5 Tips to Be a Smarter Shopper

13 Jun

On Tuesday, I shared a video with you guys called “The Story Of Stuff” by Annie Leonard.  If you got nothing from the video except thinking about what you buy, how much you buy, where it comes from, and where it ends up – I’ll take it!

I realize that it’s a big trap, the consumption cycle.  You think:  “Okay, well now I feel like complete crap about consumption, but how do I make changes without completely changing my lifestyle?”  Trust me, I’m not sitting here buying ethically sourced bamboo/hemp t-shirts online.  I know I probably should be, but….I don’t exactly have $30 (or more) to spend on a t-shirt.  My goal with sustainability is a practical one – how can I do the best I can with what I have?

So here are 5 tips for you to make purchases with your ethics and values (which are unique to you!):

1.  Local. Local. Local.  Buy local.  Just do it.  Even if you feel compelled to buy some made-in-China crap that is contains toxic materials and will eventually cause you cancer, buy it from a local small business.  Avoid big boxes when and where you can – buying from Target isn’t helping to support and grow your local economy.  By keeping your neighbors in business, it keeps the money you spend in your community.  And most of the time, in the hands of people who have all ready made an investment in that community by opening a business there.  Small business owners depend on YOU – the consumer – to keep them in business and you depend on businesses to keep your neighborhood prospering.  This symbiotic relationship is stronger than you realize.  That’s why corporations do any and everything they can to put small business owners out of business.

2.  Do some research.  Do a Google or Bing search to find out what items are manufactured in your area. You might be surprised.  We are becoming a DIY world and many people are finding ways to turn their DIY passion into a viable business venture.  There are artisans, hobbyists, experts, and producers out there making everything from reusable food containers to soda to brooms.  These people are making things ethically, in their own homes and businesses, using materials which suite their sustainable values.  And guess what – you get to have an actual conversation with them. You get to ask them what they’re about and what sustainable values penetrate their products.  These companies are all ready reaching out to you via the interwebs and social media – many times, you just have to a quick search.

3.  Find products that fall within the spectrum of your values.  My friend Amanda recently posted about an app she uses called Buycott. Buycott allows you to enter values which are important to you:    Then, you can scan products to determine which parent companies owns them and if you find them acceptable for purchase.  Some examples of my filters are “Made in the USA,” “Say NO to Monsanto,” and “Avoid eating toxic artificial trans fat.”  Its easy to let technology do much of the research for you!  However, the best alternative is to buy whole foods from local growers and farmers whom you trust.

4.  If you’re having trouble finding products which don’t contain toxic chemicals or are produced using unethical business practices, get involved.  Stop complaining about it and be about it!  Join a letter writing campaign, a Facebook group, start your own local group – by putting pressure on retailers to provide better options to the consumer, you can produce change yourself.  I recently just read about a group called Mind The Store that does just that.

5.  Reuse.  Find new uses for things, whether it be re-purposing or re-directing it from the waste stream.  Use old coffee filters in your potted plants, compost them, donate old clothing and home goods – more importantly, try to make purchases at thrift stores or yard sales.  Its more fun to find new uses for items and you’re able to put a personal flourish on it!

Living a sustainable life doesn’t have to be rocket science.  The most important thing is to open your eyes and recognize what consequences your actions have:  just because it goes in the garbage and is out of sight, doesn’t mean it should be out of mind.  Be creative.  Be aware.  Be responsible.

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