Minimize holiday shipping waste

"Cat sits in a pile of bubble wrap"

By: Keri Greenwalt

With so many purchases taking place online this year, it is important to be mindful of the ways we are negatively impacting the environment and to make efforts to minimize them. Here are some tips to ensure your holiday purchasing is a little closer to zero waste, while possibly saving time and money in the process.

Think about what you are purchasing 

Does the recipient really need (or even want) the gift you have in mind? Maybe giving a great story would be better than a newly manufactured item. Giving a great story means thinking beyond brand new items and finding gifts that create new memories with your family and friends (even if they must be virtual). Whether it’s the anticipation of the experiences you will share, the thoughtfulness of having a beloved item repaired, or the excitement of receiving a reused item that has lived a life before getting to you; giving a great story means a personal gift that shows you care about your loved one and the environment.  

Consolidate purchases, whenever possible 

Rather than placing orders with several different merchants or multiple orders with the same merchant, consider making a single large purchase. Some stores also offer an option to ship your items in as few shipments as possible. These are great ways to decrease the number of shipments heading to your destination, which saves on vehicle emissions and unnecessary packing materials. 

Consider curbside pickup 

If the store you are making the purchase from is close by, consider opting for contactless curbside pickup, rather than shipping the item to your door. This can minimize the need for extra boxes and packing materials to be used. Plus, some items may even be available for same-day pickup so you could get your item sooner while also saving yourself the cost of shipping fees. 

Reuse what you can 

  • When shipping gifts out to recipients, try padding items in the package with layers of newspaper, rather than purchasing new packing items like bubble wrap.  

  • Save boxes, shipping envelopes, bubble wrap, air pockets packing peanuts and paper stuffing from shipments you receive to reuse when you mail out packages.  

  • If you can’t reuse the shipping materials yourself, consider giving them to a neighbor or friend who may be able to put them to use. Styrofoam packing peanuts can be donated for reuse. 

  • If you must purchase shipping materials, opt for items that are made out of recycled material.

Recycle what can’t be reused 

Learn what can be recycled and how to properly do so. 

  • Cardboard boxes, paper envelopes, newspaper, wrapping paper (that is free of foil and glitter), brown paper wrap and stuffing can be recycled in your blue recycling cart. If you have more than what will fit in your cart, place additional recyclables in a cardboard box or a reusable container next to your cart. Extra recycling will be collected at no charge. If you find that you often have extra recyclables and would like to request an additional blue cart, free of charge, call 512-494-9400. 

  • Wrapping paper with foil or glitter cannot be recycled must be placed in the trash. 

  • Stretchy plastic film can be recycled, but not in your blue cart because they jam up the sorting machines at recycling facilities. Items like plastic bags, bubble wrap and air pockets must be dropped off for recycling

  • Styrofoam is not accepted in your blue cart but can be dropped off for recycling. 

  • Poly mailers cannot be recycled so place those in your brown trash cart.