How Green America Helps CVS and Other Companies Save Millions of Yards of Receipt Paper

In a recent interview with Waste360, Todd Larsen and Dan Howells of Green America walked us through the company’s Skip The Slip initiative and how it has played a role in reducing the harm of receipts with companies as large as Chipotle, Whole Foods, Taco Bell, TJ Maxx, and perhaps most notably; CVS Health.

Jonathan Pierron, Associate Editor & Content Producer

September 15, 2022

5 Min Read
How Green America Helps CVS and Other Companies Save Millions of Yards of Receipt Paper

In the United States alone, paper receipts accounted for 334,000,000 pounds of waste in the year 2021, according to research done by Green America, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization centered around promoting environmentally aware and ethical consumerism.

Founded in 1982 by Paul Freundlich, this organization has a long history of utilizing its support from and relationships with consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace to enact change in the realm of product consumption.

“The organization was created to build a green economy in the United States. By a green economy, we mean one that's both environmentally and socially responsible at the same time.
The organization works with consumers, businesses, and investors to channel money and resources toward building that green economy” shares Todd Larsen, Green America’s Executive Co-Director for Consumer and Corporate Engagement.

In a recent interview with Waste360, Todd Larsen, and Dan Howells, the Climate Campaigns Director with Green America, walked us through the company’s Skip The Slip initiative and how it has played a role in reducing the harms of receipts with companies as large as Chipotle, Whole Foods, Taco Bell, TJ Max, and perhaps most notably; CVS Health.

Skip The Slip is a project started by Green America focused specifically on the consumption of receipts in the United States. The cooperative, spearheaded by Green America, is based on the fundamental understanding that paper receipts are not only usually useless but also wasteful.

In an attempt to reduce paper consumption, the organization decided to tackle paper receipts as it was a large offender of wasted paper, and this is when Skip the Slip was born.

“Receipts are often coded in toxic chemicals and largely unrecyclable. And most consumers tell us they lose receipts by omission” says Larsen.

Green America devised a few variables regarding receipts that would guide companies towards better practices and could be used as a grading scale for the efforts made (or not made) by these companies.

“The grading system is pretty simple. You either have receipts with BPA or BPS or you don't. You're either offering digital receipts or you're not” says Howells.

With the criteria set, they researched what matters most to companies; consumers.

What they quickly found is this is not an issue only environmentalists are aware of, but that even the vast number of American customers agree paper receipts are counterproductive.

In the 2021 Skip The Slip report, Green America noted the results of a survey they held of Americans finding that 86 percent of those surveyed would like digital receipts to be an option. 

“This is an issue that's material to consumers that consumers actually do care about this.”

Taking information from their consumer surveys and research on the environmental impacts of receipt paper waste, the organization began contacting companies to inform them.

Beginning work with CVS in 2017, Green America believed the multibillion-dollar company was a choice candidate for their coaching.

“When we launched the campaign, CVS was the primary target of the campaign, partly because of the notoriously long receipts that they give out,” says Larsen.

“And they were actually very open to working with us. They recognized that this was a wasteful practice.”

With CVS willing to accept help, Green America provided the company with details on receipt consumption such as how the BPS and BPA coatings pose health risks and how much wasted paper could be saved by offering digital receipts or a no receipt option.

To get the ball rolling, CVS found a new receipt paper supplier and implemented phenol-free paper across all ten thousand stores. This contributed greatly to the overall recyclability of receipts and eliminated the health risks associated with BPS and BPA.

“We worked with them to institute policies and practices so anyone, now, can get a digital receipt. At first, it was only offered to their ExtraCare members,” explains Larsen.

Slowly but surely, CVS was able to implement different practices that have allowed their paper receipt use to drop drastically. 

After opening digital-only receipts to ExtraCare Card members, CVS sent an estimated 58 million receipts digitally in 2019, which equates to about 48 million yards of receipt paper. This is more than enough paper to circle the globe.

In April 2022 CVS commenced a new screen at checkout that allowed all customers to choose between a printed receipt, digital receipt, or no receipt. As of July, the new checkout prompt has conserved 87 million yards of receipt paper.

With correspondence with Green America, CVS has been able to achieve an A rating on the most recent Skip The Slip scoring. Grading CVS at the top of the ranks alongside Target, Ben & Jerry’s, and Apple, the nonprofit is excited about the potential this initiative has to make wasteful paper receipts a thing of the past.

Though perhaps the biggest strides have been made by CVS, Green America is sure to approach a plethora of companies about this topic. “We've reached out to all of these companies numerous times to varying degrees of success to say, ‘hey, this is where we're grading you” comments Howells.

It is in part due to their outreach that has pushed CVS to new paper-saving heights, and Green America believes this is only the beginning. The organization is optimistically looking forward and using its successes with CVS as a platform to jump from.

“We'll be looking at another series of companies and doing probably more intensive outreach to them in the next year or so, and see how that goes” expresses Howells.

“If CVS can do it in their ten thousand stores, then anyone can do it.”

CVS didn't respond to a request for comment before the time of publication.

The most recent Green America Skip The Slip report can be found here. 

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Pierron

Associate Editor & Content Producer

John Pierron is the associate editor of Waste360. He graduated from Ohio University.

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