Sustainable shopping right now may seem impossible due to the current state of the pandemic. Bulk sections have closed in many stores and order pickup might be much more realistic right now than not. I’m not shaming anyone for not being able to shop sustainable right now. I’m far from perfect and still working on being more sustainable myself. We’re all doing out best right?
Anyways, I wanted to write a post on how to shop sustainably to reinspire myself and others to make eco-friendly choices when possible!
How to Shop Sustainably
You probably shop at least once a week- even if that is just a trip to the grocery store for you. So, of course, that can lead to a lot of unnecessary waste. Here are some ways on how to shop sustainably!
1. Bring Your Own Bag
The easiest thing that you can possibly do to shop more sustainably is to bring your own bag. Most single reusable shopping bags are only $1 and can replace hundreds of single-use plastic bags each year. If you already have reusable shopping bags, but just forget to bring them with you, keep them in your car so they’re always with you. As soon as you unload your groceries, bring them back out to your car.
More and more cities and states are banning the use of plastic shopping bags or imposing a tax. Jump ahead of this, possibly save some money (even if it’s just change), and take advantage of sturdier reusable plastic bags.
2. Avoid Plastic and Synthetic Materials
Plastic and synthetic materials are not biodegradable. This means that they will not decompose and instead over time if exposed to the sun they will break into tiny pieces called microplastics. Microplastics can then get into our drinking water and food and thus into us! In fact, studies are already showing that we consume tens of thousands of microplastics every year (a huge contributor of which can be the packaging our food and water are contained in.
Synthetic fabrics like nylon also use several times more energy than for natural fabrics like cotton and cause water pollution due to dyes needed. In fact, nylon and microfibers from polyester are the biggest sources of pollutants in the ocean. The solution is to choose natural fabrics like cotton, linen, wool and silk. Synthetic fabrics to avoid are nylon, polyester, viscose, and polyurethane.
3. Choose Quality
By choosing quality items, the lifespan of that item is usually much greater than would be for a cheaper item. While quality pieces might initially cost more, the cost of not having to repurchase again and again because of poor quality can somewhat offset it. It also means that you are not throwing away the same thing over and over when just spending a bit more money would mean not having to repurchase.
4. Shop Secondhand
While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, you might be surprised! There are so many different avenues you can go through now to shop secondhand. If you prefer your clothes to be new, you can go on sites like ThredUp and filter the clothing for new with tags.
I love thrifting, so secondhand shopping is one of my favorite things. It’s better for your wallet, and every year millions of clothing items are thrown away and into landfills. Even if you think you’re donating your clothing somewhere like Goodwill, not all textiles are recycled. One pair of jeans alone takes 1800 gallons of water to produce, along with all the energy, chemicals, and materials. That’s a lot of resources, and shopping second-hand can help lengthen the lifespan of these clothing items.
Aside from clothing, you can shop secondhand for all sorts of home items. Check Facebook Marketplace first if you’re looking to buy something if it doesn’t matter if it’s been used or not (like, for example, a kayak or an espresso machine). Ebay, Offerup, Mercari, Craigslist, Vinted, and Poshmark are other great apps.
5. Say No to Fast Fashion
Fast fashion uses cheap materials and cheap labor to create cheap products that won’t last. Usually, fast fashion involves a lot of trends that will soon pass so it doesn’t matter if they fall apart after one season. Not only are the working conditions of fast fashion brands devastating, but the environmental effects are clear.
Find an alternative if you’re currently shopping at brands like Forever 21 or Zara. Instead try thrifting or shopping at brands that have a record of using sustainable practices, recycled materials, and green manufacturing. This can be so hard because shopping is addicting! I know that rush of adrenaline that can come from buying something or getting a delivery. But, that satisfaction is short-lived. A lot of sustainable shops are also not budget-friendly for many, which is why I am a huge proponent of thrifting.
Fast fashion stores like Forever 21 aren’t going to stop their poor environmental, manufacturing, and labor practices anytime soon. It makes them money! The best thing that you can personally do is choose to shop more sustainably and say NO to fast fashion.
Challenge yourself to do a detox, unsubscribe from all those promotional emails that you signed up for to get free shipping that one time, and learn more about ethical fashion.
6. If You Don’t Need it, Don’t Buy it
The best way to reduce waste is to prevent purchasing something you already have, or don’t need. If you don’t really have a need for something or can live without it, just don’t buy it!
7. Research Brands First
Some brands are more sustainable than others. If you’re looking to buy something new, like for example a swimsuit, research companies with sustainable practices. This is another way of voting with your dollar. Instead of shopping for a swimsuit from a fast-fashion company that has unfair labor conditions and poor environmental practices, you can find brands with better practices! Again, I know this is not always possible depending on the brand and financial circumstances.
Hopefully, You’ve Learned Something About How to Shop Sustainably!
Become more sustainable is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. I’m learning that over here first hand with you. So whether you’re trying to accomplish all 7 of these tips or just one- every effort towards a more sustainable future counts.
For more posts on sustainability:
- Clean Beauty + The Toxic Beauty Documentary
- 10 Sustainable DIYs to Make this Weekend
- Why You Should Shop Second-Hand + My Favorite Finds of 2019
If you have more ideas on how to shop sustainably, let me know in the comments below!