Local Shopping vs. No-Waste Delivery—What’s the Greener Choice?

Is shopping locally better than utilizing no-waste product delivery services? Does zero waste packaging offset the cost and carbon footprint of goods transport?

We can't control the packaging that our food comes in -- when we buy food from the grocery store or when we order takeout.

Beauty subscription box with compostable packing.

However, we can make better choices about where to shop and what businesses to support. Retailers and restaurants have started to use no-waste packaging to be eco-friendly. This no-waste movement is still pretty uncommon in restaurants and delivery services. There are many cheaper, single-use alternative plastic materials available to use. Even with no-waste or reusable packaging services, there is an environmental impact. This impact is something to consider when choosing where to spend your money -- online, or locally. Another point I want to go over is the cost to consumers when choosing no-waste services.

Unwrapping the Cost: Is Zero-Waste Packaging Really Affordable?

There are now waste-free grocery and health products available to buy online. The products available as subscription services intend that you reuse the packaging. There are also services where you send the used packaging back to be recycled or reused.

How affordable and accessible are these kinds of services to all? Waste-free grocery delivery companies usually have added costs associated with these services. The average person may be unable to spend the extra money to make the switch to waste-free shopping.

For example, I often buy an 84-count probiotic from our local grocery, for about $54. The company claims that they have reduced the packaging of the probiotics by over 60%. They say they care about reducing packaging to be more sustainable.

To Ship or Not to Ship? The Carbon Footprint Conundrum

A popular no-waste, sustainable delivery service of probiotics costs over $50 a month. You receive the probiotics in a reusable glass jar with a glass travel jar. The follow-up shipments are 60 capsules in a compostable package (still at the monthly $50 cost). If I took a probiotic from my local grocery, it would cost about $275 a year. The no-waste service would cost over $600.

This is to illustrate that there is an added cost associated with using no-waste services. Even for something like a supplement or probiotic.

Still, there is a logistical and physical waste involved with shipping waste-free services. 

Beauty subscription box with compostable packing.

There is a lower carbon footprint involved with direct-to-consumer products. But it's still a viable option to buy these same products at your local stores. You could pick products that have reusable packaging. Or you can be intentional about how you discard it.

It is a way more accessible option to most people. More companies are recognizing that sustainability is important to their customers. These businesses are trying to reduce the waste that they are creating in their packages.

The Price Tag of Sustainable Subscription Services

A few years ago, there was a waste-free deodorant that was only available as a subscription online. I can now buy this brand at our local Walmart. But the cost is still double or triple the price of other deodorants that are recyclable.

The choice between these products and services is a personal one. If we had the money, I'm sure we'd get the one with less environmental impact. But the costs associated with these products price them out of most peoples' budgets. I'd opt for the no-waste services if I could afford it. Sometimes there aren't similar sustainable products in my area. This issue makes sustainable subscription services attractive.

But, in the case of the probiotic, I don’t need another reusable glass jar. The color and packaging of their items are gorgeous, and I’d be happy to reuse that. I wouldn't keep up with the refill shipments due to the cost. Subscriptions can remove the choice involved with shopping -- but I like that choice. I enjoy the routine and gratification that comes with buying items right now, near me. If I could find products here that were much cheaper, I would buy them.

Shopkeeper filling a glass jar in a sustainable, zero-waste store.

Small Local Gems: Where Zero-Waste Meets Community

Do you have stores near you that have no-waste products? There are farms in my area that will deliver subscription boxes to local checkpoints in town. Using these types of services, you get to support a local farmer and still lower the carbon footprint.

Our town even has a no-waste storefront! We’re able to buy a home, beauty, and a few grocery goods from her store, which are all packaged in zero waste materials. If we wanted to go a bit more commercial, we also have a Fresh Market a few miles away.

Our Future of Frugality and Sustainability 

There are always options near you that are likely better than a subscription service -- but you've got to look.

I'm hoping the price of no-waste goods goes down, and that they are more accessible. The associated cost and limited availability in our area are going to keep sending me to the local store.

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