I’m a firm believer that you don’t always have to take the bad with the good. Sometimes, if you take positive action, you actually get to take the good with the good! Take, for instance, helping to reduce the significant pollution of our water systems and other environmental resources resulting from product packaging—or, more accurately, overpackaging. We’ve had many Water Street discussions (covering everything from microplastics and phosphates to straws and contact lenses) that demonstrate how such heavy reliance on plastics and other packaging negatively impacts water resources and, consequently, wildlife, human life and sustainability. We’ve made important points by showing how the reduction of packaging can be good for the environment. But, until now we haven’t shown how it can be even “more good” in terms of value to you, the consumer.
I’ll start by saying that plastic isn’t the only packaging culprit. Paper bag production generates 50 times more water pollutants and 70% more air pollutants than plastic bag production, so we must take care to not simply gravitate to paper as the responsible alternative for packaging. If protecting our water resources and environmental beauty and sustainability isn’t motivation enough for you to always choose products with less packaging, consider a few other benefits to you that can come with it.
- Saving money. It’s estimated that for every $10 you spend on products, 10 % of that is tossed into the trash as packaging.
- Saving more money. The more packaging consumers throw away, the more waste management companies have to pay to cart it to a landfill, recycle it and/or incinerate it. Those increased costs have to be covered somehow, and that most likely means an increased service fee to you.
- Saving more money again and again! At the end of the day, reducing packaging should reduce retailer costs and, ultimately, the cost you pay for products.
- Economy of store space. Less packaging means more room on store shelves. This can mean greater variety of choices for you as a shopper. It may also mean more of each product on the shelves, eliminating the number of times you end up saying, “There’s only one left and I need three!”
- Economy of your space. Imagine the added shelf space in your pantry, refrigerator, closets, etc., if you reduce the packaging by 25, 50 or 100%.
Ultimately, I hope people choose products with less packaging and environmentally friendlier packaging because it’s the right thing to do (if you need a Water Pollution 101 refresher course, this article does a great job). But major players, including Target, Walmart, ALDI, Kroger and Amazon, are setting goals for drastically reducing plastic and paper packaging for their products—making it likely that in the not-too-distant future, consumers won’t have a choice. Until then, our water systems and our planet are counting on consumers to make the responsible choices. And those choices, as shown above, can bring added value to you and your wallet!