*This post is not paid for or sponsored by any of the brands/companies mentioned below.
For some people, the love for shopping can’t really be reconciled with wanting to do their bit to do more for the planet. And we’ll be honest, for the most part, you really can’t reconcile recreational shopping with sustainability. One of the best things you can probably do for the planet is to reduce your overall consumption. However, for whatever reason, sometimes you’re just not there yet, and/or it’s a form of recreation that you really enjoy. So, we’ve made a list of little tweaks you can do to make your shopping habit tread a little bit lighter on the planet.
A lot of misconceptions can stop people from buying, or even considering buying, secondhand. Many people think that secondhand means old, ugly, unwanted, etc. However, a quick look around online on places such as Facebook Marketplace, Carousell, Ebay, and many other sites will tell you that a lot of items being sold are in good condition, clean, and cheap. There are several reasons someone might sell their stuff online - they bought the wrong size, bought something to use only a few times or for a specific occasion, change of preference, or even just presents they never really used. A lot of these items are generally still in great condition, sometimes even still good as new, and would be a shame to throw away.
Items such as furniture, home goods, accessories, and clothes are good ones to get secondhand. You can even get certain appliances and electronics secondhand (we suggest being really thorough and careful with these). Technology is your friend here. Ask for photos from the vendors to make sure the items are undamaged (or at least in a condition you’re okay with) and clean. If available, read website or vendor reviews, just for added peace of mind. There are also a lot of websites (e.g. The Closet & Reluv in Australia, Poshmark for the USA and Canada, and surely many more in your local area) that sell secondhand clothes and accessories on a consignment basis, so that might be the way to go if you’re a first-time secondhand shopper and concerned about hygiene and product quality.
Choose Sustainable Brands
Just because we encourage shopping secondhand, doesn’t mean we think it’s bad to buy anything new. However, we do think that if you want to buy something brand new, you should consider the brand you’re buying from. Granted, a lot of more sustainable brands are more expensive, but if you are able, we highly encourage more conscious consumption by actively avoiding brands that sell items that are suspiciously cheap. If a company sells a t-shirt for $5, just think of how much (or how little) they paid the person that had to make it and how well-made it really is considering they surely had to go cheap on the materials as well.
Try to find brands that are transparent about how they source their ingredients and materials, as well as where and how they make their products. Look for cruelty-free and fair trade certifications, as well as other applicable claims and certifications for whatever product you’re buying. (e.g. reef safe for sunscreen, palm oil free for cosmetics, etc.) It also helps if you find ones that don’t excessively package and ship their items in plastic or are completely plastic-free.
Think of this as exploring a whole new world of shopping. There’s a whole new set of brands for you to discover in the sustainable space and, as someone who also had to change shopping habits, I can honestly say that looking for and finding sustainable brands that matched my lifestyle and aesthetic was actually quite enjoyable.
Say NO to Plastic
Aside from bringing your own bags when you shop (which you should definitely do), consider the packaging that your items come in. If something is unnecessarily packaged in plastic and there’s an alternative that isn’t, go for the alternative. If you are looking for limited-use items like toothbrushes and disposable cutlery that come in non-plastic variants, go for those as well.
And again, we can’t stress this enough, always remember to bring your own bags. There are tons of pretty, well-made, and really portable options out there to choose from that you literally have to just chuck into your bags and car without taking up a lot of space. It makes a huge difference in that you don’t collect hundreds of single-use soft plastics in your home which will eventually end up in landfills or the ocean.
Explore your local area for independent shops, online or otherwise. You might be surprised at how many small, local businesses offering all sorts of products there are in your area. Have a look at the stuff they offer and consider buying from them. Not only does this help your local economy, but it also lowers your carbon footprint by eliminating the need to ship items from across the ocean to you. More and more small business owners are also turning towards more sustainable ways of doing business so you won’t be in short supply of local brands to support.
There’s also something special about receiving something thoughtfully made by a local entrepreneur instead of in a factory owned by a large conglomerate. And it feels really good to know that your purchase will go to supporting local families instead of going to even more bonuses for corporate executives.
Start Buying Less
Yes, we know what we said earlier. But ultimately, this really is something that we need to all do. You don’t have to abruptly stop buying anything for yourself though. Instead, try to keep to an item limit or budget per month. This will really help you be more mindful of the things you buy and focus on what you really need and want, which means less waste from excess or unwanted items coming from your household. It also means you get to control your spending, giving you a little bit extra every month to spend on the more pricey, but also more sustainable options out there. This may be a difficult one for those who are used to shopping casually as a form of recreation, but we feel it’s important to try, especially if you recognise the need to really make a change towards sustainability.
Trying to live more sustainability doesn’t have to mean making abrupt, extreme restrictions on things you enjoy. Small, thoughtful steps help too. Sometimes, people need to dip their toes into this lifestyle first before really committing and that’s okay. That still means you’re on the right path. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction.
We hope these tips can help you make small changes to your shopping habit so that one day you can be a little bit more comfortable making bigger ones. Good luck!