It’s complicated. Shopping by one’s conscience takes more time, thought, research and label scrutinizing – pain staking yes, but a worthy challenge. These are factors I consider –
*Second-Hand – Hand’s down, this is the most eco-friendly shopping practice of all. Producing fewer products reduces environmental damage, and reuse minimizes waste, averting valuable resources away from our landfill. While shopping second-hand, sometimes I flex my other criteria. Swap meets are becoming a thing! My daughter recently helped with a community Stop ‘N’ Swap event in New York City. I always enjoy all the laughter, and stories as we model and promote our wares seeking a new owner during smaller swap parties among friends.
*Buy what I need – By avoiding impulsive shopping, I minimize my carbon foot-print. I’m rewarded by saving both time and money. Focusing on “need” helps one avoid the emotional therapy shopping trap.
*Made in the USA/Shop Local when purchasing “new” items – Certainly challenging, buying as locally as possible minimizes transporting carbon spewing cargo ships and trucks, keep jobs in the USA, and stops supporting companies that gravitate to countries with lax environmental and labor laws.
*Produce – Grow yourself, or buy at Farmer’s Markets. When purchasing organics, I consult the Environmental Work Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen groups to get more bang for my buck. Buying in season reduces transportation emissions when produce isn’t transported from countries all over the world. Frequently cited, food travels an average of 1500 miles from farmer to consumer in the United States.
*Fair trade/Eco-conscious companies – I always start my day with a strong cup of fair trade coffee. Knowing those working in the fields aren’t over-worked and underpaid enhances my enjoyment. While considering products, I frequently consult the Good Guide , as their scientists have rated over 250,000 products on a zero to ten scale rating their health, environment and social impact.
*Quality – I will pay extra for products I that will last longer and always purchase energy efficient appliances.
*Buy Healthy Food – Again challenging, I try to avoid processed foods, unhealthy chemicals (additives, preservatives, food coloring), and hormone fed animals and their byproducts. I also avoid products made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients which are unfortunately very prevalent and unlabeled. If you want to see more healthy options available on our local grocery shelves, speak up.
*Avoid Environmentally Damaging Products – Styrofoam, plastic water bottles, cleaning products with toxic chemicals, heavily packaged products, disposables, single-serve products and healthcare products with micro-beads. With Good Guide’s assistance and lots of research, I am replacing old standbys with healthier products – shaving cream, toothpaste, sunscreen, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner.
Embrace Consumer Power – When we consciously choose where we spend money, we have the opportunity to support businesses and companies that reflect our values. Many times those “bargains” come at too high of a price to the environment and workers.