The biggest thing we can do to minimize our carbon footprint as an online retailer is small box sizes. Why? Less material for the garbage and recycling bins. Less room on a truck or a plane. Less gas to transport the box from our warehouse to the customer. Less waste for our land and oceans.
An added bonus - less breakage! The tighter the items are packed, the less they break. But there's another retailer who we won't speak of, who sends us larger boxes than the products need.
So here are the things we do to minimize our impact of SwitchGrocery on the planet:
Small Box Sizes
Our smallest box is 6 x 4 x 4 inches! It's so small that we've actually gotten emails at customer service when people receive their orders telling us we missed something but once they open, they find everything in the box! This is our most intentional decision to reduce our carbon footprint.
Types of Materials
When you open a box from SwitchGrocery, there are no branded materials (box, tape, custom packaging). We use post consumer brown paper to cushion the glass jars. This has actually shown to have less breaks than plastic. There are times where we have to use plastic to minimize breaks, but we have reduced that significantly.
Every extra piece of packaging, no matter how pretty it is, that our Customer Friends receive from a shop (generally) ends up in recycling. A lot of recycling is not processed appropriately by processing centers. Wow.
Now, we need to balance this with the branding and that we want our Customer Friends to know when they get something in the mail from us.
So we settled on 2 pieces:
1) A green SwitchGrocery sticker that goes on the box. For a long time, this has been our only extra. It's simple and small and goes on the outside of the box!
2) A letter from me to our Customer Friends. We removed the invoice in lieu of email confirmations.
Our labels and inserts are printed by an incredible small business in Toronto, Screen Art Digital. Fun fact: they also do work for the Royal Ontario Museum!
The Suppliers We Work With
Where possible, we choose suppliers who prioritize the environment.
Bake In A Minute has moved to compostable packaging. It's not pretty, but that's not important because it continues to be one of our best sellers!
1 large 228 serving Tub of JOI nutmilk base saves 60 nutmilk cartons from landfill.
Pili Hunters Pili Nuts need zero irrigation water compared to almonds which need an enormous amount of water to grow.
What can you do during minimize the impact of your online shopping?
Online shopping is here to stay. With the recent lockdown, quarantine, stay at home in Canada (and in Ontario, our company's home province), we know that online shopping is not going anywhere. Here are my recommendations:
- Buy More and Less Often - Do you place a $30 order from the same company every month? If you can consolidate this order into a larger order every quarter, you will save on shipping fees and lower your carbon footprint. I've started applying this in all areas of my life - personal care products and groceries, AND stayed within my budget!
- Demand a Small Box - Ask for smaller boxes and less materials. YOUR VOICE COUNTS! Write to the largest online retailer in North America, Amazon, or tweet at them to start using smaller box sizes.
- Do not return items, when possible - In many cases, companies cannot sell returned for health and safety reasons. Our policy is not to accept returns for food items. Also, when it comes to non food items, almost ALL of the items returned to Amazon Canada ended up in landfill according to an independent CBC investigation. Read this post by our friends Hip Mommies.
Shop with our Small Business Friends
We have friends in the industry who are setting higher standards.
Hip Mommies is a family run online shop that curates thoughtful and proven safe products for babies and toddlers that are manufactured in a responsible way. They ship across Canada.
truLOCAL Meats is an online shop that curates locally sourced meat products directly from farmers. They ship across Ontario, Alberta, BC and Quebec. They also just started shipping in parts of the US! They use compostable packaging where possible and reduce trips to the grocery store with their subscriptions!
We have a voice
I was concerned about our sustainability impact and impact on the environment. But a close friend told me, “you can’t change an industry from the outside (don’t quit) and you don’t do it in one step.”
As an online retailer that ships packaged food, I thought there wasn't much we could do to take care of our planet. I was wrong!
As a consumer that purchases a lot online (yes, even from the largest online retailer we shall not name), I thought there wasn't much impact I could have. I was wrong.
So next time you open a box from SwitchGrocery, please know that that the ugly brown paper is choice! A choice for our Customer Friends, the future generation and our planet.
Thank you for your orders and supporting SwitchGrocery. You make a choice every time you shop with us. I hope you'll join me in celebrating sexy brown paper!