Eco-Conscious Shopping

leaf with shopping cart
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You may have heard the expression “buying is voting.” Whether we realize it or not, when we buy something we signal our values and attitudes. The same applies when considering how our purchasing choices affect environmental outcomes. Before making a purchase, we should be asking ourselves these questions:  

Do I Need It?

Is the object I want something I really need? It may be an impulse buy, in which case delaying the decision a day or two may help you determine how necessary the purchase truly is. Perhaps you already have a perfectly serviceable item that can do the job already. And if it is broken, look into having it repaired. Not buying something new saves on the resources needed to make it, along with the inevitable pollution and greenhouse gases associated with the manufacturing process.

Can I Buy It Used?

Another way to avoid using up resources for something new is by choosing a previously used version. Some markets are well-developed for used items – many of us have bought used cars before. For many cheaper items, you will need to do a bit of digging. Check Craigslist, or find a local Facebook group dedicated to online item sales. For something you will only need for a short while, renting or borrowing may be a preferable option.

You decided that you indeed have to buy something new. Are there still ways to make that purchase greener? There certainly are:

How Is It Packaged?

Over-packaging can be frustrating and wasteful. Is the packaging recyclable? If it is plastic, check the plastic number to make sure it will be accepted by your local recycling service. You don’t want to be responsible for any more plastic ending up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch!

How Long Will the Item Last? 

We all have experienced a decline in the durability of many objects: most toasters, coffee makers, and vacuum cleaners simply do not last as long as they used to. Cheap often ends up being costly and wasteful. Before you buy, read online reviews from fellow buyers about their experience. That way you may be able to get a sense of an object’s durability.

Will This New Purchase Increase Your Energy Consumption? 

In the case of electric or gas-powered items, compare between models and consider buying the more energy-thrifty items. For appliances, the Energy Star program can help you choose efficient models.

Stay Clear of Greenwashing

Claims of a product’s greenness are often exaggerated, if not outright lies. Be a pro at detecting greenwashing.

What Will You Do at the End of Your Object’s Useful Life? 

Determine whether you will be able to recycle the item – or even better, perhaps it can be repaired.

You are making a significant purchase and want to go the extra mile and understand the full environmental implications of your action? Commit some time and energy to finding and reading about the product you want to buy.

The whole idea is to develop the reflex of pausing when you make a purchase and asking whether it is necessary or desirable. It makes environmental AND financial sense.