7 Questions For Eco-Friendly Shopping

When it comes to being conscientious about the environment, most of us tend to stick to investing in a recycling bin and looking for ways to make our homes run more efficiently. Although these are fine ideas, and you should definitely recycle as much as possible, there are other ways to be environmentally conscientious that don’t revolve around your home or recycling habits. One such way to be more eco-friendly is by monitoring your shopping habits.

Impulse buys and poor product research leads to thousands, more likely millions of pounds of wasted material every year. What’s worse is that most of these items (and the materials they are packaged in) end up in landfills that only further harm the environment and local ecosystems. So how can you make sure you are doing your part to help the environment? It’s easy! Just remember to ask yourself these seven questions before selecting an item to purchase the next time you hit the mall or grocery store…

1. Do I really need this?

The first thing you should ask yourself whenever you are shopping is, “Do I really need this item?” Many people fall pray to buying the latest versions of items like smart-phones and entertainment systems. While there are ways to recycle these items, many contain materials that cannot easily be recycled, and so more often than not end up in garbage dumps or collecting dust on pawnshop shelves. Impulse buys can also reek hell on your hoarding habits, so be sure to really think about your needs regarding the item before actually buying it.

2. Is the labeling truthful?

Greenwashing is a modern business tactic used by corporations and businesses to entice shoppers into buying their products under the guise that the product is safe for the environment. While many companies are taking the time these days to utilize eco-friendly manufacturing materials, not all are completely honest in this regard. It’s not so much that the product isn’t eco-friendly; it’s just that its eco-friendliness is often exaggerated. See our article on greenwashing for more information on how to spot exaggerated eco-friendliness.    

3. Can I buy it used?

These days it’s incredibly easy to find the items you are looking for from secondhand sources. When you opt to purchase a used item instead of a brand new one, you indirectly save on the resources that would have been used to make that brand new item. Besides, used items that are resold are usually still in great condition, and the Internet makes shopping for such items that much simpler. Plus, buying items used is much easier on your wallet than buying items hot off the assembly line.

4. Can I recycle the packaging?

Another big thing to consider before making a purchase is whether or not the packaging can be recycled. Most clear plastics and cardboard boxes can be recycled, but some items (depending on what state or city you live in) must simply be discarded. Do some research into your local recycling services and see what kind of items can be recycled, and which ones must simply be thrown into the trash.

5. Will the item last?

Nobody wants to buy an item that is just going to break after only a few weeks of use. Before you purchase an item, you should be sure to check on the manufacturer and on the price. Spending too much money on something is unnecessary, but opting to buy the cheapest version or brand often gets you cheaper items that are not eco-friendly and are also easily broken. Basically, you get what you pay for.

6. How much energy does it require to use?

Another thing you want to pay attention to when purchasing items is how much energy they require to use. Those that will only run up your monthly energy expenses are not eco-friendly, no matter what the packaging says (greenwashing!). Be sure to check on the efficiency that is provided in the fine print, and if you take it home and find it unsatisfactory, just be sure to keep your receipt and return it.

7. How can I dispose of it when it breaks or stops working?

Any product that you buy new should include instructions on how to dispose of it when it’s either been used up or has stopped working. Most eco-friendly products will have instructions on how to recycle the items, but you can do some research on how to reuse them or their individual components. If the item is not easily recycled, consider again whether or not you really need it, and if you do, by all means buy it. There’s no need to beat your self up over a few non-perishable items.