So one of the things that's come up lately in the zero waste community has been access to eco-friendly products without needing to shell out lots of money or needing to get it shipped from halfway across the country or needing to purchase it a from a specialty store. The more I read about sustainability too, the more I notice that it is deemed "special". Products are advertised as unique, but this description makes it seem like what we are doing to reduce waste and live a more green life is somehow special and out of reach for others.
Yes, we live in a society that favors disposables. Yes, we live in a society and promotes consumption, BUT, what we need to start doing is to normalize eco-friendly living and make it as easy and as seamless to do as conventional living. I want to start seeing natural products in the same aisle as conventional products. Shouldn't natural products be the norm, not the special outlier? Let the consumer decide which products to get, but don't hype up natural and eco-friendly products as somehow unique and more expensive. Let's put them out in the open and showcase them.
Personally, I'm also trying to reduce what I order online after seeing all of the boxes we accumulated from Amazon purchases. I completely understand that there some things that may be easier to obtain online, but there's a cost to accessing everything online at the push of a button. We lose sight of what we really need and we get use to instant gratification. We stop thinking if we really need an item and the lines between want and need become nonexistent. Yes, I want something, but just because it's inexpensive, it will arrive at my door in less a day and I don't need to leave my house for it doesn't mean it is needed and necessary.
I've also had some bad experience with Amazon sending over "fake" items. Amazon holds so much in their warehouses that it's easy for these companies to fake logos, boxes and products and sell them like the real thing so now I am very weary of purchasing things from Amazon and larger retailers without really being able to touch and see the item.
With that, I thought I would do a quick round up of items I've found at TJMaxx that are eco-friendly. For me, there's a TJMaxx, Homegoods or Marshalls within a 1 mile proximity of where I live and I know it's a common store so hopefully this will be helpful for those that don't want to buy online and those that don't want to have to go to a specialty store. Big caveat here too that you do not need to buy anything new to start living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Use what you have. Wear it out and then invest in products that last a long time. Second caveat here too is that places like TJMaxx can get you to spend on things that are unnecessary. Note this when you go in. Really understand what you need vs. want vs. that shiny thing that looks nice and is only a few dollars. Everything adds up. Whether it's money, time or waste.
Tips Before Going In
Stores like TJMaxx can be a treasure trove of STUFF. This can be dangerous if you are not careful so before going, list and write down what you absolutely NEED. Write down the criteria for those items so that you don't compromise on quality or price. It's helpful to have this list handy so that anytime you are at store, you know what you need and do not get caught up by the marketing hype around you.
Do a walk through without your wallet. This allows you to see what's there without being tempted to buy. See what kinds of brands the particular store has. Jot down and take photos so that you can do your research online.
Carefully review each item. What about it fits your sustainability criteria? Is it plastic free? Is it made of natural materials? Is this the size that you are looking for? Will it complement what you already have? Do you already have a duplicate of it, but this one just looks nicer? It's easy to buy things because they look nice on the shelf or it seems like a great price, but in the end, it's still stuff. I know part of the appeal of going into stores like TJMaxx is that it feels like a treasure hunt, you never know what you will find and at what bargain so keep this mind.
What To Get
Stores like TJMaxx have a ton of stuff so shop wisely. Look for reusable staples. At the TJMaxx next to me, there's a ton of reusable, stainless, steel water bottles from great brands like Hydroflask, Samsonite, Camelback, etc. at half the cost of what you may find online. I know these brands are pretty durable so it's worth looking at. Look for storage containers to keep food fresh and lunch easy to carry. I know I've had hit or miss when going to my thrift stores as there is either a limited about of glass jars or it's not the size that I needed so finding these larger jars can be great to add to your kitchen collection.
With stores like TJMaxx, it's good to browse all sections for potential items. I've found inexpensive, all natural sponges in compostable packaging in the kitchen and bath section. Check out things that you want to transition too like moving towards a French press or towards a reusable coffee filter for your Keurig. There are so many options that all it takes is an open mind.
Some folks aren't yet comfortable gifting thrifted items so take a look and see what kind of eco-friendly gift options are available. Perhaps, cloth kitchen towels, wooden spoons for the new homeowner or even nice options for planters.
Food. If you've browsed around the kitchen department, you'll likely see lots of food options. Check out some of the staples that you can add to your pantry and that come in recyclable containers like pure coconut oil in glass containers, Himalayan sea salt and other spices in glass containers or even loose leaf tea in cans. TJMaxx has a lot of gourmet and fancy sauces and products that you can take advantage of as well.
Don't forget to also check out some of the beauty products available. They do have some great brands that make organic, cruelty free products if you look closely. I've been seeing a lot of essential oils lately at my local store. I'm a little hesitant to promote these as I've read a good amount of reviews about the sources of essential oils in general so this is not just for oils you find at TJMaxx, but everywhere in general. Just something to consider and keep in mind. The Eco Princess Fae and The Budget Babe has a good list of items that you should keep an eye on if you are looking for eco-friendly, cruelty free beauty items.
Last Few Words
Part of the reason, stores like TJMaxx exists is because there is an oversupply of goods in the market that certain retailers and distributors cannot sell. This goes back to the nature of our current market continuously producing and hoping someone else on the other side consumes. This is inherently a challenge that our current economy needs to address. In the meantime though, we as consumers can be better informed and educated about how we spend, where we spend and why we spend.
For those where certain products are not easily accessible, TJMaxx and it's sister companies can be a great source to obtain affordable and eco-friendly products.
Additionally, I want to start including how companies are taking on sustainability as part of their overall efforts. TJX is a globally traded company who admitted that their growth has increased environmental footprint and their absolute green house emissions. They appear to have plans to reduce emissions, improve logistics, waste management and evaluate green building practices so those steps in the right direction. In terms of the ESG rating, TJX is around an average. There's more work to be done for them and if you are a consumer or a shareholder, don't forget to ask, question and vote for the things that are important to you.