In honor of spring and Earth Day, now is a time to reflect on the patterns we’ve created in our lives and how they affect our environmental footprint.
This week I’m taking a closer look at shopping, something we all do. Whether you’re school shopping, clothes shopping, or just grocery shopping – at some point you will find yourself in a store.
For those times, look to these eco-friendly shopping tips below:
Paper or Plastic?
By simply opting out of plastic bags when you shop, you’re automatically reducing your environmental footprint 100-fold. The most efficient way to do this is to embrace the reusable bag! It might not seem like it, but shopping can actually be easier with reusable bags if you just remember to bring them along. They’re extremely durable, so they can be packed full without fear of breaking (unlike plastic). If you’ve ever had to haul plastic bags up and down steps, you can appreciate the comfort of a canvas bag. My favorite part is that they come in every size, shape, and design you could possibly think of. TJMAXX and Marshalls have $0.99 bags that are HUGE, Target always has various sizes, and I love the little ones that fold up and fit into your purse.
The bottom line is that plastic bags are the worst option. They’re made from nonrenewable resources, they don’t biodegrade for hundreds of years, and when they melt, they release toxic chemicals into the air. And most people don’t recycle them.
If you forget your reusable bags, another alternative is paper bags (very biodegradable). Or go bag-less if you can!
Plan and Make Lists
To have the most eco-efficient shopping trip make lists and plan ahead. Start with a list of everything you intend to buy. This not only saves you from buying things you don’t need, it also helps make sure you get everything you do need. That way you’re not making unnecessary trips because you forgot something.
Also, if you’re driving (as most of us are) it can help to plan your shopping route. This saves time, energy, fuel, and emissions.
Related: 5 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk doesn’t always mean you have to buy 25 rolls of toilet paper at once. It can be as simple as buying the bigger bottle of ketchup. It’s also usually the cheaper option, and definitely an eco-friendly one. Buying in bulk cuts back on packaging production, waste production, and fuel emissions by way of fewer trips to the store. Just be sure to mind the expiration dates.
Related: 5 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Pay Attention to Packaging
This might be something we don’t initially think about when purchasing an item. However, packaging definitely plays a role in environmental waste.
Next time you buy something, think about these 3 things:
- Is it reusable? Sometimes deli meat comes in perfectly reusable plasticware which can be saved and reused.I always get on my fiancé’s case about throwing it away. Same thing with jelly jars, spaghetti sauce jars and the like. Try to always be aware of the packaging and whether or not it can be reused.
- Can it be recycled? Most of the time you can recycle packaging. If it’s paper of any sort, it can be recycled. If it’s plastic, there is usually a Resin Identification Code on the bottom indicating what type of plastic it is. It looks like a recycle symbol with a number inside. You can check with your waste services to find out which numbers you can recycle in your area. You can even check on this before purchasing said item, that way you don’t buy something you can’t recycle. Tin and aluminum cans, and even plastic bread bags can be recycled.
- Does it really need the packaging? If you’re shopping for fresh fruit or vegetables, there are often two kinds in grocery stores: the kind with no packaging or the fruits/veggies wrapped in plastic. I understand a bushel of apples in a big bag, but what about the single sweet potato wrapped in plastic? Sometimes I find veggies such as zucchini and squash held together on a Styrofoam plate wrapped in plastic. If you can, steer clear of any unnecessary packaging.
Related: Make Your Food Last Longer
There are always more ways to improve your environmental footprint, especially when it comes to shopping. But this is a good place to start! What are some of your eco-shopping tips? Let me know in the comments below.
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Christina is a twenty-something living with her beagle, Mash, and husband, Nate in their van. She loves traveling, shopping, art, and photography. She’s also a vegetarian, pop-culture enthusiast, book-lover, and Dave Matthews Band fanatic. Catch her somewhere around the country in a converted camper van or at home in Florida for a visit.