Shopping & the environment: How consumers can do their bit.

It has to be said – we live in a consumption culture. Whatever you want, you can have it. All that’s needed is the click of the button, the tapping of a card or handing over of cash and voilà – it’s yours. 

This is altogether a decidedly modern phenomenon with most human’s throughout history either crafting their own possessions or owning very little. Our ‘must-have-now’ mindset would be completely unfamiliar to them. 

Perhaps not only unfamiliar but also somewhat reprehensible. Extracting raw materials from the earth’s well of natural resources before crafting them into something useful with your own two hands leads to gratitude. It leads to respect for the earth and the gifts it has given.  

They would look on appalled at 300 million tonnes of waste that is produced worldwide every year – only to end up festering in landfills. Especially while our earth’s natural resources are dwindling and there’s a burgeoning population crisis at hand. There simply won’t be enough to go around or sustain us at this rate of waste-production. 

 

But we can make a change!

 With the zero waste movement stronger than ever and environmental campaigns being founded around the world, consumers are now better equipped to make sustainable choices than ever. Not to mention that second-had buying is back in style (thrifting!) and that the range of zero waste products is only growing by the day. 

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to bridge the gap between “normal” shopping and zero waste shopping. Questions such as “how exactly do I shop sustainably?” and “where can I do a zero waste shop?” arise. 

Fortunately, there is a wealth of tips, tricks, and in-depth advice that has been amassed by eco-conscious shoppers over the years. Here is some of the most valuable advice that’ll act as your own personal environmentally-friendly shopping guide.  

 

How to shop sustainably? 

 

1.Audit your shopping habits  

We often just buy things up without thinking about it. This is the first thing that needs to change if we wish to shop more sustainably. Making shopping a conscious activity is the first step towards changing your usual habits.  

Questioning yourself and reviewing where you spend the most money is a great way to start. 

 

2. Take a look at what you own 

 

It is estimated that the average US home contains up to 300,000 items and that’s before taking storage units into consideration. This means that we all have room to clear.  

By reviewing what you already won, you can stop yourself from adding to this immense number. Seeing what you already have and how it can be reused or repurposed can completely eliminate the need to buy a new product.  

Take a look through your home and leave no possession unturned or corner unexplored. A thorough examination of this type is what many devout minimalists credit as their turning point. Minimalism goes hand in hand with sustainability and zero waste due to its low-consumption tendencies. So, it might be worthwhile taking a minimalistic approach to shopping and living. 

 

3.Sustainable carrier bags/containers 

 

In an effort to reduce unnecessary waste and clear up bodies of water, some countries have introduced a ban on plastic bags. Countries such as Denmark, Germany, England put a price on plastic bags to discourage their use. Though the US has no overall policy, some states have recycling programs in places such as New York and Seattle.  

However, there’s a method of bypassing the plastic bag issue and going directly to the heart of the problem – sustainable bags. These bags are made out of strong and tightly-woven fibers that will go the distance. Some are even made out of completely bio-degradable materials. 

The range of ethical,  eco-friendly, and fair trade bags is growing by the day and ousting their synthetic counterparts from the market. Try EcoBags for one of the most expansive sustainable bag selections.  

 

4.Reusable Containers/bags   

Once the plastic bag issue is out of the way, the affair of packaging arises. A lot of the food our products we buy tends to be wrapped in unnecessary amounts of cardboard or plastics that inevitably find their way to the landfill.  

If you take a look around your house you may find some glass jars, plastic containers, or anything that can hold anything! By taking these sustainable containers to your local zero waste shop or simply bringing them to a farmers market – you completely skip packaging. 

And not only will you be eating healthier, as a result, you’ll also save on bin charges! And all while doing your bit to help the planet. 

It’s also worthwhile to think twice before partaking in any online shopping. Items ordered online tend to be shrouded in unnecessary amounts of plastics, bubble wrap, and cardboard to prevent any breakage in transport. This issue can be bypassed by shopping locally or within driving distance and even has its own campaign that is aptly named the ‘Buy Local Movement.’ 

 

5. Always go second-hand (or rent) 

 

Shopping second-hand is 100% eco-friendly. The repurposing, resale, and reuse of clothes create a cycle that limits strain on the earth’s natural resources. It also doesn’t mean you have to give up on style, luxury, or the latest trends. Think thrift shops and chic second-hand stores. They’re gaining in popularity and in numbers. 

Through buying at your local charity shop, you can give back to your community, to those in need, and be kind to the world all at once. However, if you’re looking for something a little more specific such as skiing gear or yoga equipment there’s plenty of online second-hand marketplaces (or shops) that are focused on niche products. All you have to do is look them up! 

If you don’t want to make the full dedication to buying an expensive product and just need it for a short period – renting is another sustainable option. There’s no need to buy a whole new outfit for every wedding or buy an entire hiking kit just for one camping trip. Renters have you covered and for a fraction of the price of the real thing. Sustainability is good for your bank balance! 

 

6.Do your research  

 

Speaking of looking things up, it’s worthwhile to look into the fibers and materials used in sustainable products alongside how they are produced. Sometimes products are not entirely as eco-friendly as they may be advertised to be or their transport channels leave a large footprint. 

If you wish to be as low-impact as possible, it’s best to get to know the ropes and have a few keywords such as ‘Hemp’ ‘Bamboo,’ and ‘Ethical’ in mind while shopping. 

It’s worth your time to look into reliable brands that supply quality sustainable products, this means you’ll get value for your money and won’t have to risk sustainability by buying twice. 

Some of these brands that are incredibly familiar to sustainable shoppers are Tentree,  

However, some more mainstream and recognizable brands have been dabbling in the sustainable movement. Levi’s, Alternative Apparel, and PACT are just some brands that have made the move to sustainable product production. The popular Highstreet retailer, H&M even founded a and environmentally friendly collection known as H&M conscious.  

 

7.Shop locally  

It is estimated that less than 5% of vehicles worldwide produce 30% of the total road transport CO2 emissions. It’s no secret that trucks and vans are the main culprits not only due to their high fuel consumption but also due to their use as delivery vehicles.  

By shopping locally, you decrease the demand for delivery companies which in turn, will send out fewer delivery trucks. And fewer delivery trucks on our roads means a healthier atmosphere for all. 

It’s not always possible to avoid online shopping but try and shop from within your own country to limit any unnecessary overseas deliveries. If you must order online, it’s best to order in bulk. By ordering everything you need from a retail website or online marketplace at once, you limit your delivery to one trip.  

 

8.Recycle & repurpose  

And finally, it’s time to give back. To put the cycle in recycle, you need to dispose of your unwanted products in an eco-friendly manner. This is usually done by avoiding the bin through, recycling and repurposing. 

Scope through your local charity shops and find out what their donate policies are. Some charity shops might not accept certain items but you’ll always find somewhere that does.  

Be mindful of where you donate your possessions too. It’s essential that charity, second-hand, and thrift shops are kept afloat and encouraged. So, think about what possession would suit what shops shelves. Donate your items according to where you think they’d be most likely to sell from. 

And there you have it. I hope you’ve gained some valuable knowledge from your readings! Sustainable shopping is the way forward into a healthier world, it’s never too early to start. With concerns growing rapidly for the climate and environment we need to act now. Consider implementing some of these eco-friendly tips into your day to day shopping habits – it could save the planet!