10 Steps to Sustainable Shopping
March 15th is World Consumer Rights Day! How can you shop more sustainably?
1. Reuse plastic bags or Recycle bags and films at the store Reuse plastic shopping bags for household trash or pet waste, or recycle them in drop-off containers at stores like Safeway, Albertsons, and Fred Meyers. www.plasticfilmrecycling.org
2. BYO Reusables Bring your own reusable shopping bags, water bottles and coffee mugs to reduce waste. Some stores will even give you a discount for using a reusable bag or mug!
3. Reduced Consumption: Do you really need it? The first step to being sustainable is to reduce. First, ask yourself if you really need it before you buy it. Don't let anything you buy mold or gather dust; that's a waste of money and resources.
4. Buy Used, Repair and Make it Last Markets today are producing mass quantities of low-quality or disposable items, so take the time to find something that will last and use it for as long as possible, and care for it properly to extend its life. When you're done with it, consider donating it if it is still in good condition. Broken items? Take advantage of the Clark County Repair Café events where you can bring items in need of repair and have them fixed for free! www.repairclarkcounty.org Shopping and donating second-hand extends the life of materials and saves you money. See a map of Clark County thrift stores and donation centers here: clarkgreenneighbors.org/reduce-and-recycle/thrift-store-donation-map
5. Support Local Large box stores may have reduced prices, but their purchases may be coming from around the world adding environmental costs to their products such as emissions and energy. Because of these large systems, produce is often picked too early or goes bad during transportation. And there is a detachment between the consumer and the processes. Shop at your local farmers markets or stores committed to sustainability and fair trade like NewSeasons, Chuck's Produce, WholeFoods, TraderJoe's, and others. Buy materials and products manufactured or grown locally. Buying local products supports the local economy and reduces food miles and transportation emissions. Displaced resources, such as bottled water, and social exploitation are also issues to consider when making purchasing choices.
6. Organics vs. Sustainable Farming/Production Organics have become popular and the standards for labeling and regulation haven't quite caught up yet. In general, the term 'organic' means that the product was grown without the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. This criterion alone doesn't mean that the product is being grown in a sustainable system. To be fully aware of the process, look for companies that are transparent about their farming or production or get to know a local farmer or manufacturer that is working to be environmentally sustainable.
7. Food: Too Good to Waste Big box stores waste a lot of food before it even reaches the consumer because of quality standards or because the product gets ruined during transportation. The term 'ugly produce' refers to produce that is edible but doesn't meet visual quality standards. Movements are popping up to support these uglies, and you can help by supporting these food-saving movements and shopping to save your food. If you're baking something, buy that bruised veggie or browned banana. Plan your meals and make a shopping list so that you don't buy more than you'll eat. Get cold products from the store to your fridge as soon as possible and consider using an insulated bag. For more tips to save the food go to www.ClarkGreenNeighbors.org/Food
8. Packaging When you're making a purchase, consider the packaging. Can you recycle it? In Clark County, you can recycle paper, metal cans, cartons, and plastic bottles, jugs and tubs. But there are a lot of different types of packaging out there that are not recyclable. Plastic containers with lids that hinge open are called "clamshells" and cannot be recycled. "Wet packaging" is paperboard that is infused with plastic and chemicals to keep food protected in the freezer or fridge. Any box or packaging that goes in the fridge or freezer has this wet packaging and is not recyclable (with the exception of cartons which are recycled separate from paper). By choosing products with less packaging or packaging that is recyclable, you can reduce your waste. Or, you can avoid packaging altogether by bringing your own reusable containers to fill up in bulk sections.
9. Beware of Green Washing The markets are hearing your calls for environmentally-friendly, recycled, locally-sourced, and green products. There are all sorts of products out there advertising their "green" side, but just because it has images of leaves all over it and the term "eco-" does not mean it's the most sustainable option. The hardest part of shopping sustainably is doing your research to be well-informed. There are a lot of resources out there to help you make your choice, but you have to take the time to find the information. Done Good https://donegood.co/ is a browser extension that shows you details about the sustainability and fairness of the company when you go to their site. The Good on You app https://goodonyou.eco/ rates the sustainability of clothing by brand. The Good Shopping Guide website http://www.thegoodshoppingguide.com/ rates products based on a variety of social, economic, and environmental factors. These are just a few of the many resources out there!
10. Online Shopping Online shopping can be convenient for saving time, doing research on the product, and finding that perfect item that you can't find anywhere else. But while home delivery saves emissions from your personal vehicle, there are still emissions from all of the transportation to get that one item to you from, possibly, the other side of the world. Online shopping does not have the energy efficiency of goods shipped in bulk. A lot of shipped products will be packaged in plastic sleeves, shrink wrap, Styrofoam packing peanuts, or other materials that are not recyclable in the curbside collection. When shopping online, look for companies shipping closer to your house that use recyclable packaging, and take the time to look up the brands and products that are the most environmentally-conscious.
For more tips, read our page on Thoughtful Consumption, visit: clarkgreenneighbors.org/reduce-and-recycle/thoughtful-consumption