The amount we buy has gone up, while the number of times we use a product has gone down. This is contributing to waste and overuse of earth's resources in a big way.
But we can choose to be more conscious about how we consume. So as we head into the holiday season and far, far beyond, we hope you'll choose to waste less, choose to wear and use something longer, choose to take better care of our clothes and belongings, and choose better quality products from the beginning.
Because in the end, all our choices matter. To help, we've put together a list of 10 things to consider and questions we can all ask to be more eco-conscious consumers.
1. Don’t buy things impulsively!
Are you shopping and buying "just because"? Are you buying out of boredom? Reflect on the why of your purchase. If possible, wait 2 weeks before deciding to buy something, this will help show whether the purchase is impulsive or whether you truly need the item.
2. Buy only what you need
By consuming less, you dispose of less waste. Before heading out to buy something, first take note of what you already have around the house. Don't have it? Try borrowing the item from a friend or shop secondhand. Buy things only when you truly need them.
3. Avoid excess packaging
Buy products with less packaging or environmentally friendly packaging whenever possible. Learn the proper ways to get rid of them after i.e. can it be recycled, repurposed or does it belong in the trash? Bring your own reusable bag when shopping for groceries, clothes or other items to avoid having to take a single-use bag from the store.
4. Consider the beforelife and the afterlife of a product
Reflect on the story and life of the product. Where and how it was made? And what will happen to it after its' intended use? If you don't like the answers or the story makes you uncomfortable, keep searching for a better alternative.
5. Think second-hand (or upcycled) first
Ask yourself if the product or material may already exist and if you can get it second-hand or upcycled. Buying a used item or product made from upcycled materials diverts those products and materials from ending up in the landfill (where they would decompose and release harmful methane gas into the atmosphere) and saves water, air and energy that would be used to create virgin materials.
6. Quality over quantity
Buy quality when you can. Spend a little more on things that will last, hopefully for a lifetime - avoid cheap and disposable items. Purchase versatile, high-quality items that you can - and want to - wear and use again and again. Fast fashion has created an enormous problem in how clothing is manufactured, sold and used, resulting in lower quality items that are only meant to be worn a handful of times and encourages consumers to always be buying and wearing the ever-changing newest pieces.
> Check out these additional tips from the New York Times on "How to Buy Clothes That Are Built to Last"
7. Extend the life of your things
Extending the life and use of our clothing can help reduce their environmental impact. So do your best to look after items and store them properly. Help your clothes last longer by washing them only when they are truly dirty, wash in cold-water and hang-dry when you can. Repair whenever possible, either yourself or locally.
"Just increasing the lifespan of our clothes reduces all of their environmental impacts; for greenhouse gases “doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years reduces emissions over the year by 24%”, as does buying second-hand clothes." - Greenpeace's "Fact Sheet Timeout for Fast Fashion"
8. Buy from companies that do good
Choose companies committed to sustainability, reducing waste, fair labor practices, and using ethically sourced materials. Look for companies that have a B Corp Certification, which requires companies to "consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment" -B Corp
9. Do research. Ask questions. Know the full story.
Get to know the companies you shop with by visiting their website or reading their corporate responsibility report, where they share information on their social and environmental commitments. Ask questions if the information is not readily available. Where do the materials come from? How are they made? Who makes the materials/products? How is it all packaged? What are their labor practices? How do they handle waste on their end? Etc. Companies should know you’re paying attention and keep striving to do better.
10. Keep in mind that every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want
We vote every day with our dollar, and we have the ability to choose who and what we will vote for. We can choose to support companies who are leading the way in sustainability, closed loop systems and the reduction of the use of resources. We can choose to support those who are creating ethically made products and who are using their power for good. We can choose to buy locally when possible, buy less and shop with purpose.
Each and every day we have to decide how we will interact with the world, what and how much we will buy and use, who we will support with our precious time, energy and hard earned dollar, and what kind of impact we will have on the world around us. We have the ability to ask questions (of ourselves and others) and continue to do research into how to lessen our personal impact and push companies to do better.
We hope this starter list gives you a good start to jump in with to be a more eco-conscious consumer. Is there anything else you would add?
Learn more about how you can make a difference: