Some of the most common complaints I hear about eco-friendly living involve the thought that it is too hard to change one's habits, that earth-friendly products are too expensive, or that it is simply not convenient. After a little bit of digging, I usually find that those who have attempted a greener lifestyle and failed have generally tried to take on too much at one time.
Biting off more than you can chew is one of the worst mistakes you can make, especially in terms of total lifestyle changes. The good news is that the earth will be thankful for any change you make, even if you only make one at a time. And – yes – one change does make a difference.
One of the easiest places to start when considering a greener lifestyle is with your shopping habits. Feel free to visit my Form Healthy Habits Facebook page to join in on the ongoing conversations on eco-friendly shopping and how to live a greener and healthier lifestyle. Until then, here are 12 things you can do (one at a time) to support the environment while maintaining a healthy household.
Reduce Your Product Consumption
Before any eco-friendly shopping excursion, whether for food or groceries, it is important to take a step back and consider the differences between the things you want and the things you need. The over-consumption of things you merely want – like clothing, junk food, games, and other big-ticket items – can have a huge impact on the environment. Things you don't really need are more likely to end up in the dump, along with the materials they were packaged in.
Opt for Reusable Products
Reusable products – like razor blades, glass food storage containers, and even batteries – are less likely to end up in landfills, reducing your impact on the environment. Plus, despite their upfront cost being slightly higher, this type of product will save you money in the long-run. Ditch the paper plates, plastic cups, and disposable grocery bags and opt for reusable items instead.
Buy Local Food Products
When it is time to shop, attempt to purchase food products that are a) created locally and b) seasonal in nature. You'll not only show your support for local growers, but will reduce your carbon footprint because of the reduced cost of transporting the products themselves. Seasonal food products tend to be less expensive and don't require as much packaging or storage as you'll go through them rather quickly.
Bulk Shopping Trips
Buying larger packages or simply shopping in bulk is great for a couple of reasons. First, the packaging tends to be more compact, so you won't produce quite as much waste. Second, bulk shopping trips save you money in terms of both product price and gas consumption.
Don't Buy Pre-Prepared Veggies
Your local grocery store has too much to offer in its produce section, including pre-washed and packaged vegetables, ready for you to use. Trust me when I say you have enough time in your day to wash and cut your own vegetables. Buying pre-prepared foods adds extra packaging waste to the environment and in some cases adds chemical preservatives to your foods (in, for example, your bright orange baby carrots). Buy fresh produce and prepare it yourself instead.
Plan Your Meals – Plan Your Trips
Meal planning is a great way to ensure you're buying the products and ingredients you need without making multiple shopping trips during the week. Take some time to sit down, map out your meal ideas for the week, and create a shopping list.
Make sure you added other needed personal items, like cosmetics and personal care items, so that you can make as few trips out as possible. Extra trips mean extra pollution. When you do go out, start by shopping at the stores furthest from your home so you can work your way back with each stop.
Ask for Paper Packaging
You do have choices when it comes to the packaging your food comes in. Ask the check-out person in your grocery store to give you paper bags (if you haven't brought your own reusable bags). You can also ask the deli counter workers to package your meats and cheeses in paper wrapping instead of wrapping it and then putting it in a plastic bag. These options will reduce the amount of non-biodegradable products you're adding to landfills.
Look for Recyclable Packaging
You can, of course, make your shopping trips greener by looking for products packaged in recyclable or reusable packages. As far as recycling goes, take a look at the packages you are buying and look for the “recyclable” icons on the plastic or can– then make sure you actually remember to recycle when you're finished with the product. In terms of reuse, glass jars and plastic containers can be used to store buttons, craft supplies, and even leftovers. All you have to do is make a conscious effort to buy things you can work with instead of things that will simply be thrown away.
Think about Fair Trade
Many companies outsource work to other countries because the cost of labor is incredibly inexpensive. Sadly, those working in these areas are usually subjected to indecent working conditions, long hours, and low wages. Buying fair trade products will ensure those who created your products were treated fairly during production.
Borrow Stuff from Friends
One way to change your shopping habits is to simply stop shopping altogether. Ok, not shopping at all is virtually impossible, but what about borrowing items you don't actually need from friends. These include books, magazines, games, movies, clothing items, appliances, and more. Think out of the box. If you're only going to use something once or twice, is it something you actually need to waste money, packaging, and fuel to obtain?
Buy Used Items
Another great way of transitioning to a more eco-friendly shopping experience is by purchasing used items. You can do this online (through eBay, Craigslist, and similar sites) or by visiting local thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops. They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure. You'll be surprised at what you can find if you take your time to look for it instead of running out to the nearest, convenient store.
Consider Shopping Online
Sometimes the best eco-friendly products aren't products you can find locally. That's ok. If that is the case, shopping online can be an incredibly affordable alternative. While you will be paying for shipping and transportation, you'll still be doing your part to protect the environment by purchasing organic items you may not be able to purchase elsewhere. You'll also counter that by not starting your own car and wasting gas.
These are just a handful of the things you can do to transition your shopping experiences to those that are more eco-friendly. Make sure you join us on Facebook at Form Healthy Habits for more information and conversations on how you can transform other aspects of your life as well!