before I make an online purchase, I contact the website or seller to see if they would be willing to ship the item without using any plastic. I find it helpful to be very specific about what I mean by no plastic. "Please no bubble wrap, shrink wrap, styrofoam peanuts, or plastic cushions of any kind." I've had some sellers, especially on Esty, tell me that they can't ship without plastic, and then I simply don't buy from them.
Donate: Sometimes people make mistakes and send me something that's wrapped in plastic, even when they said they wouldn't. This has felt like the end of the world to me, but it's obviously not. I find it best to let it go, as I did everything I could to try and prevent the waste. These things just happen. Sometimes it's possible to donate plastic packing to your local UPS store and they will reuse it. You can also give any plastic film to most grocery stores for recycling. Our you can use this resource to locate a place that accepts drop-offs.
Upcycle & Recycle: You can encourage a seller to opt for paper tape or tape made from cellulose instead of plastic (plastic taped boxes can still be put in the recycling and will get recycled). If the seller sends you your item wrapped in paper, then you can upcycle the paper as gift wrap, fire starter, brown matter (carbon) for your compost pile, use it for art projects, or use it to mail a package.