Thanks to rising awareness of climate and environmental concerns, many people are looking for ways to make better and more informed choices in their daily habits. Fortunately, there are many ways everyone can make small changes to live a more sustainable lifestyle when you go shopping.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of 10 easy ways you can make sustainable choices on your next trip to the store:
1. Look for Certifications
Certifications let you know a third party has verified that a product meets an organization’s established standard or rubric. You can usually identify a product’s certification by that organization’s logo, badge, or seal on its packaging. Some common certifications you might find on store shelves are USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project, Fair Trade, and Certified Carbon Neutral.
2. Pay Attention to Label Claims
Brands that use sustainable processes to make their products are often proud to let shoppers know. To spot sustainable items, look for claims that denote how animals are raised. For example, common label claims you’ll find for eggs are cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised. These claims can help you determine if a product is environmentally and ethically aligned with your values.
3. Shop local
Look for local brands or support local farmers’ markets when possible. Not only are you supporting your community’s businesses, but you’re often reducing the amount of transportation (and therefore pollution) required to get a product into your shopping cart.
4. Shop In Person
Online shopping has many benefits, ranging from convenience to available products that are otherwise hard to find. However, if you have the option, choose in-person shopping to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that can come from the shipping process.
5. Use Reusable Shopping Bags
Although most plastic shopping bags and paper bags are recyclable, the ways to recycle them aren’t always convenient. To avoid these bags ending up in landfills, opt for reusable bags the next time you go to the store. Cloth bags not only reduce waste, but they can also carry more items (which is especially great if you’re someone who fills bags to their limit so you can make as few trips as possible).
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6. Shop for Seasonal Produce
In much the same way shopping local can reduce a product’s carbon footprint, so can opting for seasonal produce. Out-of-season produce requires more transportation to get to you, which can often require more refrigeration. Bonus benefits: Seasonal produce is usually cheaper, and many people believe it tastes better!
7. Opt for Sustainable Packaging
The EPA estimates that containers and packaging create 82.2 million tons (or 28.1%) of municipal solid waste in a single year. Before you grab a product that comes in plastic wrapped in another kind of plastic inside a box, see if there are other options. Reusable, refillable, recyclable, plant-based materials, and minimal packaging are all more environmentally friendly options in multiple shopping categories.
8. Seek Out Plant-Based Options
Meat production creates a larger carbon footprint than plant-based processes due to several factors. You don’t have to give up animal-based foods entirely either; reducing your meat consumption by any amount (whether that’s two meals or two days per week) makes a difference.
9. Buy in Bulk
No matter what you’re buying, you can have a net positive effect by shopping in bulk—especially if you take a car to the store. When items can be stored long-term, bulk purchasing reduces your shopping frequency and therefore the number of car trips. Plus, bulk items are often cheaper, and you’ll be saving on gas costs as well!
10. Be a Conscious Shopper
Curiosity is a sustainable shopper’s best friend because it makes you more conscious about your choices. Read ingredient labels, consider how items are produced, and explore brand websites to get an idea of their production practices and ethos around sustainability. Think about each purchase carefully, consider the impact of different products, and choose the one that is the least impactful. Learn more about how this mindset has become the foundation of the values-oriented shopper and why it’s already reshaping the shopping experience in this book.