Have you ever found yourself annoyed at the twelve trash bags of non-recyclable wrapping paper, packing peanuts and bubble wrap that seems to accumulate during the winter holiday season? If so, you’re not alone.
The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the most joyous times of year for many, but analyses have shown that waste production increases 25% during this six-week period, equating to 1 million extra tons of trash each year across America.
Unlike recycling, which is designed to manage the amount of waste produced, zero-waste is a method to eliminate trash altogether. For environmentalists, this approach is suggested as the first step consumers should take, only using recycling as a backup with zero-waste cannot be attained. Recycling is still an important component of waste management, but strict rules on what can and cannot be recycled (and confusion around the regulations) from town to town often cause entire batches of recycling to have to be discarded.
Consequently, only a shocking 9% of plastics disposed of to be recycled actually are recycled, according to a July 2017 peer-reviewed study. The rest are incinerated (~12%; which created greenhouse gases) or sent to a landfill (~79%).
In an effort to curb this trend, an increasing number of small (and sometimes medium-sized) businesses have adopted zero-waste options for gift giving. Incremental efforts across the country can make a huge difference not only in the holistic health of our planet, but also can help limit the adverse health effects to communities in close proximity to waste processing plants and incineration centers, which have been well documented. By supporting companies embarking on zero-waste efforts with packaging and even production, you can do your part to better the world.
Based In: Boulder, Colorado
What it is: EarthHero is an eco-friendly, online marketplace, widely considered to be the best sustainable shopping option to Amazon.com, with offerings across home and kitchen, travel, kids, beauty, and even sustainability starter packs. A 1% For The Planet company, EarthHero has almost everything you could want, and they only partner with well-vetted sustainable brands.
Based in: Eugene, Oregon What it is: Marley’s Monsters is a woman-owned, small business that has risen to popularity over the past year and a half for its cloth-based alternatives to home paper products, which are homemade in Oregon. Originally offering UNPaper Towels (a hit during pandemic times and supply chain issues), the company now boasts a wide swath of kitchen, laundry, beauty, and baby items to help minimize your carbon footprint. The store has a standalone website as well as an Etsy store, for convenient shopping.
Based in: Ventura, California
What it is: The Refill Shoppe is an award-winning, woman-owned small business with online shopping as well as brick-and-mortar locations. Originally founded in 2010 and laser-focused on zero waste, TRS’s offerings are mainly in the bath and beauty sector, and have recently expanded to home cleaning options, too. In 1993, founder Michelle Williams was featured in a local Florida newspaper at age 10 for her efforts alongside other environmentally-minded children to plant trees in their neighborhood.
Based in: Athens, Georgia
What it is: Originally started as a sustainability blog about her home, Tiny Yellow Bungalow founder Jessie quickly channeled her rave reviews and loyal readership to a zero-waste home store. Ideal for someone looking to buy a gift outside of the kitchen product department, Tiny Yellow Bungalow has a large selection of bath and body options, ceramics, homeware, and most recently, The Zero Waste Vegan Cookbook.
Based in: Tacoma, Washington
What it is: Self-branding itself as an “eco-warrior,” A Drop In The Ocean has become known for its personal care products and TSA-approved travel essentials (great for a gift this season as people get on the move again). The zero-waste company has an ambitious target to plant 10 trees for every order and is also a 1% For The Planet partner. Customers have become particularly loyal to the seasonal soap subscription box. Shipping may include using third-party, upcycled boxes, so don’t be alarmed if you see other logos on the cardboard!