Recycle or Upcycle: Everything You Need to Know About Our Sustainable Packaging

September 11th, 2020

These days, you can get pretty much anything shipped directly to your door. And while that convenience is tough to beat, it often comes with a steep cost to the planet.
Maybe you’ve experienced the frustration of receiving a lone jar in an outsized cardboard box stuffed with yards of bubble wrap, or a single order that arrives in separate deliveries for each individual item. Aside from being annoying, this practice is incredibly wasteful, resulting in 32 million tons of trashed packaging piling up in landfills each year and 480 billion grams of carbon emissions polluting the air on a daily basis.

It is possible to balance convenience with eco-consciousness—we’ve made it our mission to do so. Read on to find out how we’re rethinking packaging and shipping to make sustainability a top priority, as well as how you can do your part.

4 Ways We’re Making a Difference

Building a better market isn’t only about making healthy eating easy and affordable for everyone—it’s also about being kind to our planet. We’re mindful of the environmental impact of every step in your Thrive Market box’s journey to your door.

  • 100% recyclable and reusable materials: The boxes, packing paper, and even the tape we use are 100% recyclable. Our plastic bags have many additional uses—more on that later.
  • Maximizing box space: We pack an average of 12 to 14 items in every box. Not only is it better for the planet because it uses less packaging, but it makes for a much more satisfying unboxing experience.
  • Ground shipping: Your Thrive Market box always comes to you by truck, never by plane. Ground shipping uses a whopping 84% less CO2 than shipping via air.
  • Shipping carbon neutral: Since our founding in 2014, we’ve precisely measured our carbon footprint and regularly invested in projects that offset it, such as Envira Amazonia, which protects rainforest land in Brazil, and CHOOOSE, which reduces fuel consumption by providing innovative cookstove technology to communities in Rwanda. In addition, our fulfillment centers are powered by renewable wind energy. Learn more about our commitment to being carbon neutral here.

What To Do With Your Thrive Market Packaging


Choosing highly recyclable and reusable packaging materials is a top priority for us. You can recycle your Thrive Market shipping boxes (including the tape) and packing paper with other curbside recyclable items. These packaging materials range in terms of the recycled content they’re made of; we’re constantly seeking new innovations in packaging that get your deliveries to you safely while treading as lightly as possible on the Earth, whether through sourcing new materials or improving our packing and shipping processes.

Note that recycling rules vary by location.

Or, upcycle:

Upcycling is taking something that’s perceived to have little or no value (like a used shipping box) and turning it into something even better. It’s also known as creative reuse, so in that spirit, here are some creative ways to give your Thrive Market packaging materials new life after your box arrives.

Save yourself (and your wallet) a trip to the store and hang on to your Thrive Market delivery boxes—you never know when you’ll need one:

  • Flatten your boxes and stash them for storage or moving.
  • Let your kids get creative with cardboard. We’ve seen boxes used to make forts, pirate ships, rockets and more.
  • Make a sign to bring to a demonstration.
  • Paint your next masterpiece—color inside or outside the lines; we don’t judge.

The resealable plastic bags that house fragile items in your delivery were chosen with purpose: they can be reused. After you unpack, these bags come in handy for all sorts of tasks:

  • Use them to store fresh herbs. Start by filling a glass or jar with about two inches of water. Trim the stems of your fresh herbs, place into the container, and wrap the leaves with a paper towel. Place the plastic bag over the towel-wrapped herbs and jar.
  • Finally declutter that junk drawer. Use bags to corral small items like rubber bands, loose change, pet treats, or bobby pins.
  • Take pre-portioned snacks on the go.
  • Cleaning your kitty’s litter box? Use a plastic bag to store fresh sand nearby (who wants to lug that heavy container, anyway?) or to collect the dirtied litter. Same goes for your favorite pup—take these plastic bags with you on your next walk.

Corrugated cardboard (that crinkly paper material inside your box) and packing paper can also be reused:

  • They both make great toys for your four-legged friends.
  • Got gifts? Use these neutral brown materials for an eco-chic take on wrapping paper.
  • Corrugated cardboard that has been cut into small pieces can be used in compost. Begin your compost pile with a four-inch layer of shredded corrugated cardboard, mixed in with other high-carbon materials like dead leaves. Top with a four-inch layer of nitrogen-rich materials, like spoiled vegetables or fruit peels. Add two inches of soil on top of this layer. Repeat as needed and be sure to keep your compost moist by watering every five days.

Received a gel ice pack in your box to keep things cool? Those can live on:

  • Stash them in the freezer, then toss them in your cooler for road trips and picnics.
  • Use the inner gel as a nourishing plant food. The gel pack filling is made with a non-toxic, nitrogen-based ingredient that can be poured directly into the soil of your indoor or outdoor plants. (Note that not all plants benefit from nitrogen-based fertilizers, so make sure to check.) You can dilute the gel with water to make it easier to distribute evenly into the soil.
  • You can safely dispose of the gel down your sink drain; it’s fully biodegradable, compostable, and food safe. Don’t forget to recycle the outer plastic with #4 plastic recycling afterwards.

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Kirby StirlandKirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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