For many people who are concerned about the environment it is not enough to simply recycle; they recognise the need to develop a 'sustainable lifestyle' that encompasses all aspects of daily living. Shopping ethically - for goods that are not directly damaging the environment through production or waste - is central to developing a sustainable way of living.
Boycotting GoodsThere are undoubtedly goods that should be boycotted, such as non-rechargeable batteries and petrol fuelled cars if you are to take sustainability seriously. You may wish to boycott many large companies that, through their output alone (and disregarding even their ethical or environmental practice), clearly produce carbon emissions on a huge scale.
Buying OrganicOrganic foods are produced using sustainable, ethically sound farming procedures that prohibit the use of chemicals and pesticides and avoid the use of machinery where necessary.
Plan Your ShoppingHowever, 'sustainable shopping' requires that the individual do much more than merely choose certain products over others. In order to minimise the harm one does to the environment it is necessary to develop your own personal 'sustainable strategy.' This will depend on individual circumstance, including factors such as where you live, available income, local resources, etc.
Although your strategy will depend on your own personal shopping habits, situation and available resources, it should be possible to develop a basic 'skeleton' strategy by considering the following points:
- Make a list. It is helpful to make a list before you go shopping. If you don't make a list you may end up buying things you did not really need. As always, this can have a detrimental effect on your finances, but if you are shopping for a sustainable lifestyle this may also have a detrimental effect on the environment! Buying items you don't need will produce extra waste and creates the risk of inadvertently buying goods that are damaging to the environment.
- Do all your shopping locally. If you shop locally - preferably from shops and/or farms that make or obtain their produce locally - you will cut down on the need for transport and, therefore, harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
- Consider transport options. If you need to use transport (as you inevitably will sometimes) go for the least damaging option. Cycle if you can; failing this, use public transport or take part in a car-sharing scheme. 'Liftshare' operate a scheme whereby you can find likeminded people willing to share a car journey, via a simple internet search.
- Make single shopping excursions. In order to cut emissions and save time it is worth doing all of your shopping at once. This will involve compiling a weekly, or even fortnightly, list that incorporates luxury items, clothes, music, books and sundries into your food shop. Plan your exclusion to minimise the distance you need to travel.
- Shop together as a household. If you live with a family or with a group of housemates you can minimise costs and carbon emissions by coordinating your shopping. This will cut on fuel costs and the amount of shopping you will need to do. If you eat together you can also save on household fuel consumption and reduce food waste.
- Don't waste food. It is estimated that the average person wastes several hundred pounds of food each year. This can primarily be avoided by not buying and/or cooking more food than you need. Plan meals ahead, don't buy convenience food when you have already made a packed lunch for work and keep an eye on what you have left in the fridge - try to use up things that are close to their use by date first.
- Consider packaging. Buy products that are not over packaged and always avoid unnecessary packaging on fruit and vegetables -buy loose wherever possible.
- Reuse shopping bags. Around 100'000 carrier bags are disposed of in the UK alone each year. Whenever possible reuse plastic carriers and refuse a disposable carrier if you do not need one. Invest in a sturdy recycled carrier for all your shopping trips.