How to shop better (and less) for the climate
Should we take extra care of what we put in our trolley or simply buy less? The answer is both. Here are seven tips to green up your shopping list today.
These days it often feels like we're defined by what we buy instead of who we are. We're all individuals, but we're also "consumers". And that’s because as countries have gotten richer and goods have gotten cheaper, people have started shopping (and wasting) so much more. For example, the average person now buys 60% more clothing than they did 15 years ago and produces over 7 kg of electronic waste every year, a 21% increase compared to 5 years ago.
This is bad news for our planet. Why? Because each step in the product supply chain — from raw materials extraction, processing, logistics, retail and storage, all the way to personal use and disposal — depletes natural resources, uses energy, and generates greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming.
How to shop smarter
Declutter your home. Declutter your home. Okay, this may sound like a pretty big deal, but trust us, it can be a life-changing step. If you dig deep into your closet or utility room, you'll probably find a bunch of stuff you've never ever used and have even forgotten about, which you could use today instead of buying afresh. Not only that: getting rid of dusty, unnecessary items could help you reconsider what you truly need in life and encourage you to buy less. Sound like a challenge you're ready to take on? Check out this guide to get started.
Shift your mindset. Buying cheap goods is so easy nowadays. But you can stop falling into this trap right now. Start by always asking yourself: How long will I use this for? Do I already have something similar I can replace this with? Give yourself a minute to reflect on whether you actually need what’s in front of you before reaching for your wallet.
Involve your friends. Changing old habits is never easy. So why not make it playful and fun? Set up a group challenge to stop buying non-essential items for one month (or more, if you’re ready) and keep track of your collective progress in a blog or diary. Supporting and motivating each other might help you achieve your goals more easily.
Observe what you’re about to buy. Check the item carefully and make sure it’s of high quality before buying it. Is it made of robust materials? Are all the parts easily replaceable or repairable? Are they glued together or can you take them apart? If the design and materials are good, the item will probably live a long and happy life — and it will be much easier to repair it should it develop a defect.
Make it last. Remember to take good care of your items to ensure they will last as long as possible. For example, wash clothes only when necessary and at low temperatures, avoid leaving your electronics in very cold or hot environments, and re-oil your wooden furniture regularly to preserve that natural shine.
Shop second-hand. Vintage is not only cool, it’s also much more planet-friendly. Increasing the lifespan of your personal items means you’re reducing demand for new goods and reducing your carbon footprint as a consequence. A Norwegian company coined the term “second hand effect” after their customers managed to save 20 million tons of CO2e in 2020 just by buying previously-owned clothing.
Reuse, recycle, repair. Globally, 99% of the stuff we buy is trashed within 6 months. Pure madness. Extending the lifespan of your items has massive benefits, like conserving resources, reducing waste and pollution. Have a few clothes that no longer fit you? Sell them at a flea market, host a clothing swap for your friends, or find out if they can be fixed. Need an ice maker for your birthday party but don’t have one? Borrow it from a friend or ask your neighbor. It’s much better for the climate, and it’s free!
The big picture
The way you shop makes up a huge chunk of your carbon footprint. The good news? Making the switch to sustainable shopping is not as hard as you think: Buy less, pick higher quality goods, repair what you can still use, and recycle what you no longer need. The climate will thank you — and your wallet too.