Fed up with the compulsive and careless Black Friday? You’re not alone. Latest reports show an increasing number of people — especially Gen Z consumers — are concerned about the impact our shopping habits have on the planet.
A desire to help the environment is the primary reason consumers purchase sustainable products and brands. Almost 30% say they want to improve the environment, with 23% wishing to reduce production waste, 22% wishing to reduce their carbon footprint, and 17% being concerned with animal welfare.
Sustainable shopping and conscious consumption are two keywords gaining more and more popularity. Both mean mostly the same thing — to be mindful about your purchases. Easier said than done! Let’s look at 11 tips to help you become a conscious consumer.
Think about how far the product has traveled to reach the shelves. You can prefer items that have been sourced, made, or harvested locally. Generally, if you stick to buying seasonal produce, it’s more likely to be local. Shopping locally translates into decreased pollution from transportation, less waste, less packaging, fresher produce, and support for local farmers and small businesses.
Plastic is a huge environmental problem, both in how it’s produced and how it’s disposed of. Avoid buying products that have been excessively packaged, or packaged in materials that can’t be recycled. Buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than in plastic wrapping. And always try to take your own bags with you.
Sustainable packaging options consist of four elements:
Eco-friendly alternatives include biodegradable and renewable packaging
(Emmerson Packaging), compostable poly mailers (noissue), recycled cardboard and paper (Karl Knauer), waste wool for protective packaging (Woola), mushrooms
(Mushroom Packaging), seaweed (Seaweed Packaging), and all kinds of other materials that contribute to creating less waste.
Sustainability labels can have a positive impact on consumer acceptance and can raise awareness, but reading labels can be complex and varies depending on the product category (e.g., clothing versus food). How to know what to look for? Some keywords to remember: fair trade, organic farming, certified B-corporation, cruelty-free, and eco-cert. See more labels here.
When it comes to clothing, check the “made in” and look for dyes and chemicals. However, the thumb rule is to avoid fast fashion as much as possible. Large fast fashion chains have a huge carbon footprint and are one of the most polluting industries. Instead, look out for local manufacturers and natural fibers which are 100% biodegradable, such as cotton, linen, wool, tencel, and hemp. Fun fact: the latter, hemp, is one of the most sustainable materials!
If you want to expand your knowledge of fabrics and brands, check out the Good on You website. They also have a fantastic app to discover ethical brands and their ratings.
Biodegradable refers to a product breaking down into natural elements such as carbon dioxide and water vapor by organisms like bacteria and fungi. To earn a biodegradable label, products and materials must decompose quickly (between six to nine months) into natural materials. Some biodegradable materials are bamboo, cork, seaweed, mycelium, and even avocados.
Granted, green products tend to be more expensive, but prices have dropped over the years and many supermarkets have started to produce their own budget-friendly versions. For example, biodegradable cleaning products are better for the environment, soil, and water and healthier for humans as well.
Preloved shopping is about buying items someone else has owned and hopefully loved before. It’s an excellent way to satisfy your need for novelty, but in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Enjoy that lovely feeling of being “green” and not contributing to the fast fashion cycle that’s wearing out the world. It’s also an opportunity to find unique and exciting pieces you can’t get anywhere else.
In addition to conventional second-hand stores, there are numerous apps such as Yaga, Reliked, and of course, the Facebook Marketplace. Many brands see value in the circular economy and have introduced concepts such as the Circular Hub by IKEA.
Energy efficiency is using less energy to perform the same task or produce the same result. Electrical items in your home can eat up a lot of energy. If you need to upgrade your fridge, coffee maker, or any other electrical gadget, choose one with the best energy efficiency rating that you can afford. Although it may cost more initially, over time, the money you save from reduced energy bills will soon pay for itself — and it’s better for the environment.
Good examples are LED energy-saving light bulbs which use up to 90% less energy. And if you’re up for it, installing solar panels will offer you clean and renewable power while saving you money in the long run.
Consider brands that recycle and reuse over those that don’t. Clothing brands are becoming more conscious and releasing products that can be recycled into the system, like this Adidas running shoe made from 100% recyclable materials and can be repurposed.
Besides innovative product lines, companies are increasingly shifting to the green mindset — all thanks to the demand from eco-aware consumers like you! For example, the Green Friday movement has been adopted by many companies who refuse to promote mindless Black Friday consumption by closing their stores or selling at higher prices instead and donating the profits.
The secret to happiness? Memories. Or shall I say minimalism? Instead of spending your money (and time!) on things, invest in doing what you love with the people you love. You don’t necessarily need to become a minimalist, although you might find a new joy in embracing a simpler life with fewer things, less clutter, more time and space for yourself and experiencing life.
“By incorporating minimalism into our lives, we’ve finally been able to find lasting happiness — and that’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it? We all want to be happy. Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself; thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life.”
– Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, founders of The Minimalists
Be honest, the drill you bought to put up that one shelf is now collecting dust in the basement, right? And the chances are quite slim that you’ll be wearing that Halloween costume again. If you can’t find the right item from your friend group, search for rentals. Besides more “traditional” renting options, many new ways are popping up, for example, the neighborhood rental Peerby in the Netherlands, fashion rental Rent the Runway in the States, and Finland-based Rentle helping retailers go circular. There are plenty of options. Just google it!
The title says it all… Do you really need another pair of shoes or sunglasses? We know it’s incredibly tempting, and we all want to indulge once in a while. The hard truth is that we have to make peace with the fact that humans are currently consuming 1.75x of Earth’s resources. Meaning, we have to cut back practically 50% to live sustainably and in balance with nature.
Take time to research and think through your every purchase. Make sure the new item will spark joy, as said by the tidying expert Marie Kondo.
Turn your Black Friday upside down, and instead of buying (and contributing to overconsumption), spend your money on supporting green or social initiatives. Buy yourself some peace of mind and the feeling of putting your money to good use. You can donate to environmental causes such as the Rainforest Alliance and Ocean Conservancy, or even invest in green startups.
Or if you’re looking for a donation and investment in 2-in-1, it’s the perfect opportunity to purchase your first nature-backed MERIT tokens. Yes, this is us! 🙋 With MERIT, you’ll support forest preservation while receiving a virtual asset that you can later trade and use.
With the increasing pressure on all of us to protect the planet’s scarce natural resources, it’s the utmost time to form green shopping habits to build a greener future. Thankfully, sustainability is already rated as an important purchase criterion for 60% of consumers.
When making decisions, stick with the RRR golden trio — reduce, reuse, recycle — and you’re good to go. To go the extra mile, add another R to the mix: return some of your income back to nature by supporting green projects such as reforestation, nature preservation, or emerging green startups. Let’s face it, a healthier nature also provides more resources for you to use and consume.
Your consuming habits have the power to elevate the sustainability conversation and demand brands and retailers to follow. Use this power to help the world go green.