How To Shop Sustainably

woman using reusable produce bag

The environment is suffering with all of the waste happening in the world. Plastic is filling landfills, pollution is damaging the air and the waters are filled with debris. By becoming a more sustainable shopper, you can make smarter decisions that limit your carbon footprint.

Shifting your habits is actually very easy. It means choosing items with natural materials, shopping online to limit driving, and investing in brands that are committed to limiting their waste. Small steps today have huge benefits for the environment.

The following are some ways that you can become a more conscious, smart and sustainable shopper.

trash on the beach from overconsumption

Look for Brands with a Mission

Before you shop, look for brands who value social justice and sustainable practices. This should be easy to find. Many businesses have a social impact mission that explains how they will lower its carbon footprint, how they create equity and how they give back to different communities.

When you shop, think about if the company has a clear commitment to the environment and if they have key endorsements and certifications. Just because a product is advertised as organic, does not mean it is created from sustainable practices.

Greenwashing is sadly becoming very common, where companies try to say items are eco-friendly without the facts to back it up. Some key things to think about include how employees are treated in the supply change, a product’s materials and how a business is battling its carbon footprint.

Always look for facts, links, and proof of the business’s claims. If it is hard to find clear evidence of a company’s sustainable practices, then you may want to make a different choice.

Investigate the Materials

Sustainable shoppers make sure to invest in items made with all natural materials. Anything made with synthetic fibers has a negative impact on the environment. Traditional polyester is one of the worst culprits since it is made out of oil. There are a lot of alternatives to synthetic fibers that mimic the look and feel of this material without damaging the world.

For example, recycled water bottles can be made into a material that feels like polyester. Though cotton and denim can impact the world’s water supply, look for companies that have organic certifications. These are an eco friendly alternative that does not use as much water to produce.woman inspecting a label for sustainability

Think about the Packaging

Plastic is toxic to the world. It creates a lot of the waste in landfills and often clogs up water, damaging animals and ecosystems. Plastic does not degrade easily. It can take more than 500 years for a simple plastic bag to be broken down. Some experts say that plastic makes up nearly half of a product’s packaging.

Look for brands that have eliminated plastic from their packaging. A lot of businesses use recycled cardboard and other recyclable materials. You may also be able to find some brands that have managed to remove packaging. And of course, think about replacing plastic-made products themselves with those made with all natural or recyclable materials.

Look for Non-Toxic Ingredients

If you are looking for personal care products, avoid items that use dyes, parabens and other chemicals. These chemicals will get washed down the drain and could affect your plumbing and the local eco-system. Non-toxic ingredients are better for the environment and better for hair and skin too.
Make sure to do your research so that you make sure items are truly all-natural or chemical free.

Do Your Research and Take Your Time

A little time, research and intention goes a long way to shopping sustainably. Think about which products you need and why. From here, you can look into sustainable materials and companies that have eco friendly missions and policies.

Taking a little time with your buying decision also saves you time on having to make a return, which further adds to pollution via gas, emissions, restocking and more. A lot of businesses cannot resell certain items, which increases the likelihood that they will end up in a landfill.

Avoid Impulse Buys

ecofriendly shopping in store

Avoiding impulse buys is one of the best ways to protect the environment. A lot of last minute or rash decisions end up in the trash, especially around the holidays. Rethink giving joke or novelty gifts too. These products are often discarded sooner than other more sustainable gifts. The best way to avoid impulse buys is to plan ahead and sleep on a decision before you commit.

Try to Buy Local

One of the best ways to shop sustainably is to support local businesses. Smaller businesses work with local suppliers, which cuts down on air pollution. This also cuts pollution coming from delivery trucks. Local shops also have niche products made with eco-friendly materials.

Shop Online

Online shopping is a great alternative to larger corporate businesses, especially if you cannot find what you need at a local shop. Running a physical business creates more waste. For example, businesses increase car traffic for employees and customers, they have higher energy bills, and there is an increased carbon footprint when product deliveries happen.

You should also think about making orders at one time so you can consolidate shipping. Shopping online has a significant impact on the environment.

Reuse and Buy Used

Reusing and recycling are two great practices at home, but how does that affect shopping? This is where second-hand stores come into play.

If you buy second-hand, the items are less likely to end up in a landfill. Take some time to visit the local thrift stores to see if you can find gently used items. The old saying is true: one person’s trash can be someone else’s treasure.

Consider Experiences vs Products

Some of the best gifts are actually gifts. For example, instead of giving someone a dog toy for their pet, you could offer to come and walk the dog. Sustainable shopping is really about your decisions. You can also invest in gift certificates to local businesses instead of buying products.

There are even things like virtual classes that can replace traditional shopping. Lastly, a great investment is to donate to a non-profit or local charity that is zero waste.

Consider Transportation

One of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint is to walk, bike or use public transportation when you sop. This means you will not use as much gas, and it means that you do not have to worry about carbon emissions. When you make the right purchase, you are less likely to need to return the item. Try to carpool with other people if you all need to grab things. Sustainable shopping is really being aware of how every choice affects the environment.

Responsible purchasing decisions can only protect the planet. No change is too small. Building more sustainable shopping practices starts with making more conscious decisions about the types of items you buy and the mission and values of the businesses you support.

Shifting your habits requires very little time, and it does not mean you have to pay more for goods. Instead, by keeping the environment in mind, you can make smarter choices that fit your budget, needs and lifestyle. If everyone does their part, we can protect the planet.

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