When most people think of going green they think of things like recycling, turning off lights, or driving less. But one thing that can have a huge impact is shopping.
Let’s face it, if your family is like mine you go shopping all the time – for food, clothes, books and more. The choices you make when shopping can have a huge impact on the environment, so it makes sense to try to ensure that what you buy has as low an environmental impact as possible.
Unfortunately it isn’t always obvious what choices are best for the environment. Take egg cartons for example – which do you think is better for the environment, foam cartons or recycled paper cartons?
The reality is that over the entire life cycle there is almost no environmental difference. It turns out that more energy and water are needed to make the paper cartons, and since the paper cartons are heavier it takes more trucks to distribute them, which uses more gas. Although the paper cartons could be composted, they usually end up in landfills, since almost no recycling facilities will take them. So figuring out what to buy is complicated and not necessarily intuitive!
Only Buy What You Need
When making shopping choices the first thing to determine is do you really need to buy anything. Many items can be repaired, or borrowed from a friend. In addition make sure that you are really going to use the things you buy. If you buy organic lettuce and it sits in the produce drawer for 2 weeks and then gets tossed out it wasn’t really a green shopping decision, despite your good intentions.
When it comes to packaging the most important thing to think about is whether or not a product is using unnecessary packaging material. Sometime items will have extra layers of packaging, or just have a much larger container than is needed. Buying in bulk can also help here, since 3 small boxes of something will use more packaging than 1 large box. In addition, consider whether or not the packaging can be recycled, and whether or not your local recycler will accept it.
Look for Local Products
Local products are great, because they use less resources getting to you. While packaging is more obvious, transportation is a huge, hidden environmental concern. Also, if the company is a local one there is a better chance that you will know what they are like and whether or not they are really committed to eco-friendly business practices.
Especially for large purchases there is no substitute for research. It might not be practical to spend hours researching which shampoo is most green, but if you are spending hundreds of dollars on a new dryer it is very practical. Find out which companies are truly making a difference, and which ones are just giving lip service to environmental factors. I like the Good Guide website for this kind of information. It is put together by scientists from Berkley, and it rates companies on Health, Environment and Social concerns.
Another important thing to research is how long something will last, since it is better for the environment to buy something that will last longer. Products that are designed to be used only a few times are obviously not a good choice, but neither is a product that is poorly made and will not hold up to your family’s use. Buying high quality products reduces waste, although it might cost more in the short term.
Green shopping is really about being more aware of your choices, and the impact they have. A little thought and research will go a long way toward helping the environment!
This has been a guest post by Anne, a mother of 3 who blogs in Upstate New York. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.