The When, Why and How of Shopping Local

While free two-day shipping and browsing in your PJs may sound enticing, these conveniences come at a cost. But I am not here to preach. You already know that expedited shipping is fuel-intensive, requires excessive single-use packaging and supports subpar working conditions for Amazon employees. What you may not know is how shopping—yes, buying new things—can have a positive impact. But before we get there, I want to talk about when a self-proclaimed low-waster should reject those feelings of environmental guilt and purchase new.

When Do I Buy New?

When I first began going low waste I was a hardcore DIY-er, I crocheted produce bags, made deodorant and grow my own herbs. Then life happened, I started a business, got married, became a cat mother and the time for DIY-ing disappeared. Now I use store-bought produce bags, deodorant in a glass jar and get my herbs from a CSA.

So when do I buy things new? Keep in mind this is my personal philosophy, as you develop your own low waste habits your approach may differ.

When Thrifting isn’t an Option

Sometimes you need something specific and no matter how often you scour the shelves of St. Vinny’s you just can’t find it. This is the story of my nut milk bag. I was wasting money on cheesecloth while I waited for a nut bag to fall into my lap. When I finally broke down and purchased one new I realized how silly I was to wait so long. If you know a product is going to reduce your waste and save you money, don't worry about buying it new. You will not be “zero waste” tomorrow or frankly, ever, so don’t beat yourself up for purchasing new, get excited for the waste reduction you will have for years to come.

When I Can’t DIY/Grow it

Soaps and other cleaning products are fun to make but if you don’t have the time ethical, sustainable and local companies are out there. One of my favorites is Little Seed Farm, their products smell amazing and are made on a solar-powered farm in Tennessee.

When I Can’t Do Without it

Can you do without a bamboo straw? Probably. But can you do without a toothbrush? Please don’t.

When I Want to Support a Local Artist or Other Local Business

This is where I sometimes feel guilty making purchases, I struggle to buy things I don’t need, especially when they are new. But how can I expect support from my community if I do not support them? Artists are an important part of local economies and are hugely influential in making environmental and social justice issues viable. Just like my business, local artists buy their paper, ink, and clay locally. And like me they spend their money and make charitable contributions locally, keeping the cash flowing within our communities.

My recent art splurges have been an illustration by T.L. Luke Art and a vase by Madeleine Parker Pottery. Did I need these products at all? No. Am I happy I splurged them? Very.

Why is Shopping Local Good?


Shipping is responsible for over 17% of worldwide CO2 emissions. This can be reduced by shopping local, we’re not just talking about your order making it from the store to your home. We’re talking about the entire operation of a business. For example, all businesses need paper, but a Wisconsin company is more likely to buy paper from a Wisconsin paper mill, reducing transportation and CO2 emissions. Local purchases also contribute to less traffic congestion, habitat loss, and resource depletion. At Green Life Trading Co. we buy carbon offsets to make up for our shipping emissions.

Your transportation is another factor in why shopping local reduces your carbon footprint. Big box stores require more land so they tend to be further from downtowns, this encourages people to drive instead of walk or bike. Since local stores are smaller they are able to populate downtowns and neighborhoods (in our case, local pickups), they are accessible to pedestrians and much easier to access by public transport, reducing drive times and CO2 emissions.


The packaging is another concern. 40% of the plastic produced is for single-use packaging, used once, then disposed of. This doesn't even account for the 100 billion cardboard boxes produced each year that are thrown away after only one use. Buying local reduces the need for plastic-heavy packaging and in many cases, packaging at all. At Green Life Trading Co. we reuse all the boxes and filler our products come in.


Local businesses support each other and local non-profits. This circles back to why I even included a section about supporting local artists and other local business. Local businesses provide almost 350% more support to non-profits than non-locally owned stores. On top of that, local businesses reinvest 64% of their revenue back into the community, almost double the 33% that national chains reinvest.

Supporting local also feels good. Community members are more connected when they have casual encounters at neighborhood businesses and public spaces. These encounters build relationships and strengthen community cohesiveness. They make us feel like we’re part of something, and that feels good.

How Local Pickups Work

So how do you shop local with an online retailer? Well, if you’re in Madison, come pick up your order! When placing your order, select Local Pickup at checkout, shortly after you will receive an email with the pickup deets. It will look something like this…

Upcoming pickups are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:30-6:30pm at Black Locust Cafe (829 E. Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53703). If this time does not work for you we are happy to accommodate your schedule, just contact us at to schedule your pickup. We ask that you retrieve your package within two weeks of your order unless other arrangements have been made.

When you arrive look for the Green Life Trading Co. chalkboard with your name on it. It’s that easy! 

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