Business Packaging Waste Reduction Pilot Project

Zero Waste Humboldt logo

Maggie Gainer, Zero Waste Humboldt

The online buying culture created by Amazon Prime is attractive to increasing numbers of consumers because of its extreme convenience. But this convenience comes at tremendous hidden environmental costs. With the rise of e-commerce, the expedited shipping means purchases are over-boxed and not consolidated, leading to more trucks required to deliver them, and ever-increasing packaging waste. U.S. waste management companies report increases of 20% and more in corrugated cardboard collected at the curb.


An American Chemistry Council study reported that the environmental cost to society of consumer plastic products and packaging  was over $139 billion in 2015. Without a dramatic change in course, the ACC report predicted the annual figure will be “$209 billion by 2025.”


Researchers are calculating that e-commerce adds to more traffic congestion, more air pollution, and more cardboard, plastic bubble wrap, plastic air pillows, styrofoam wrapping, insulation liners, and labels to landfills.


An additional cost to shopping online is that it threatens the very viability of locally-owned stores in our communities. This is certainly the case for businesses on the Redwood Coast.


Locally, Lisa Enge is spearheading a Zero Waste Humboldt pilot project to reduce Arcata business packaging waste.  The Arcata Business Packaging Waste Reduction Project will start during Earth Week in April by determining how much and what type of reusable packaging waste is generated by downtown Arcata businesses. Lisa worked for many years at Northtown Books and is known to many Arcata business owners and managers. She has personally experienced the frustration of dealing with excessive layers of cardboard, paper, and plastics after shipments arrive.  Over the years, Lisa has heard the same frustration from other businesses. To facilitate the exchange of reusable packaging waste, this project will set up an online information center.

Business Alley in Downtown Arcata

 Many of the solutions to waste are found in Zero Waste reuse methods. The project goal is to exchange reusable packaging waste and reduce the overhead cost for storage, garbage and recycling collection for local businesses. ZWH will track reduced waste and translate that into greenhouse gas reduction. To learn more and participate in this pilot project , email

Zero Waste Zebras. Credit: Maggie Gainer

Zero Waste Zebras

The Zero Waste Zebras will soon be ready for parades and festivals for youth groups and after school programs that want to learn about waste reduction. Thanks to artist Maureen McGarry and ZWH friends and volunteers for making these papier mache ZW Zebras! To invite the ZW Zebras for your youth group to learn through Zero Waste activities, email