We’ve all seen businesses with excessive packaging. But what if I told you there was more you could do, beyond simply refusing to buy from them? For those who don’t like sitting on the sidelines, you can actually contact companies about their packaging. The trick is knowing how to do it. Here, I’m sharing a few tips, tricks and pointers that will help you take a more active approach to our plastic problem. Also, I’ll be sharing a few scripts you can just copy, paste and personalize for your own use, along with some examples. Ready to tell companies they need to do better? Me too! Lets dive in.
How to Contact Businesses About Their Packaging
Why should I bother contacting companies about their packaging?
First off, your opinion matters. And lots of companies, both big and small, tend to want one thing – your money. If you’re not happy with their product or service, for whatever reason, and enough people start complaining, they have to listen.
When you voice your opinion to a company, it makes them think about their choices. If they get enough people saying “you’re using too much plastic”, they’re not going to want to disappoint their customers and risk dropping sales. So don’t think your opinion doesn’t matter – it does.
Also, we kind of have to put the pressure on companies – especially big ones who have the money to change for the better. While I truly believe voting with your money matters, I also think that companies should be held accountable for the business choices they make.
For example, imagine if everyone returned broken iPhones to Apple. Very quickly, Apple wouldn’t know what to do with all the incoming products – so they’d quickly have to start working on products that are higher quality and designed to last longer. They’d be forced to think about the end of life of their products, and possibly even offer take-back programs, instead of focusing on planned obsolescence (which is a thing by the way).
Simply put, we need to think about collective action just as much as individual action. They’re not mutually exclusive – in fact, they’re tied together. Because think about it – the purchases you make help fuel the kind of world we live in.
When you say packaging, what are you referring to?
Literally everything and anything. I’m talking shipping waste, the actual product packaging itself, or even just the stuff the product comes wrapped in. Also, for the sake of talk in this article, packaging also refers to business choices made by brick and mortar stores (like salons, restaurants, convenience stores, etc). Anything that’s plastic, single-use and/or excessive.
Various companies can create excessive packaging, be it a beauty brand, a café, a movie theater, an online shop, or a service. And any of those companies can be applied to this article.
How can I contact businesses about their packaging?
So happy you asked! Honestly, there are several methods of doing this – and we’ll cover all of them. Plus, for the written methods, I’ve provided a script you can personalize and make your own to make things easier.
Via social media
Depending on how big the business is, one method of contacting them is via social media. You can DM them, or post a comment on their feed. If you DM them, here’s an example of what you can say:
“Hi (company name), I really love your product and have been using it for x amount of years. (say something nice about the company/product first). But I couldn’t help noticing you use a lot of excessive packaging. I was wondering if you’ve considered switching over to more sustainable alternatives? I’d be happy to share some ideas with you!”
Don’t expect a response right away. And some companies may see it, but not respond at all. If this happens, you can follow up next week and say:
“Hey there, I saw you read my message. I was hoping we could discuss your packaging? (And then offer a few sustainable alternatives you’d love to see them use). Let me know your thoughts, would love to chat!”
Another way to contact brands through social media is commenting on their posts. Maybe leave a comment saying “I love what you do but I’d love it even more if you went plastic-free!” or ask them “Will you be switching over to plastic-free packaging soon? I’d love that!” and see what they say. Brands especially love engaging with their audience this way – and the Instagram algorithm favors posts with lots of comments so they’ll be more likely to say something.
If you know the company’s email, I highly suggest shooting them one, preferably during business hours. You won’t want to ramble on about all your ecological concerns – just keep it short, simple and to the point.
As a general rule of thumb, here are some guidelines for writing emails to businesses:
- Start by saying what you like about their business and pay them a compliment you genuinely mean (ex: I love your products because they’re vegan and organic!).
- State the observation you’ve made about the problem (ex: I recently bought one of your lipsticks and it came with lots of excessive bubble wrap).
- Explain (briefly) why this is bad for the planet (ex: Only 9% of plastic is actually recycled, so I try to avoid plastic whenever I can).
- Propose a solution to the problem and support your solutions with working examples (ex: Cushioning your cosmetics with newspaper or shredded scrap paper is a great alternative – Joe Cool Organic’s does this and it looks so rustically pleasing).
- Mention how this would benefit the business (ex: Switching to scrap paper packaging would help you save money too!).
- Conclude with a positive note (ex: Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you).
Depending on the type of company (it could be a restaurant, brand, salon, etc.) you’re bound to say different things in the email to better target who you’re speaking to. That said, I’ve created a generic script for you to follow:
“Dear Vegan Restaurant (name of company),
I absolutely love your delicious vegan foods! My favorite is your BBQ burger – it tastes out of this world and always leaves me coming back for more.
The last time I was there, I couldn’t help noticing you use plastic straws and plastic utensils to serve your food with.
Plastic pollution is at an all time high and only 9% of it actually gets recycled. It ends up in our waterways and hurts marine life. It never truly breaks down either, just breaks up into tiny microplastics that do more harm than good. And straws in particular are very wasteful – in the US alone, we use 500 million plastic straws everyday!
I would like to ask Vegan Restaurant skips the straws and only put one in drinks when people ask for them. The restaurant next store to me does this and it cuts back on straw use by 80%! Also, I’d love to see you swap out plastic utensils for reusable utensils. I know several restaurants who already do this and would love to see yours join the list!
This would save you money because you wouldn’t have to continuously purchase straws and utensils. You’d reduce waste and also improve your bottom line.
I just want to say thank you so much for your time and I really hope you’ll get back to me. I’d love to brainstorm with you further on this topic!
If you don’t get a response right away, don’t panic. Give them a week, then follow up. If no response then, follow up again two days later. After that – they’re likely ignoring your messages so it’s probably best to move on. Just whatever you do, avoid getting angry – you want to be as professional as possible.
Via phone call
This kind of depends on the company you’re contacting, but you could always try your luck at calling them up. Ask for the manager. If someone asks why, you can say something along the lines of “I’d like to speak to them about their choice of packaging and see if they’d be willing to listen to my suggestions.”
If you actually manage to get the manager on the phone, you can say something along the lines of:
“Hello, my name is (your name),
It’s great to speak with you. I’d first like to say how much I love your company – I’m a frequent customer/visitor. But I’ve noticed your company tends to use a lot of excessive packaging. Plastic waste is a serious problem around the world and I really value companies who recognize that. Would you be open to discussing more sustainable options?”
See where the conversation leads, and don’t be afraid to dish out some facts and statistics. Here are a few quick statistics you could always draw from:
- We’ve made more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic since the 1950s.
- Only 9% of that plastic actually gets recycled.
- By 2050, it’s estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
- The average American creates 4.4lbs of trash per day.
- Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, and even then it just becomes microplastics.
- There are more than 51 trillion microplastics in our seas.
- We eat a credit card’s worth of microplastics every week.
- Plastic, for the first time ever, has even been found in human placentas.
Have a conversation, be polite, and see where it leads. Hopefully, the manager will be interested in listening to your suggestions.
Via in person
Sometimes the only way to contact businesses about their packaging is to talk to them face to face. Do they have a brick and mortar store? Or maybe they have a pop-up somewhere? Head on over and talk to someone about your concerns in person.
You can ask for the manager or simply have a conversation with the staff. Ask them about their sustainable initiatives and if they’re thinking about changing their packaging. Be friendly and offer advice when appropriate, imputing suggestions wherever you can. Be sure to smile and make yourself approachable – the last thing you want is for the business to think you’re an eco nut of some kind. Especially if you plan on frequenting the establishment again!
What about contacting the big time businesses?
This is all fine and dandy for smaller businesses, but big corporations like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co likely won’t respond to an email or a social media DM. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try of course! I whole heartedly think you should.
That said, for the big guys, I think it’s best to look into petitions already in place, or see what non-profits like Greenpeace are doing. Greenpeace actually has a petition you can sign to demand Pepsi stops fueling the climate crisis.
These are the top 10 worst plastic polluting companies:
- Modelez International
- Phillip Morris International
- Perfetti van Melle
In a report from Break Free From Plastic, these were the top 10 worst polluters. And we can’t just act like they don’t exist. So, what can we do? Well, for starters:
- Share this article so everyone knows.
- Stop purchasing their products because you truly do vote with your money.
- Blast them on social media, demanding better from them.
- Organize a twitter storm or an Instagram comment storm.
I’m thinking about doing the last one for Instagram on Coca-Cola’s account. If anyone’s interested, let me know in the comments! For 2 hours, we’d basically just comment on any of their posts, demanding they change their packaging, go back to glass, and be held accountable. Stuff like that. Thoughts?
Don’t be afraid to contact businesses about their packaging. It may seem scary at first, but in time, you’ll learn what to do. Just be sure to bookmark this post so you can reference it! Use it as a guide and feel free to use any of the scripts I’ve provided/make adjustments.
Sometimes, collective action and activism is exactly what we need. Even better, get others on board! Ask your friends + family to send out emails or DMs too. Then businesses will really have to listen!
How would you contact businesses about their packaging? Share in the comments below!
Want more action tips? Check out how to build a zero waste community in your neighborhood!
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