Living your life so that your consumption of food and a host of other products do not harm the environment is what sustainable shopping is all about. A sustainable lifestyle is also about making informed and conscious choices with all your purchases.
We’ll look at what sustainable shopping entails and how you can achieve a greater degree of sustainable living beyond recycling your trash.
Everything has a life cycle, from a tomato to the latest piece of tech. Every single thing on this Planet starts life in or on the Earth and returns to the Earth at the end of its life. Life begets life, human life included, and this is the single most compelling reason for us to sustain life on our Planet.
Do everything you can to reduce your own carbon footprint. That is sustainability in brief. You can start with the food you put on the table!
Sustainable Grocery Shopping
A sustainable diet while reducing CO2 emissions is possible with a little effort, and you’ll be healthier for it.
Food represents 10–30% of the carbon footprint of the average US household. Food accounts for a greater percentage in that range in lower-income households. While urban populations would find it hard to grow their own vegetables, they can try to buy at least some organic produce.
Organic agriculture is more cost-effective because of the natural production processes used, and the lack of chemical fertilizers which deplete soil fertility. Thanks to the livestock diet and the reduced number of animals per hectare, organic stock farming produces fewer emissions.
If you eat meat, reduce your consumption of beef, mutton, and goat. These ruminants produce more methane than pigs, poultry, or fish, the more sustainable options.
Buy foods in season. Vegetables out of season come from artificially heated greenhouses. Higher energy consumption means a higher carbon footprint.
Out-of-season vegetables imported from other countries have complex supply chains, and the cost to the environment in transport is high.
Buying locally grown fresh organic vegetables in season is the most sustainable thing to do, especially if you walk to purchase them and take them home in a reusable basket or bag. Generally speaking, the less processed your food, the smaller its carbon footprint.
Next time you’re in a supermarket, look around and estimate how much of what is for sale is unprocessed, natural, and either package-free or uses recycled packaging. Not much, right?
The upside is that most products available in stores are eventually consumer-driven, and this is particularly evident in clothing and fashion.
Sustainable Shopping for Clothes
Deciding to buy an article of clothing should only happen if you believe you will wear the garment at least 30 times in the nebulous future. That’s what the ethical fashion gurus are saying.
Slow fashion is all about buying quality rather than quantity. It’s about placing greater value on the shopping choices we do make.
A sustainable wardrobe is built up over the years, not thrown out and re-stocked from one year to the next. Excessive, random purchases that you discard after you have worn them once or twice are not the way to get there.
Have you checked out the #30wears challenge on Instagram? There’s even an app to help you keep track if you’re not sure about how many times you have worn something.
Why are people adopting the slow fashion approach? Aside from the unethical exploitation of cheap labor in the developing world, you mean? Because more and more people are serious about reducing the harmful impact the fashion industry has on our environment.
The fashion industry accounts for 20% of global wastewater and 10% of its carbon emissions. This is shocking. While the precise figures vary from report to report, it is clear that something has to change.
As Chapter 18 of The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017: Wastewater: The Untapped Resources states, it is crucial to address challenges related to the world’s wastewater management since protecting and enhancing ecosystems is essential to sustainable development for all.
We can make a big difference by changing a few of our shopping habits.
Sustainable Shopping Means Ethical Buying
A significant part of sustainable shopping involves ethical buying. Research the brands that you love. Look at the labels on all clothes before buying them. Like food, clothing labels and certifications tell a story about the product.
It is up to you as a responsible, sustainable consumer to confirm that what you buy carries an environmental seal of approval. Find out which fashion designers have received endorsements from ethical fashion houses, for example. Join celebrities such as eco-warrior Emma Watson and make a conscious decision to wear only 100% ethical fashion.
How do you do that? You look at the labels on clothes. Forward-thinking government regulations, as well as customer demand, have given rise too many ethical fashion certification bodies, such as:
- GOTS – the Global Organic Textile Standard, a textile processing standard
- OSC – Organic Standard Certification, specifying the organic content of fabrics
- Fairtrade – sustainable production and fair trade practices
- WRAP – Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production – ethical, lawful, responsible, and human manufacturing
- ECA – Ethical Clothing Australia – for clothing not produced in sweatshops
- Fair Wear Foundation – guarantees transparency for brands, and improves workplace conditions
- GRS – Global Recycled Standard – track and traces systems for accountability in recycling
- OEKO-TEX® – links 60 countries worldwide on standards in the textile and leather industries
One thing is for sure: the more informed and label-savvy you become, the better your choices will be for the Planet as a whole.
If all that is too much like hard work, there is the cool option of going vintage. You may even decide that you will mainly buy secondhand clothes, which have no carbon footprint at all if you consider the supply chain. Someone discards the clothes, and you pick them up — at no harm to the environment.
Check your labels. You want to choose ethical clothing brands.
You might also want to consider whether fashion houses using deadstock is eco-friendly or greenwashing. Greenwashing means only pretending to be kind to the environment.
Leather comes from animals. Most of it comes from the hides of the herds slaughtered to keep the beef industry afloat. The same beef industry that releases so much methane into the atmosphere.
The importance of sustainable shoes cannot be stressed enough. Technology has worked hard at developing animal-free shoewear that is durable, comfortable, and aesthetically appealing. Both the materials and manufacturing processes ensure a very much reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional footwear.
Unsold sustainable shoes, and worn shoes, pose no toxicity problems when disposed of because recycled and responsibly sourced materials used for sustainable shoes are biodegradable.
Chic and Sustainable
If you are a real inhabitant of the 21st century, then sustainable shopping is the very least you can do to ensure that the fashion industry keeps up the growing trend toward transparency and answers the hashtag question #whomademyclothes with pride.
You and your friends will realize that caring for the Earth by bringing discernment to what we eat and what we wear can be an adventure. Read our other articles on nature, the environment, and making the most of your life to see the bigger picture.