5 Tips for More Sustainable Shopping

By Andrea Davis on November 20, 2023

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become staples of the holiday season. What started as one day in which countless shoppers waited in line for a chance at the best deals of the year has expanded to multiple days of savings and more easily accessible online bargains.

Of course, the rise in online shopping means higher amounts of product and packaging waste. On Black Friday alone, around 80% of the products bought are thrown away, incinerated or improperly recycled.  

Fear not, we’re here to help! In this post, you’ll learn how to reduce waste during the sale days, what to do with the waste from your packages and how to properly dispose of your old products. And although we’re kicking this off right before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, most of these tips can be applied to your shopping throughout the year. 

1. Make a list

As always, the most sustainable option is to reduce waste before you produce it. Black Friday and Cyber Monday returns add up to 2 billion kilograms of unused inventory that gets thrown away. Returns also move items through the shipment process three times, using large amounts of diesel fuel and adding carbon dioxide emissions with each step back through the supply chain.

Planning out your purchases is an easy solution to buying things you might not use. Make sure it’s realistic. Include items you need as well as items you have been wanting to buy. A list can also help you make sure you get everything you need, so you don’t miss anything when it goes on sale.

When all else fails, refer to your list and remember why you included the items you did and why others didn’t make the cut.

2. Take time away

If you feel yourself being pulled in by an item not on your list, you might need to take a moment away from your screen. Taking just 30 minutes before pulling the trigger can help you clear your head and avoid impulse buying. Think about why you want the item, and why it isn’t something you added to your list. Your break may also help remember that many online stores have lengthened end dates for sales during the holidays, so you don’t have to buy right away.

3. Know your packaging

Before deciding where to buy, do some research to find out how your product will be packaged when it arrives. Biodegradable and compostable packaging are good options as they are designed to break down easily. Remember, neither packaging type should be put in recycling. Both are designed to break down easily when placed in your trash cart, but only compostable packaging should be used in compost.

Most cardboard and boxboard types are recyclable, but foams and plastic films will not be accepted in your curbside recycling. Look for packaging made from mostly one material, because it will have a greater chance of being recyclable at a location near you. If you want to be sure you’re disposing of your delivery’s packaging correctly, learn more about cardboard and boxboard here or holiday packaging here. 

4. Participate in other seasonal days

There are a few great alternatives to Black Friday and Cyber Monday out there. If you’re looking to do your shopping in a more sustainable way, check out these options.

Swap Day is a great day to participate in if you would like to include friends or family. You and others can bring older items and swap them, rather than buying new products.

Buy Secondhand Day is a notable way to get items from your list for less money and without producing added waste!

There are plenty more days that can help you avoid buying things you don’t need. If any of these sound interesting, you can find more by looking for substitutes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

5. Brush up on your waste knowledge

Use your list to figure out what you’re going to replace or get rid of. After you’ve chosen your packaging, you’re ready to complete your last step as a Black Friday waste pro. Since you know where the bulk of your waste will be coming from, you can prepare in advance for how you will dispose of it.

You now know what to do with the packaging from your orders, but you might plan on replacing some older appliances or electronics. In most cases, local stores or centers will take back electronics, as long as the batteries have been removed. Get more details on disposing of your electronics here.

Small appliances like coffee makers or toasters are fine to place in your weekly trash collection. Larger appliances can often be picked up or brought to one of our disposal centers and will most often be recycled. Get help on disposing of old appliances here.


Now, you’re prepared to take on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and various other shopping adventures throughout the year. 

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