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The importance of shopping sustainably this holiday season

The holiday season goes hand-in-hand with exchanging gifts with loved ones, but many of us don’t realize that these acts of kindness are often very harmful to our environment. Wrapping paper, single-use plastics, and packaging materials pile up in the trash this time of year, introducing more pollution into our environment. The good news? There are many ways that we can be more conscious consumers this holiday season.

Known for the great outdoors and an ever growing eco-friendly job market, I’m proud that Colorado has become an environmental leader in many ways. In 2019, Colorado ranked 10th highest for eco-friendly behaviors, but was 21st for environmental friendliness. While that makes me proud, I also believe we can do more to become a greener state. Over the past few years, the state’s recycling rate has gradually dropped from 17.2 percent in 2018 to 15.9 percent in 2019, showing how far we are from reaching our recycling goal of 28 percent by 2021. These are important issues that Coloradans should be concerned about.

As someone who has always cared for the environment, when I realized that the northwestern Denver area had an absence of zero-waste refill shops, I felt compelled to make a career change.

In 2018, I decided to open a shop of my own, JOY FILL, with the goal of boosting community awareness about eco-friendly practices and encouraging people to be more sustainable. My shop allows customers to refill commonly-used products like soaps, deodorant creams, laundry liquids and more, instead of purchasing products in new bottles. By helping reduce single-use plastic waste, we hope to make Colorado a more eco-friendly state.

Like many small businesses, our sales dropped by 50% when the pandemic hit. This was largely due to JOY FILL closing its doors for about six weeks in April and May. We’ve reopened to allow for walk-ins, shop by appointment, curbside pickup, and local delivery. Luckily, we were able to maintain communication with customers on Facebook and fill orders through Instagram’s ‘Shop Now’ tab during shutdowns.

These tools have allowed us to make up for previous lost sales and we hope our sales will be back up to where we started pre-pandemic. We are thrilled to see that Coloradans are making an effort to shop sustainably and locally. Even with the speed bumps COVID threw into our lives, our community has kept their focus on this important issue of saving the planet.

As the holiday season is upon us, a time that is both essential for keeping small businesses afloat, and often detrimental to the environment due to packaging and waste. My hope is that we can be mindful of the footprints we are leaving. Let’s think about the ways we are shopping, wrapping, traveling, and disposing and make the necessary changes to do these things more sustainably. Small changes can lead to huge impacts down the road.

At JOY FILL, we came up with a sustainable holiday gifting guide, that lists easy gift ideas with something for everyone. Our guide includes wool tree ornaments, holiday cloth dish towels, charcoal facial scrub loofahs, reusable coffee mugs, plastic-free bamboo dish brushes, soy candles, and all-natural lotions.

Although being a conscious consumer may seem intimidating, it is much more doable than you may think. So to help those that want to shop green but don’t know where to start, I wanted to provide some ideas and tips to make this easier.

  1. Purchase products with less packaging – Packing containers contribute to municipal waste by roughly 78 million tons. If unavoidable, reuse and/or properly recycle the packaging. At JOY FILL, we offer Terraycle bins which are product-specific and are open for people to utilize. When shopping online with any business, choose the option to deliver with less packaging (even if it delays one of your items by a day). If you have a refill store near you, bring in your empty containers to be refilled and reused over and over again.
  2. Choose both local and organic products – Organic products require about 50% less energy to produce and do not use harmful pesticides. Purchasing local products requires lower transportation costs, less energy, and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
  3. Seek out sustainable products – Making an effort to buy environmentally friendly products will go a long way. You can start this holiday season easily by checking out this sustainable holiday gift guide that I’ve curated.

There are endless resources out there to help you become a more conscious consumer. Visit our website for specific information about proper recycling and composting methods. You can also head over to our nonprofit partners like Groundwork Denver and Conservation Colorado, which help inspire community action and offer great information about how to keep our state clean.

Brittany Iseli 2 Brittany Iseli is the Owner and Founder of JOY FILL.