The theme of the month here at CWPE has been waste reduction. We've always been a pretty eco-conscious shop, but lately we've decided to step it up a notch, especially with all the talk in the media about plastic straws and all the recent changes to how plastic is recycled.
When you run a shop that receives and ships out LOTS of packages each day it's totally impossible to even dream of being a zero-waste place, but we've always had some policies in place that have helped us. For example, we always re-use the packing materials from the boxes we receive while we're packing customer orders, no matter how strange it might be. On a good month we hardly have to use any new materials for cushioning boxes. Even with a lot of little everyday things, we decided that we could do better.
For the past month we've been doing a challenge where we have been trying to eliminate food and beverage packaging waste. I made a chart for our office with a system of color coded stickers, one for beverages, one for food and a bonus sticker for a five day streak. We've been making an extra effort to pack our lunches and bring our own cups and jars to our local coffee shop. Even at home we've all been trying harder not to buy food products that come in packaging. The thing that I've learned from this month is that a little bit of effort goes a long way. It's amazing how many little lifestyle changes happen when you start looking at things through a waste reduction lens. In this past month we've all been eating healthier and saving a lot of money, all things that we feel good about and things that have made us think about how we'll continue once our challenge is officially over. I'll admit though--it's a lot harder to snack on a giant full sized carrot than it is a bag of baby carrots, but I think that's a change I'll stick with.
But, let's be honest: no one's perfect and a lot of really delicious and fun things come in packaging. We all really miss the snacks that we would usually treat ourselves to from the bodega on the corner. I miss the sandwiches at Cheeky's down the street and I would really like to go back to my favorite fruit stand for a fresh watermelon slush. My personal conclusion is that everything is okay in moderation as long as we're making a valiant effort the majority of the time. I won't not buy something for the shop because it comes in wasteful packaging, I'll just try harder to re-purpose it. I'll buy package free when I can and pass on things that don't seem worth the waste. We'll always package our pencils to protect them but we're thinking about starting a zero packaging program in the shop.
Next time your receive an order from us, think about what you can do to reuse the packaging that it came in. Write a letter with the envelope. Re-use the box for shipping or storage. Save the string to wrap a future gift. There's always more we can do and the more I adjust my lifestyle to be less wasteful the more I realize that I don't lose much, if anything, when I give up things that I don't feel ethically or environmentally okay with.
Photo: cute toilet paper packaging from Who Gives a Crap, a company that makes toilet paper out of recycled paper products and uses no plastic packaging. We're saving all of the wrapping papers to write letters on/use for collages.