Consumers are starting to be more mindful of their purchases and how what they buy can affect the environment. This is resulting in a rise of both supply and demand for green or eco-friendly products among households as people make the transition to a more sustainable style of living.
While living green is easier today than it was just a few decades ago, when green consumerism first began, some people may still find it difficult to do so. If you are new to the idea of shopping green and sustainable living, here is an overview of what you will need to know to start living a greener lifestyle.
How to Shop Green
Debates on whether online shopping is more sustainable than in-store shopping are still unresolved. But regardless of this, there are still plenty of ways you can stay green in both types of shopping.
Shopping in stores
If you find it more convenient to do your shopping in physical stores, here are some ways you can shop while still keeping the environment in mind:
To make the best of the gas you consume driving to and from the mall or other stores, schedule your shopping days with other errands. Similarly, you can also arrange a shopping day with friends, family, or roommates.
Buy food and other supplies in bulk to reduce the trash you create with product packaging. Better yet, see if there’s a zero-waste grocery store in your area.
Bring your reusable shopping bags (for both produce items and your entire grocery haul) to the store.
While some studies have found that online shopping involves 30% less energy than in-store shopping, there are also those who argue that it can create more waste considering the amount of packaging that comes with delivered products. To keep your online shopping sprees eco-friendly, here are some tips:
- Refrain from asking for express or same-day delivery.
- Think of your purchases more thoroughly before buying them. Returning products bought online requires reshipping and repackaging.
Most importantly, avoid impulse purchases of products you don’t need.
- Sierra Club: What's better for the environment, shopping at a store or online?
- United Nations Environment Program: From birth to ban: A history of the plastic shopping bag
- Worldwatch Institute: 10 ways to go green and save green
Green Products for Homeowners
Changes to make your home more energy-efficient and sustainable are easier than you think. Not only will these changes save you money when it comes to bills, but you will also be helping in lessening the pollution caused by the sources of traditional power-generating.
Electricity and Light Bulbs
Consider replacing your incandescent light bulbs with either compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) to conserve energy when lighting your home. These types of energy-saving bulbs also tend to last longer, so you will not have to replace them as often as before.
Heating and Cooling
Lots of companies are now offering new types of cooling and heating systems which are designed to run using alternative sources of energy like solar or geothermal. Compare options to find those that use the least amount of traditional energy.
There are many ways you can reduce water consumption in your home. Here are some products you can use to lower your water bill:
- Water flow valves: Using these will allow you to completely stop or decrease the flow of water from a source so you can have more control over how much water you use while showering or washing dishes.
- Water-efficient showerheads: Switch all your shower heads to ones with a 1.5 GPM rating, and you will save gallons of water each time you use the shower.
- Toilet tank bags: These are very easy to install and can be used to decrease the amount of water that is used with every flush.
Of course, replacing old and worn out appliances with more sustainable ones will also help in making your home greener. Consider brands like Electrolux, Whirlpool, or KitchenAid as they are known to contribute to sustainability efforts. Always look for the Energy Star rating.
Eco-friendly landscaping can also contribute to your home’s green status. You can begin with planting trees in strategic places in your yard, avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers for gardening, and avoiding landscaping that requires excessive watering.
- Green America: CFLs vs. LEDs: The better bulbs
- Energy Star: A green home begins with Energy Star blue
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency: Identify greener products and services
Buying fair trade products is a great way to shop green while supporting the developing countries these products come from. You will know an item is ethically-made when you see the Fair-Trade Certified sticker on it. You can find these products in nearly every supermarket.
- Fair Trade Certified: Where to find fair trade products
- The Her Initiative: Ethical, conscious, fair trade shopping guide
- Dressember: A shopper's guide to ethical and fair trade
Sustainable Food Shopping
There are no official criteria for sustainable food, but most people consider any produce from small farmers and eco-friendly farming to qualify. In addition, purchasing locally produced food means it has traveled a shorter distance so less fuel was used to get it from the farm to your table.
You can shop for sustainable produce from your local farmers’ market. These markets are typically only open on certain days of the week so be sure to check your community’s schedule so you can time your shopping days to coincide.
Another place you can shop for sustainable food is at a food cooperative. These cooperatives are run by consumers in a non-profit scheme. Many opt for more ethically produced purchases.
- World Wildlife Fund: Look for the label: Shopping for sustainable food
- Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture: 10 reasons to support farmers markets
- Change Food: Shop sustainable
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Help decrease waste and pollution in your community by practicing these three principles in your home:
Reduce: Reduce the amount of waste your household puts into landfills by implementing small changes like using washable rags instead of paper towels, buying food products with minimal packaging, and composting food waste.
Reuse: Repurpose household items for reusing instead of throwing them out. Some things you can reuse and repurpose are jars, newspapers, and plastic bags.
Recycle: Check with your local recycling facility about which items you can put in your bins to better separate your waste. Items like cardboard, plastics, paper materials, and glass usually qualify.
- Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District: Top 5 ways to reuse and recycle at home
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Michigan State University: Reduce, recycle, and reuse to decrease climate change