If one of your resolutions for 2019 is to minimize your waste and your impact on the world, changing your shopping habits will make a big difference. Aiming to use environmentally sustainable shopping practices every time you buy isn’t quite as daunting as it sounds. Knowledge is power so with just a few simple adjustments to your shopping habits you’ll be able to do your bit for the planet.
Single Use Plastic
Although many places are phasing out their use of disposable plastic, you’ll still find it everywhere. And even if you put plastic containers in the recycle bin, there are reports that a lot of recyclable products are sent to landfill. The best option? Avoid single-use plastic where possible.
This might sound easier said than done when you’re in your local supermarket looking at the shelves of pre-packaged food, much of it in cellophane wraps and plastic trays. But most supermarkets are now offering the opportunity to dispose of packaging in store, with brand giants like Walmart and Tesco encouraging consumers to bring reusable containers and bags to their stores.
Or, of course, a better way to avoid single-use plastic is to buy local produce from independent retailers and farmers markets. Greengrocers, butchers shops and fishmongers will let you put your purchase in your own reusable container and by using these you’ll also minimise your carbon footprint.
Disposable plastic items like coffee cups and water bottles have become increasingly compostable. But, the manufacture and supply of these products still puts a strain on the environment. The best way to get around this is to buy a reusable coffee cup and water bottle.
It's incredible how clothing has become a disposable commodity, with around 15 million tons of fabric waste being disposed of in the USA every year. This has seen a doubling in volume during the past 20 years.
Partly to blame is the trend for disposable fashion, with many low-cost clothing brands encouraging us to buy with the seasons. Why is this a problem? Cotton production is an incredibly polluting industry, with irrigation and pesticides having a huge impact on their local environments.
So what can you do? Only buy clothes that you genuinely need and will wear, buy the best quality you can afford and aim to buy from sustainable brands. The sustainable apparel coalition now counts some of the world's biggest clothing manufacturers among their members.
Many new brands are now making their sustainability and eco credentials a major part of their marketing. Swiss wool shoe brand Baabuk, for example, aims to source all their materials for their sneakers from within a 200-kilometer radius of their factory. Their wool shoes are environmentally friendly and built to last. Aim to be able to wear your outfit not just with style, but with minimal environmental impact.
The amount of global food waste we create is staggering, with around 1.3 billion tons of all food wasted each year. Yes, a lot of this comes down to big supermarkets and catering, but your home waste has a big impact too.
If you regularly find yourself throwing away mouldy food items, or finding a packet at the back of the fridge you forgot about then you can change your habits with one simple practice. Meal plans!
By planning what you have in a week (or several weeks) you’ll avoid buying unnecessary food. Take your leftovers for work, or if you have lots of stuff that is nearing its use by date, donate it to your local food bank. There are also a growing number of apps that aim to share leftover food with people, sometimes for a small cost, so check out what is available in your area to minimize food waste.
Buy Local & In Season
I mentioned this briefly at the top of this article, but buying local and seasonal produce is a great way to create an eco-friendly shopping habit. You’ll get to reduce your carbon footprint by sourcing items from closer to home, and if you bring your own containers and bags you’ll cut back on packaging waste too.
Of course, some things like tropical fruits, spices or other specialty food products might be harder to source locally. But even if you aim for a 80 or 90% local shopping cart, you’ll be making a huge difference.
Buy Used Items
Vintage is hot right now, so used clothing and household items are not just an eco-friendly shopping option, they’re also a great way to find unique items. One man's trash is another man's gold, as the saying goes. So if you’re not already a fan of charity shops or thrift shops then it’s a good time to get to know.
Although many people associate charity stores with being poor, they’re a great way to pick up some quality items for cheap. Brand name clothing, housewares and gym and sports equipment are just some of the bargain items you can find if you don’t mind a bit of scouring.
Ask Yourself Questions
If you’re trying to make your shopping habits more eco-friendly then there is a mental checklist you can run through to see if the item fits the bill.
Firstly: Do you need it? If it is an impulse purchase, something you don’t even know if you’ll ever use or just something you buy because you think you should, then don’t buy it.
The next questions should be:
Is it recyclable? Or, is it built to last? If its a disposable item or you know it will go straight to landfill when you’re finished with it, try and think of an alternative.
You should also ask yourself, is the manufacturing process, or are the materials used sustainable? Factories, material manufacture and shipping are some of the most polluting industries around the world, so if you think it has been made in an unsustainable way see if you can choose an eco friendly option.
Published by silv Watson