Eco-friendly shopping can seem intimidating and expensive at first, but shopping green is really about shopping smart! Here are 10 simple, easy shopping hacks that will save you time and money, all while helping save the planet and supporting local business.
- Read the fine print
Look out for items with recycled content to help reduce your environmental impact. The World Wild Fund (WWF) encourages buying “recycled toilet paper, kitchen towels, napkins and handkerchiefs.” Recycled paper products significantly decrease chlorine pollution along with saving millions of trees and gallons of water. WWF also suggests shopping for sustainably sourced wood, and advises that when purchasing “any products made from new timber or virgin timber fibres – from garden chairs to paper and envelopes,” ensure that they have “the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.” Also keep an eye out for the Rainforest Alliance seal, a little green frog that verifies that an item meets environmental and social standards. Just a few extra seconds of reading the fine print could help make a positive impact and support green, sustainable business.
- Check out your local farmers market
Not only will you be getting fresher, tastier food, but you’ll be supporting your local economy, often at a better price. Shopping local significantly decreases the amount of transportation fuel needed and likely eliminates the need for preservation chemicals on your food. Give your support to local farms instead of large-scale factory farms that may contribute to a massive use of fossil fuel and water, not to mention the maltreatment of animals. Learn about local options and find a farm with eco-friendly and humane farming practices. Have a plastic-free shopping trip, and fill up your own bag with delicious food that keeps your conscious clear and supports your community.
- Quality over quantity
Long-lasting items may cost a bit more initially, but they will save you far more money in the long run. Look for products that are durable and reusable, and cut out single-use plastic and paper products. This will save you the financial and environmental costs of replacement, and take away the need to keep going to the store for new items. Start small with key reusable items such as water bottles, straws, coffee filters (there are reusable K-cup pods too!), and food containers. Spend your money on high quality products and turn your home green while decreasing unnecessary waste and cutting the costs of replacement.
- Keep it thrifty
Buy as many used items as you can! Not only are used items significantly cheaper, but you eliminate all of the environmental costs of manufacturing something new. Find a used book store in your area, go thrift shopping for those pants you want, and check out garage sales in your area next time you need furniture. Cut down on costs even more by visiting your local library for free book and movie rentals. In addition, thrift stores are often run by charity organizations, giving you an opportunity to make an even greater impact with your purchase.
- Embrace the digital world
End your mail newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and instead get an online subscription or read for free! Save huge amounts of paper and switch to digital platforms for your news and media. You can also opt for ebooks instead of print books, saving countless trees.
Bonus Tip: Do you have leftover newspapers or magazines at home? Get crafty and use them to wrap gifts during the holiday season so that you can repurpose and recycle, along with save money on wrapping paper.
- Buy in bulk
If you’re able to buy large quantities of fresh food, not only will you save money and trips to the grocery, but you’ll be cutting way down on packaging. And if bulk produce doesn’t work for you, look at dry goods such as sugar, flour, rice, grains, and more. You can also get home necessities in bulk, stocking your home with anything from eco-friendly, biodegradable cleaning supplies to laundry detergents that will save you time and cut down on the environmental costs of extra transportation. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “42% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of our food and goods.” You can have an impact on that!
- Choose wisely
Stay environmentally conscious when picking your produce and go organic! Organic farms are much more eco-friendly and organic food directly impacts your health with several important benefits. TIME magazine reported four main “Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic,” which include a big decrease or elimination of pesticides and heavy metals, increased levels of healthy fats, “no antibiotics or synthetic hormones,” and, often, “more antioxidants.” Pesticides can remain on your food even after washing, so it is vital to go organic whenever possible. Make sure you’re buying certified organic by checking for a green and white “USDA Organic” label.
- Stick with the season
Produce that’s in season will likely taste better and be cheaper—reason enough to stick with the season. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Items that are in season are typically fresher and contain more nutrients than out of season food. There is also a higher chance of your food coming from local farms during the correct season, which has environmental and economic benefits. To find out what’s in season in your area, head over to the Seasonal Food Guide and be sure to check it out before planning your next trip to the grocery.
- Bring your own bag
As more and more stores charge for bags nowadays, it’s truly cost-effective and eco-friendly to bring your own. Some stores will even give you a discount for doing so! The more that plastic bags lose their demand, the sooner we can start eliminating one huge contributor to plastic waste. Start using your old tote bags or check out ChicoBag for a durable, high-quality bag that provides a convenient and impactful alternative to single-use plastics.
- Use your URL for good
Before you buy anything from Amazon, make sure that you’re using AmazonSmile, a feature that donates “0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.” All you have to do is go to https://smile.amazon.com/ before checking out, and you can choose where to donate. The Nature Conservancy is a great donation option, with a mission “to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.” Simply save the AmazonSmile URL on your computer, and for every purchase that you make, you’ll also be making a positive impact on the world.
Shopping green doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Keep these hacks in mind and you can save money, promote your health, support your local community, and do some good for the earth!
Written by: Katie Cohen
Gifford, D. (2018, April 19). 40 Ways to Save Money by Going Green. Retrieved from https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/how-to-save-money-by-going-green
Naftulin, A. M. (2017, July 27). 4 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic. Retrieved from http://time.com/4871915/health-benefits-organic-food/
Seasonal Food Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/
Think Green Before You Shop. (2017, June 08). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/think-green-you-shop
Vision & Mission | The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nature.org/about-us/vision-mission/index.htm?intc=nature.tnav.about
Why Eat Seasonally? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/why-eat-seasonally
WWF. (n.d.). Use your consumer power for good. Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/get_involved/live_green/out_shopping/