Shopping sustainability can be overwhelming, especially with so many products claiming to be natural, eco-friendly, or free of something. It is hard to know what brands or companies to trust and what products are environmentally friendly.
They often referred this to as greenwashing, where companies use deceptive eco-friendly claims on product packaging. They do this because they recognize that being “green” is trendy but don’t want to invest in making their product environmentally friendly.
It is important to take the time to do your research before purchasing any products.
Investigate eco-friendly companies online, research their products and ingredient lists, and then examine the companies’ practices and beliefs.
Look for products with certifications (e.g. Fair Trade Certification) and eco-friendly logos.
10 Ways to Shop Sustainably:
1. Shop at zero-waste stores
A zero-waste store allows customers to eliminate packaging by bringing their own containers to fill and refill with bulk whole foods, beauty products and cleaning products.
Shopping at a zero-waste store is a lot of fun but here are a few tips to improve your experience:
- Always bring reusable produce bags
- Always take glass jars or other containers (bonus points if you upcycle products your purchased – e.g. re-using a yogurt container or glass jar)
- Have your jars and containers tared (weighed) before shopping
- Use your phone to record container weights
- Bring a cloth bag for bread or other bulk items
- Use your own bags to carry all your groceries home
Remember that even though zero-waste stores can be a bit more expensive, you are getting better quality and more sustainable products than you would at your average supermarket.
2. Shop online
Purchasing goods online can be better for the environment than buying in-store for environmental reasons. With online purchases, a single truck or van can replace multiple car trips, by multiple households, to stores.
By shopping online you can have a positive impact on the environment and conserve fuel by cutting back on the number of times you visit the store.
3. Shop local
It is important to think about where your money is going when you make a purchase. Spending money at a locally owned store means the money will stay in your community. They also employ local workers, spur innovation and creativity within your community, and enhance the environment.
4. Shop at thrift stores
Thrift stores are a great way to save money and help the environment at the same time. Buying owned/used products allows items to remain in circulation longer and prevents them from ending up at a landfill.
Often when someone is ready to part ways with an item, it is not because the item’s life cycle has ended, it’s because they no longer want it or have a use for it. The best example of this is clothes, people grow out of clothes, change their style or need to make space in their closet.
Shopping at thrift stores is a great way to score items at a fraction of their normal cost. To avoid impulse buying at thrift stores, or any other stores, one trick is to shop with cash. Prior to going to the store, decide how much you are comfortable spending based on your actual needs, and make a budget.
5. Avoid buying in plastic packaging
Learn how to become a conscious shopper and adopt of few of these tricks. When you are in the produce aisle, it may seem far more convenient to grab mushrooms in a plastic container wrapped in plastic or peppers in a pre-packed plastic bag.
However, have you ever compared the price between the pre-packaged and plastic-wrapped produce and the fresh produce you need to bag yourself? Not always, but the produce you need to bag yourself is cheaper. You can also bring your own produce bags to put your selected produce into.
6. Buy sustainable products
When shopping, select products that have been responsibly obtained and produced without the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides, such as organic products.
Consider purchasing fair trade goods from food to clothing. If you are on holiday, avoid purchasing souvenirs that may have been made using unethical, infrequent or threatened animal products.
7. Take your own reusable bags
Reusable bags are a sturdy and sustainable alternative to plastic or paper grocery bags. Reusable cloth bags are far less likely to cave or break and prevent plastic bag clutter in your home.
Invest in a few reusable bags that are pleasing and meet your needs, as they come in different sizes. Remembering to take your reusable bag with you can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you remember:
- Leave your reusable bags in the car
- Leave your reusable bags beside the door
- Keep a reusable bag in your purse or backpack
- Write “reusable bags” at the top of your shopping list
8. Take your own bags for fruits & vegetables
Organic mesh cotton bags are the perfect product bags as they are the safest material for your food and will actually help your produce last longer.
Be sure to buy enough bags for each shopping trip. Most people need around ten that vary in size for all your fruits and veggie shopping needs. Only use one bag per produce item (e.g. put potatoes in one bag and onions in another).
Always tell the cashier the weight of each bag, so that it can be deducted from the weighted cost. Some people put their produce in the fridge inside the bags, while others take the produce out. Cotton produce bags are also machine washable but should be air-dried.
9. Try concentrated cleaning products
One alternative to purchasing a variety of different products is to purchase a concentrated cleaning product. A concentrated product is designed in such a way that you can extend the life of the product by diluting it with water before use. For example, you would take a small amount of concentrated product and mix it in a spray bottle with water.
Therefore, you are getting more products and using less packaging. This also ensures that you are only paying for the product at the store, rather than water and the product.
Most cleaning concentrates can be used on several different surfaces in your home, which saves you time and money.
10. Support small businesses
Small businesses are the backbone of many local economies. As a consumer, it is important to understand that while the prices may be a little higher, the carbon footprint of those products is often much lower and the quality is much higher.
Many larger stores sell products that have been mass produced in factories all over the world, resulting in a very high carbon footprint.
Tips for supporting small businesses:
- Always shop at a local store over chains when possible
- Share your experience/products purchased on social media
- Write reviews
Final Thoughts on Sustainable Shopping
Becoming a sustainable shopper requires significant effort towards reducing your carbon footprint, making conscious decisions, and shopping locally. Sustainability is a journey and takes time.
The most important thing to remember is to never impulse buy and always do your research! Remember to ask yourself if your values align with the values of the company that you are purchasing from.
Remember, there are big differences between wants and needs, shopping for needs will make you a more sustainable shopper.
Related content: What is a Carbon Footprint & How is it Calculated?
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