I admit it. I love to shop. I shop less than a lot of people, but still more than I should, especially because I have everything that I need and more. I am pledging to not only shop less, but to shop green. If you want to make this pledge with me, read on!
How can you shop green?
First, you must ask yourself a series of questions before even considering a purchase. The EPA outlines four very important ones:
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- Do I absolutely need it?
- Will I use it (more than once or twice)?
- Do I already have it or something similar?
- Can I borrow it from a friend or family member?
Make sure you answer yes to the first two and no to the last two before buying. The entire process from manufacturing and producing foods and goods to transporting and discarding them makes up about 42% of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. So be extra sure that item you’re buying is worth it!
Don’t invest in something you only use once or twice a year. If you live in apartments, borrow a carpet washer from a friend, or a grocery store or hardware store in your area. If you find a hole in your sweater or a button on your shirt broke, mend it yourself or, if you’re not so good with a needle and thread, have someone who is mend it for you.
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Do some research about the products you want to buy and the companies that make them. All of us can identify the Energy Star label on a refrigerator or computer, but what about all the other products that don’t have environmental labels? Check out the EPA’s Greener Products page and Green America’s Responsible Shopper page. You can search by company name, industry or product. Looking for safe cosmetics or other personal care items? The Environmental Working Group created Skin Deep, a site that identifies toxicity in personal care products and provides healthier, safer choices and manufacturers.
Once you figure out how durable, recyclable, reusable, and sustainable a product is, you can make a more informed and green decision. If you’re looking at products like lotion, bathroom cleaner, sponges, etc., find out if it’s both more cost effective and more eco-friendly to buy in bulk. If you need to buy disposable items – silverware and plates for your food truck, for example – look for compostable products.
When you can, support local businesses. Not only will this strengthen the local economy, but you'll save transportation- and packaging-related emissions and waste when you buy local. Plus, you may meet some really great people and entrepreneurs in your town!
Finally, if you’re looking to save a bunch of money and be green, head to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. There are certainly items I would avoid or cannot be found in these stores, but if you're looking for fun mismatched china, clothes or even furniture, second-hand stores are always worth a peak around.
And, of course, don’t forget your reusable shopping bag!