From food to fashion, we can positively impact our shopping choices in many ways. Whether you're a seasoned eco-warrior or just starting your sustainable journey, there's something here for everyone. So, let's dive in and discover how we can make a difference, one purchase at a time, with these Sustainable Shopping Tips.
Why is sustainable shopping important?
- Global consumption of natural resources has doubled since 1990 and is projected to double again by 2050.
- In the United States, the average person produces 4.5 pounds per day, up to more than 262 million tons of waste annually.
- Around 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and if current trends continue, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
- The production and transportation of goods contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, which are a leading cause of climate change.
- Many products are produced under unfair labor conditions, which can harm the workers and communities involved.
Our Top Tips For Shopping More Sustainably
One of the most effective ways to shop sustainably is to avoid buying new products whenever possible. We can start by taking a closer look at the things we already have and making the most of them. We can repair, reuse, and repurpose items that might have ended up in a landfill.
Another approach to sustainable shopping is to borrow or rent items we need temporarily. Instead of buying a new dress for an event, we can borrow one from a friend or rent it from a clothing rental service.
1. Opt For Eco-Friendly Shops
Sustainable stores are retail establishments that sell environmentally friendly, ethically sourced, and socially responsible products. Many of our favorite shops can be found in our Brand Directory.
These stores prioritize sustainability and aim to reduce the environmental impact of their products and operations.
They offer a wide range of products, including clothing, accessories, beauty products, home goods, and food. These products are often made from eco-friendly materials, such as organic cotton, Modal, Lyocell, bamboo, or recycled plastic.
In addition to their products, sustainable stores are often designed with sustainability in mind. They may use energy-efficient lighting, incorporate recycled materials into their store design, and reduce waste using reusable bags, plastic-free containers, and eco kitchen and bathroom products.
2. Shop Locally
Transitioning to a more ethical wardrobe can be tough when you have no idea where to find conscious clothing. If you are in the process of ditching fast fashion companies, one of the easiest ways to buy new clothes ethically is to shop locally.
What does it mean to shop locally?
It means supporting locally designed goods that are made here at home. This process is important because it sustains communities, creates jobs, and protects the environment. So, let’s take a look at these three factors:
Economic resilience: When you choose to invest in locally made products, you are contributing to creating an economically resilient community where meaningful work is generated, connecting the people with the place where they live.
Cultural Diversity: From a human and creative perspective, shopping locally allows designers and artisans to be less influenced by what the big businesses dictate.
On the contrary, they can express their creativity and individual skills in a style that doesn’t follow trends. That way, fashion becomes less homogenous and less similar to everything you can find at a shopping mall.
In the end, local designs translate themselves into regional treasures, where traditional techniques and local materials and resources come together, creating fashion diversity and strengthening local production.
Environmental Protection: Finally, our environment. By shopping locally, you shorten the distances the product or its raw materials would have to travel. In global production, the raw materials are outsourced and shipped from around the world, and the final product usually travels a long distance before it gets to the shelves or your home.
Oppositely, from a local perspective, the design and production consider the resources available locally, and therefore, gas emissions from the transportation phase are being avoided.
3. Bring Your Own Bag
In today's world, it can feel like we're constantly surrounded by plastic. Plastic bags are handed out freely in grocery stores, littering our streets and oceans.
Every year, over 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide, which equates to a staggering 160,000 bags consumed every second.
According to the EPA, plastic bags and wraps account for 12% of all landfill waste, and only a small percentage of these bags are recycled.
The first and most compelling reason to switch to reusable shopping bags is the significant resource savings. It's honestly one of the easiest sustainable shopping tips.
Each year, 12 million barrels of oil are used to produce the 30 billion plastic bags consumed in the United States alone. By contrast, reusable bags are durable and can last for years, reducing the need to produce single-use bags continuously.
Aside from the reduction of waste, reusable bags also help prevent pollution. The slow biodegradation of plastic means that millions of tons of plastic waste fill our landfills and oceans.
Plastic waste also kills wildlife by trapping, strangling, choking, and poisoning them. Moreover, large plastic pieces break down over time into tiny microplastics, which move through the ecosystem, absorbing toxins and eventually making their way into our food chain.
In addition to the environmental benefits, reusable bags offer consumers significant savings. Many countries now impose a plastic bag levy on customers, which can quickly add up. On the other hand, reusable bags are a one-time purchase that can last for years and are often available for a low cost or even for free.
Reusable bags also offer better quality than their single-use counterparts. They are made of durable materials and are less likely to tear, rip, or spill their contents, reducing the number of bags needed and improving the overall shopping experience.
They also come in various materials and designs, allowing consumers to choose an option that suits their style and preferences.
Did you know they can even help you declutter your space? Plastic bags can quickly accumulate and occupy valuable storage space in our homes.
Shopping More Sustainably For Food
4. Shop in Bulk
When buying products in bulk, we can reduce the required packaging, which helps reduce waste and save resources.
For example, purchasing a large bag of rice instead of multiple smaller bags can reduce the required plastic or paper packaging. Buying in bulk often means that the products are cheaper, which can help save money in the long run.
Shopping in bulk also has environmental benefits. By reducing the amount of packaging required, we can help decrease carbon emissions associated with the production and transportation of packaging materials.
Buying in bulk can help lower the need for transportation, as larger products can be transported in a single trip. It can also reduce packaging waste by up to 80% and save up to 25% on the cost of food.
A Zero Waste Scotland agency report found that buying in bulk could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 22% compared to purchasing products in individual packaging.
Shopping in the comfort of your own home? These are the best Places To Buy Bulk Organic Food Online!
5. Shop and Eat Seasonally
When you buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, you support local farmers and reduce your food's carbon footprint by reducing the transportation and energy required to get the food to you.
Seasonal produce also tends to be fresher and more flavorful since it's harvested at peak ripeness and often requires fewer pesticides and other chemicals to grow.
The 100-mile diet is an excellent example of how shopping and eating seasonally can positively impact the environment. This diet encourages people to eat food grown and produced within 100 miles of their homes.
6. Shop For Ugly Food
Retailers and consumers have specific standards for food products, but this desire for aesthetically pleasing food has resulted in significant food waste.
This waste stems from two phenomena - food loss and food waste - regularly occurring within the food industry. Food loss happens from post-harvest until retail as farmers discard goods along the supply chain. According to the Food Loss Index (FLI), 14% of food is lost globally during harvesting and processing.
On the other hand, food waste occurs for various reasons, such as rejecting "ugly" produce that has scarring or bruising. However, these marks don't affect the food's taste or nutritional value unless they're signs of disease.
By choosing these foods instead of the near-perfect ones, good products can be saved from going to waste. Plus, the appearance doesn't matter much after the food is cut up and prepared. If you plan to eat the fruit the same day you buy it, go for the ones already showing signs of ripeness to prevent them from ending up in the bin.
Shopping More Sustainably For Fashion
7. Appreciate the Possessions You Already Have
Choosing not to buy new items and instead using what we already have is an important step in reducing our environmental impact.
There are many ways to make the most of our possessions, from repairing and mending to repurposing and upcycling. By doing so, we can reduce waste, save money, reduce our carbon footprint, and promote more sustainable consumption habits.
When it comes to books, consider donating them to a local library or school or selling them at a used book store. You could also repurpose them for crafts or decoration, such as creating a bookshelf or book planter.
If you have old beat-up shoes that are still repairable, consider taking them to a cobbler instead of buying new ones. This saves money and reduces the environmental impact of shoe production and disposal. The same goes for old pillows, which can often be refurbished with new filling or covers.
Hosting a clothing swap party is another fun and sustainable way to make the most of our possessions. Swapping clothes with friends can refresh our wardrobes without buying new items. This saves money, reduces textile waste, and promotes sustainable fashion practices.
Finally, if you have used clothes to sell, consider using online platforms like Poshmark or ThredUp. By selling your clothes online, you can give them a second life and promote a more circular economy
8. Buy Secondhand
Secondhand items are often in great condition and can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of buying new ones.
Buying second-hand reduces the need for new products to be produced, which helps reduce carbon emissions and saves natural resources.
One area where second-hand shopping is becoming increasingly popular is in the realm of furniture. Online second-hand furniture shops offer many options and can be a great resource for finding affordable and stylish pieces.
Sustainable interior design is another trend gaining momentum in recent years. Using eco-friendly materials, repurposing existing items, and choosing second-hand furniture make creating a beautiful and sustainable living space possible.
The problem with fast furniture is that it's often made from cheap materials and is designed to be disposable. This creates a culture of overconsumption and waste, which is not sustainable in the long run.
When it comes to special occasions like weddings, it's possible to find gorgeous used wedding dresses for sale online. This saves money and reduces the environmental impact of producing new wedding dresses.
Regifting is another great way to reduce waste! By passing on items that we no longer need or use, we can give them a new life and reduce the need for new items to be produced.
Online thrift stores are another great resource for finding second-hand items. These stores offer a wide range of products, from clothing to household items, and can be a great way to find unique and affordable items. These ten thrifting tips can help you make the most of it!
9. Consider The Whole Lifecycle of Fashion
Opt for natural and sustainable textiles by choosing items made from natural fibers such as organic cotton, wool, linen, and silk, and look for sustainability stories that indicate environmentally conscious production methods.
For instance, consider cotton denim made with less water, viscose, rayon, or modal made without using tree pulp from ancient forests. However, don't assume that just because a fiber is from an animal or plant, it is sustainable. For example, conventional cotton is highly water and chemical-intensive.
Another option is to go for recycled fibers, which are increasingly available. You can find items made from recycled fibers like denim with a percentage of recycled cotton, Econyl nylon swimsuits made from ocean plastic, faux leather made from pineapple fiber, or yarn made from plastic bottles for fleece and shoes.
The tag on your clothes will tell you what the item is made of. Remember that fabrics made with a blend of plant and synthetic fibers (e.g., cotton and spandex) cannot be recycled or composted.
These logos from third-party certification organizations ensure that the item you purchase is non-toxic, ethically produced, vegan, or cruelty-free.
Many brands and artisans aim to support social causes through their products. For example, you can find scarves made by women transitioning out of the sex trade, jewelry crafted by street-involved youth, or items made by artisans preserving their cultural crafts such as weaving, dyeing, leatherwork, or metalwork.
Wearing something handmade by yourself, your family, or a local artisan can be a great way to support sustainability. If you don't have any handmade pieces in your closet, consider checking out the home-sewing community online, signing up for classes, or purchasing from artisan pop-ups.
10. Consider The Cost Per Wear
When you invest in a well-made or sustainable brand, remember to factor in the cost-per-wear. This involves dividing the cost of the item by the number of times you wear it.
For instance, a $250 dress worn 20 times would have a cost-per-wear of $12.50. If you usually shop for sales, this may require a change in mindset.
However, it's a great approach if you want to shift towards a more sustainable wardrobe. To maximize your budget, combine strategic buying, cost-per-wear, and thrifting – the perfect trifecta for any slow fashion enthusiast.
A final word on Sustainable Shopping
I hope you found these tips on eco-friendly shopping helpful. Remember, our small choices can significantly impact the planet and its resources.
By supporting sustainable, ethical, and zero-waste practices, we can promote a healthier, happier, and more just world for ourselves and future generations.
Don't forget to spread the word about eco-friendly shopping to your family and friends. Share what you've learned and encourage them to adopt similar practices. Together, we can make a difference and create a more sustainable world.