Tip of the Week: Smart packaging

Tip of the week

Tip of the Week: Avoid over-packaging!

This series is all about how to reduce your reliance on plastics. And the tip of the week is to avoid buying items over packaged in plastics.

We are making good progress by not taking a plastic bag at the checkout, but what about before you get there? Think critically about the packaging of your items.

Product packaging really has two main purposes:
1- it has to convey info about the product
2- it needs to get the product from the manufacturer to the shopper in good shape.

Even though packaging serves a purpose, it is easy to go overboard with layer upon layer of needless plastics. Excess packaging wastes resources, bumps up the cost of products, is bad for the planet, and undermines recycling.

The time has come to put a stop to this waste of resources. Most modern consumers have grown used to this over-packaging and prefer to buy the more heavily packaged items as they are perceived to be “cleaner” than the unpackaged ones.

But of course this perception has no base in reality.
Packaging might keep the item from getting any dirtier, but it certainly doesn’t ensure the item was clean in the first place.

Most items you’re buying were:

-Grown from dirt
-Created in a dirty factory
-Touched by many, many, many workers
-Most likely, sneezed on, coughed on, and/or dropped on the floor

All before ever getting into the packaging.
You can only be certain an item is clean if you’ve washed it once you’ve taken it home.

Many items have packaging that goes way above and beyond what is needed. When shopping, I avoid items with excessive packaging. Otherwise, by the time I get home and unpack everything,  I feel as though I just bought a bag full of trash.

Here are some “top-offenders” to avoid:

1. Snack packs or 100-calorie servings, which tend to be highly packaged. Instead, buy in bulk and pack your own. Bulk will also be a heck of a lot cheaper for you in the end.

2. Individually packaged items. Products like a box of cookies are sometimes individually packaged inside the box. WHY? This just junks up the planet and it takes me longer to eat all the cookies. That’s a massive loss all-around.

3. Bottled water. In most cases across North America, this is extremely needless over packaging of an item that doesn’t need  a package at all. Either go for tap water and a reusable bottle, or invest in a water filter.

4. Fruits and veggies wrapped in film and styrofoam. Both of these types of plastics are notoriously hard to recycle. Look for unwrapped produce instead.


5. Air fresheners. These items are made of plastic themselves, with plastic inserts, and then packaged in two (or more!) layers of plastics. Opt instead for potpourri, houseplants, or opening a window.

6. Single use coffee pods. The epitome of sacrificing the planet for personal convenience. These single use plastics create a immense amount of plastic refuse incredibly quickly. Instead opt for coffee brewed in a more traditional method which generally just uses ground coffee beans and  hot water.

7. Online purchases. Buying online means extra shipping packaging, usually in the form of hard to recycle items like styrofoam, peanuts, bubble wrap, shrink wrap, packing tape, and air pillows. If it’s possible, make your purchases in-person.

Other ways to make your eco-choices heard:

Avoid purchasing over-packaged products. If you don’t like a product’s packaging, skip it the next time you’re shopping and buy another brand. If two comparable products that you’re looking to purchase are otherwise completely comparable, use packaging as the deciding factor.

Learn what kinds of packaging can be recycled. Packaging is often made from lower grade plastic which are more difficult to find recycling markets for.

Buy local. Locally crafted or grown products which tend to have less packaging.

Leave it at the retailer. Some companies are actively encouraging consumers to leave the packaging at the door—all in the name of then environment. London Drugs encourages shoppers to drop off packaging for recycling at the customer service desk.

Support the right retailers: Another strategy is to support retailers that have a packaging reduction plan in place, or ask your preferred retailers to stock products with less packaging.

Buy in bulk or buy larger sizes. Smaller sizes often use more packaging per ounce of product. This will save on the packaging and save you some cash.

Buy products that use recycled materials in packaging. Eggs in cardboard cartons are packaged in a container with recycled content and is a better option than those packaged in plastic or styrofoam.

Buy used. Used items often have no packaging whatsoever.

Make environmental concern part of your consumer identity. Local retailers and fast food outlets can be encouraged to use packaging with recycled content, packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable options.

Don’t buy at all. This is the most environmentally friendly and economical option. Before you buy, ask yourself if you really need the product at all.

If you have any other great tips, please share them in the comments!


For more tips on reducing your plastics please check out my previous tips here:

Dope Soaps


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2 Responses to Tip of the Week: Smart packaging

  1. Susan says:

    I was surprised yesterday shopping for mushrooms at any old store that I don’t usually go to to find ALL the mushrooms in styrofoam and plastic wrap except white mushrooms in bulk. I wanted brown, but bought the white. You’re such a good influence!

  2. Lynn Bee says:

    Yes, pre-packaged mushrooms is a new (and unfortunate) trend. Glad to hear you are doing some smart shopping! Keep up the good work!

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