5 Ways to be a Sustainably Savvy Shopper

Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.  ~ Anna Lappe

Every action we take in life is an opportunity to be better. When we know better, we can do better. We’re all at different points on our journey toward sustainability.

Here are some of my favorite tips to be a more conscious consumer whether you’re just getting your bearings and starting out or already invest lots of thought and energy making sustainable lifestyle choices.

1) Give Single-Use Products the Boot

First and foremost, do a “waste audit” to figure out what kinds of non-recyclable trash you create. The most likely suspects are single-use items.

It cannot be right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes, and then are with us for centuries.  ~ Roz Savage

There are chic and sustainable swaps for all these and more:

  • Single-use cups, plates, bowls and utensils
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Plastic wrap/aluminum foil
  • Food storage bags
  • Grocery bags
  • Produce bags
  • Water bottles
  • Food storage containers
  • Straws
  • Coffee filters & pods
  • Ear swabs and cottonballs
  • Razors
  • Toothbrushes
  • Wet wipes
  • Face masks
  • Etc.

A great source for stylish single use swaps, creative eco merch and more is EarthHero.

2) Eco Products for a Home Sweet Home

  • Look for minimally packaged toxin-free cleaners, soaps and laundry products.
  • Skip the single-use dryer sheets and extend the life of your clothes by using wool dryer balls.
  • Chic Swedish Dishcloths are super alternatives to paper towels and compostable or recycled trash bags are sustainable swaps for plastic garbage bags.
  • Avoid petroleum wax candles. Use beeswax, or vegetable wax and organic wicks instead.
  • Treat yourself and the planet to Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate.
  • Use eco greeting cards
  • Switch to recycled paper toilet paper or TP made from fast-growing bamboo

3) Personal Care with a Conscience

  • Eco divas look for organic and chemical free feminine products without plastic.
  • For beauty without cruelty, opt for cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals.
  • There are band-aids made of bamboo vs. plastic. Isn’t that neat?
  • Did you know most shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles can’t be recycled? It takes some doing, but there are products that create less waste – bamboo vs. plastic toothbrushes for instance… Or find brands that participate in the TerraCycle program that collects and recycles hard-to-recycle waste.

TerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers. Just choose the programs you’d like to join; start collecting in your home, school, or office; download free shipping labels; and send your waste to be recycled. You can even earn rewards for your school or favorite non-profit!

I like EOS shave cream but it’s one of those pesky bottles that gets trashed vs. recycled if I put it in the recycling bin. EOS is one of many companies that sponsor a free send-back system with TerraCycle. Details for many brands here. 

You can also buy TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes for hard-to-recycle items that don’t have take-back programs. Fill them up to the brim with things like snack wrappers and mail back with a prepaid shipping label.

4) Up your Grocery Game

  • In addition to reusable shopping bags, invest in some reusable produce bags.
  • Try to choose items with minimal packaging and those in paper or cardboard vs. plastic.
  • When feasible, buy some things in bulk to reduce packaging.
  • Local, organic produce and farmer’s markets are always healthier for the planet
  • Think about your carry-out food. Only dine with restaurants offering compostable containers. Ask before you place your order. Styrofoam never biodegrades. Skip the single use utensils, napkins and condiments. I keep a lightweight set of bamboo utensils my purse. What we allow is what will continue.

5) Give Your Wardrobe a Sustainable Vibe

  • Resist buying cheaply produced “Fast Fashion” since it produces 8% of the world’s carbon emissions – especially those made from fibers based on petroleum like nylon, spandex and other synthetics.
  • Shop secondhand or ethical companies for new clothes.
  • Aim for good quality classic pieces that won’t go out of style
  • Mend/repair vs. discarding when possible.
  • Swap with friends to mix things up with “New to You” style.

As designer Vivienne Westwood says: Buy Less. Choose Well. Make It Last.

We’re in this together.

Chin up! Don’t be overwhelmed. Thanks for whatever you’re doing to be part of the solution.

The oceans, mountains and beautiful creatures (including us!) of our beautiful but endangered planet thank you for being concerned and clever.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.  ~ William James