Shopping Smarter and Sustainably
Shopping has always been a passion of mine, so learning how to slow down and shop smarter was definitely a challenge at first. I have been trying to embrace minimalism, while learning the stories behind companies that I purchase products from. I am trying to not just order everything we need on Amazon, but start shopping small and locally, and when I do need to order something, I order from an eco-conscious company. In this post, I am going to go over some tips on how to shop in a more eco-friendly fashion (see what I did there?).
What to Bring With You
I never leave home without a reusable shopping bag, and it’s a good idea to keep one in your car at all times so you always have one handy. If I forget and I want to stop somewhere on my way home from work or something, I either refuse a plastic bag and carry my purchase out to my car, or go another day when I do remember to have a bag with me. This can be a challenge when you stop at the grocery store for one or two things without a bag, but you go hungry and end up juggling your items out to the car without a bag…but I have done it several times now.
Shop Small and Local
It is so easy to get hooked on online shopping; they have everything and it is way too easy to order literally anything you could possibly want or need. Shopping in-store is so much better for the environment because when you order online, those items have to be shipped to you, which uses a lot of emissions compared to just driving to the store. It also supports businesses that are trying to stay afloat among a very online-heavy market. This is especially important for small businesses. It is always better to buy from a small business rather than a big corporate store, because you will get a better, more local product. If I do need to buy something specific online, I try to buy from either a green company, an online thrift store, or a small business on Etsy. I do not shop on sites like Wish and Shein for cheap clothes from other countries because I cannot imagine that anyone working for those brands is making a fair wage, and there is no need to be mass-producing products to the point where they can get that cheap- it is a complete waste.
I absolutely love thrifting. There are tons of secondhand stores all over the place now, which I really am happy to see. My town has a used bookstore that I visit about twice a month, both because I love to read and because if I am going to read something, I am going to support that business to keep them open. I thrift all of my clothes, as you know from a previous post, and I even thrift shoes now. For baby stuff, I have found Once Upon A Child to be really great- you can get gently used clothing, toys and furniture there. My husband and I have been wandering through antique stores a lot now that we bought a house, because buying small pieces of furniture and décor from them is not only more sustainable, but it gives your home so much character. We recently purchased a beautiful old wash table that we are using as an entryway table that I really love. If I am looking for something specific, or if I just want to browse an online store, I go to Facebook marketplace and check out the local listings. These are all great ways to find something that is skipping the trash that you can give new life to, and you are also going to be able to make the purchase with zero packaging or plastic bags. I also like to stop at local yard sales to check out what they have- it is a great way to prevent something from ending up on the curb at the end of the day. Speaking of the curb… I am also now officially a trash picker- I always keep an eye out for something that I could use and save from the landfill. A couple weeks ago, I trash picked a mirror that I want to hang in our entryway of our house to match the antique table we bought!
Shop in the Back of Your Own Closet
When I heard this phrase, I really liked it. Sometimes we end up with so many things that pile up; we don’t even remember what we have. If you want something new and are trying to avoid buying something new, go shopping in the back of your own closet. We tend to hold on to many articles of clothing and items that we are afraid to get rid of in case we need them again, and we can rediscover them rather than buying something new. I personally cleaned out my closet several times recently, and in doing so, I found some treasures. I started wearing my clothes more purposefully; I also took the ones that I decided not to keep and looked through the different fabrics to use them for crafts!
Look For Items with Less Packaging
When you have to purchase something that does come in packaging, aim to buy whichever option comes in less packaging, or in packaging that you can reuse. I either like to purchase items that are out of a box and only have a sticker or label on them, or buy items in glass or cardboard rather than plastic. This is where thrift and antique stores come in handy because there is almost no packaging. Even stores like At Home, Home Goods, TJMaxx, etc. have little to no packaging on the items they sell, so if you bring your own bag you are not creating any waste in buying items from them. As an example, my husband and I are slowly stocking up our new home with tools as we need them, and we have been to our local hardware store most often because they are not only a small business, but you can purchase almost everything unwrapped – so it is a double score!
Offsetting Carbon Emissions with Online Purchases
One thing I look for when shopping online is an add-on to offset the carbon emissions from shipping that purchase to me. Sometimes you have no choice but to buy online, and this is a great way to lessen some guilt. A few companies I normally shop through do this- they ask you at checkout if you would like to round up your purchase in order to offset emissions. The last time I had this happen, it was an extra 47 cents. I learned recently about EcoCart, which is a Google Chrome plug-in that will automatically prompt you with this question at checkout when you are online shopping. It is free to add, and they are partnered with over 10,000 stores so far. You just shop normally, and you will get a pop-up from them if you are on a site that the plug-in recognizes. The way the offsets work is this: they find a carbon reduction project, take your extra few cents, and donate it to that project. For example, people in some other countries have to boil their drinking water. This requires cutting down trees for firewood and then burning it to boil the water. Instead, your money will go to water purification systems that release zero carbon emissions, which offsets the shipping of the products you are purchasing online. I personally think this is a fantastic idea, and I immediately downloaded it and am excited to see how many retailers that I shop with are using this feature.
Look for What Companies Value and Stand For
One thing that I find really important is that we need to be supporting companies that are doing good things for our planet, and buying less from those who are doing our planet harm. After going vegan, I was searching for a zero waste, vegan sunscreen. That is a tough thing to find because just about every single zero waste sunscreen out there contains beeswax, which is not vegan. I got to the point where I had to choose between buying sunscreen with beeswax in it, or buying vegan sunscreen in a plastic bottle. In this search, I came across a bunch of companies that are doing great things for Earth, like planting trees, offsetting their shipping emissions, and offering refillable products. One company that I was very interested in checking out was MadHippie, which is a vegan skincare company. On their website, it say that they donate $1 per sale they make to a few different organizations, so I clicked to see where my donation would be going. One of those organizations is Oceana. I am very uneasy about Oceana after watching Seaspiracy, and don’t want any of my money going to them until I get a more clear idea about them. They are responsible for the blue dolphin labels on seafood, which indicates that the fish you are eating was caught “sustainably” and dolphins were not harmed as bycatch…which they cannot guarantee because fishermen can be bribed. I also found it strange that a vegan company would support a big name in the seafood industry at all. Anyway, I went with another brand after this search, and the takeaway is to be familiar with where you are shopping and be selective.
Some Awesome Finds I Have Loved So Far
I already posted about how I shop for clothing a few months ago, and I am happy to report that since that post, the only two articles of clothing I have purchased were a bridesmaid dress, and a new swimsuit. I found a company called Wolven online through an Instagram ad, and I really like their mission. They make their fabric out of plastic water bottles that were pulled out of the ocean, and it is really comfortable and soft. I have had the same swimsuit for about 7-8 years now, and the elastic is completely worn out on the bottom half. I was so excited to buy a new one, and one that is good for the planet as well. To offset the cost, I purchased a one-piece suit that you can wear 8 different ways, so it is really more than one swimsuit in one and more worth spending the money on it in my opinion.
Another company that I am loving right now is Pela, which is a company that makes biodegradable cell phone cases. I got a new phone last winter, I hated the fact that I had to throw away my phone case from my previous phone. They have a ton of designs and I can say from experience that they do a great job protecting your phone. I had my phone fall out of my pocket while running up my stairs, and it went tumbling all the way down the steps without a scratch. The cases are cute too. Mine is pink with a whale on it that matches my purple iPhone really well. They are compostable so when I eventually get a new phone I can compost the case in my backyard!
They also make glasses which I recently purchased and am in love with. They have biodegradable sunglasses in really cute styles. I ordered a pair, and got blue light lenses to go with my frames. You can pop the lenses in and out so I can use the same frames for studying on the computer or going outside in the sun! I usually don’t hold onto sunglasses for very long because I’ve always bought cheap pairs that I end up breaking pretty quickly, but these are super durable. If I ever do end up breaking them, they are biodegradable so I can feel less guilty than I would if I threw away a pair of plastic frames.
~Also, side note for those of you thinking about starting a compost system, they sell a countertop compost system that is pretty cool!
Some Struggles I Have Had So Far
My biggest struggle with all of this is the cost. It honestly really hurts me to spend significantly more money on something because it is better for the environment, because it is not exactly great for my wallet. One example is toothpaste. I use the TerraCycle Colgate program because after extensive research, I still have not taken the plunge into powdered or tablet toothpaste. How can I spend $15-40 a month on toothpaste tabs for 2 people, when I can go to my local grocery store and buy a tube of toothpaste on sale for less than $1, and it lasts us well over a month. Our local store literally had toothpaste tubes on sale for 19 cents last week- how am I supposed to turn that down?!
One thing I heard on the Chickpeeps podcast recently (on the vegan fashion episode of season 3) was that you don’t have to break the bank to be better for the planet. Think about the items you actually need, not just what you would like to have, and save up to make the swaps where you can. Then, for everything else, thrift it for great deals and your budget may even out to what you are already spending. I really liked this way of looking at it, and really do agree with it because it has been happening exactly this way for me. I treated myself to a $100 swimsuit that I really wanted that was made out of plastic water bottles, but I have not bought a single other new article of clothing in several months. I used to go shopping at least once a month for fun and come home with cheap new clothes, so I am actually spending less money being more thoughtful about what I am purchasing. However, the big price tags do sting a bit still if I’m being honest. Even if you are saving money, it doesn’t always feel like it and I am still adjusting to that!