We all tend to get a bit ahead of ourselves this time of year. Before the Thanksgiving turkey is even out of the oven, many of us are already moving on to plotting the purchases we will make in the days that follow. Life is hectic, and the fanfare around the year’s most publicized sales can put pressure on us to lock in that hot deal before it sells out.
Sadly, often in this case, haste makes waste: a recent study found that an average American generates an extra 43 percent more trash per week during the holiday season, which amounts to almost 30 pounds of trash per person. The United States Postal Service estimated that they would be delivering around 900 million packages between Thanksgiving and the end of the year in 2018 alone. That number has likely increased since then, and it doesn’t include deliveries managed through private shipping companies like UPS.
Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to slow down and reduce the waste that you create on Black Friday and Cyber Monday:
Consolidate Your Shipments and Skip Rush Delivery
Whenever possible, aim for a single shipment (or the fewest shipments possible) instead of item-by-item deliveries—and only choose expedited shipping if you actually need it soon. While an MIT study suggested that the carbon footprint of online shopping may be lower than that of in-store purchases, the University of California found that this benefit is erased when shoppers opt for expedited shipping, which requires the use of less efficient transportation methods to rush stuff to your door. Fortunately, many retailers offer an easy option to consolidate shipments, which not only reduces the carbon footprint of your purchases, but also reduces the amount of packaging material waste (and boxes sitting around your home waiting to be recycled).
Recycle Your Electronics the Right Way
A lot of folks spend Cyber Monday upgrading their electronics to the latest and greatest devices, but not a lot of them go on to properly recycle their old devices. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), only 20 percent of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) is ever formally recycled. E-waste in landfills contaminates soil and groundwater, so don’t just throw your electronics in the trash! Instead, seek out local buyback programs or designated drop-off centers (Best Buy accepts e-waste recycling in most stores) in your area.
If you’re buying for others, do your best to make smart gift-wrapping choices. Whether you’re the type to fold impeccable corners like a pro, or you skip the hassle and toss gifts into a nice bag, stick to biodegradable materials like paper and cardboard. Avoid plastics and coated materials, as they’re often difficult to recycle. And don’t forget: if you have the patience to carefully remove your own wrapping paper instead of ripping right through, it can be reused! And speaking of reuse…
Platforms like The Real Real, eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace can be absolute treasure troves of barely- or never-used items in near perfect condition, letting you save money while simultaneously saving the environment. More new purchases means more manufacturing, which means more waste and emissions. Remember: in the three R’s of recycling, “reduce” and “reuse” come first.
Support Sustainable Businesses
Doing some extra research can ensure that you’re buying from businesses that are working to reduce their carbon footprints and enact environmentally friendly practices. In doing so, you’re helping those companies compete with their more wasteful counterparts and proving to the market that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive.
There it is: five simple ways to set yourself up for a more sustainable Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and overall holiday season. Nobody’s perfect, and there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, but if we all put in a little extra effort and have a little extra patience, we can make this time of year a lot more environmentally friendly.