A Beginner’s Guide to Eco-friendly Shopping

These days it’s become important to be mindful of our social responsibility, even as consumers. Brands are becoming more and more open about how they run their businesses and how their products affect the environment. Our part, as consumers, is to make the best choices we can regarding the things we buy and, most importantly, how we buy them. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to go without your favorite food, clothing, electronics, etc. Today we’ll teach you a little bit about how you can start to shop in an eco-friendly way.

The core: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Yes, we love to shop. Yes, it’s nearly impossible to go zero-waste without making huge changes in our lifestyles. But that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute in our own little way. Buy less by buying in bulk, reuse your plastic/eco bags, recycle the cardboard boxes your items come in. Every little bit counts.

Look for brands who pay fairly

It’s going to be nearly impossible for the average consumer to understand the environmental impact of an item they’re buying. Supply chain logistics are incredibly complex and only experts can truly say whether or not your purchase has an adverse impact on the world. Instead of trying to tackle that, go simpler: buy from brands who can, at least, pay their workers fairly. Brands are starting to include reports about the working conditions, pay, and benefits of their employees — making it easy to see who treats their people like actual people. While there’s going to be a ton of debate whether or not your organic cotton t-shirt actually benefits the environment, knowing that your purchase helped a mother of two earn a fair wage in decent working conditions is something most people can agree is good.

Shop online instead

Here’s our personal favorite tip. Make use of the convenience of online shopping! Research has shown that buying online from the start is better than going to a store. There’s a pretty simple reason for this: a reduced number of trips to and from the place of purchase. If you drive over to a physical store, that’s one trip just for one item. A full 22% of an item’s climate impact comes from the process of a consumer driving to the store to get it! A delivery truck will use much less fuel per package compared to each individual package recipient going to a physical store to pick up an item. Think of it like public transportation for your purchase. The only caveat: it costs a lot of resources and adds a large amount to carbon emissions to do re-deliveries, so make sure there’s someone at home to receive your package.

There’s a couple more aspects to the online shopping experience which you should take into account:

  • Packaging options — try to request for minimal packaging if possible. There’s a ton of waste involved with normal packaging procedures. We’re sure that you’ve heard of people receiving tiny items in comically large boxes full of nothing but packing peanuts. You can email the online retailer you’re shopping from to see if they can cut down on your packaging if you’re buying non-fragile items such as clothes. You can also, like we said before, buy your items in bulk, lowering the cost per item and, as well, the carbon emissions per item.
  • Do some research — it’s easy to go through the About section of your favorite retailer to see how they opt to contribute to sustainability and social responsibility. If they don’t have any info, reach out! Making retailers understand that people prefer more eco-friendly and sustainable options is a big factor in them offering these options. Your voice matters. Some notable brands who are openly championing the eco-friendly movement include activewear brands Patagonia and prAna (unsurprisingly, outdoor-focused brands prefer that the outdoors be unspoiled!) and fast fashion brands Alternative Apparel and Everlane—proof that a large supply chain doesn’t mean having to sacrifice your ethics. Smaller more niche companies such as Bureo—a skateboard-focused brand—and Sunski—who make sunglasses out of recycled plastic—are also getting in on the action.

At the end of the day it takes all of us working together to push brands and retailers to effect lasting change. Your actions, however small, will contribute to that. Let’s be more mindful, more proactive, and more sensitive to how our purchases can affect the world around us.

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