The way you shop can change the world.

Living in a world where few consumers take the environment into account when shopping, it’s easy to feel like your efforts don’t accomplish much. But environmentally conscious shopping truly does make a difference. Not only do eco-friendly purchases lower your carbon footprint, they also shape manufacturing, packaging, and transport decisions that further impact the environment. If you aspire to be a greener consumer, here are ten rules to live by.

1. Say no to plastic

Keep a cloth tote or other reusable bag in your purse, briefcase, backpack, or car at all times. This way, you’ll never have to carry groceries or other purchases in plastic bags. Additionally, avoid buying products made or bottled with plastic whenever you have a choice.

2. Avoid excess packaging

There aren’t many packaging products that can be reused, and even fewer can be recycled. When you have a choice, opt for products with minimal packing. One way to do this is to buy products you use a lot of in bulk rather than individually.

3. Shop recycled goods

When you have a choice between a product made from recycled or post-consumer content and a product made with all “new” materials, go with the former. The manufacturing of recycled products is more eco-friendly than that of alternatives, and many of these products can be reused or recycled once you’ve finished using them.

4. Embrace used clothes and other second-hand items

When you buy an article of clothing or piece of furniture that has been previously used, you’re sparing the environment considerable carbon emissions. As long as you’re buying from reputable retailers, you’re also buying products you can trust. Vintage clothing, for its part, has been “in” for a while and there are no signs that will change soon.

5. Buy durable goods

Goods made to last often cost more than their less durable counterparts, but buying them makes economic as well as environmental sense. You’ll get more use out of them, likely save money in the long run, and they’re usually nicer to use in general.

6. Consider energy efficiency

Energy-efficient appliances, cars, and electronics use less energy than conventional products. They’re also often made using more eco-friendly, less energy-intensive processes. A product’s energy efficiency is especially important to consider when making major purchases that you’ll use over several years or decades.

7. Shop for groceries online

Yes, you read that right. This convenient and relatively new phenomenon can cut your grocery-related carbon emissions in half, according to a research conducted at the University of Washington. The reason is two-fold. Companies delivering groceries fill trucks to capacity when possible. They also map out routes to minimize driving distance between stops.

8. Know your brands

What companies do you buy the most products from? Do you know much about their production processes? If not, do some research. Favor brands that take environmental stewardship seriously over those who bulk up their bottom line at the expense of the environment.

9. Read product labels

Before buying a product, look closely at its label. Electronic goods marked with an ENERGY STAR symbol have met the Environmental Protection Agency’s strict standards for efficiency. Similarly, chemical-based products marked Safer Choice are safer for the environment, your apartment’s air quality, you, your family, and your pets than most chemical products.

10. Use green shopping apps

GoodGuide.com is probably the best-known app for finding information about a product you’re considering buying that the label or manufacturer’s website won’t tell you. Open Label is another. Input the name of a product you’re considering buying, and the app will let you know what degree of environmental concern you should have concerning that product’s ingredients and manufacturing process.

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About Jason Ernst


Jason received degrees in International Studies, Economics, and German Literature from the University of Arizona in 2011, and has worked as a freelance writer ever since. His research and writing interests include interior decoration and design, home entertainment, history, art, architecture, and travel. He is currently a regular contributor to the AMLI Residential lifestyle blog. Circle Jason on Google+