Environmental Tips for Shoppers
Every time you shop, you make an environmental decision. Use your common sense and take a minute to consider the product's impacts before you buy it. Watch for new and improved products, packaging and systems of delivery. Shop smart and make a positive impact.
© Wendy E. Brawer 1995
- examine products' energy efficiency -- look for energy-rating stickers on large appliances. make sure "instant on" features can be turned off. select replaceable rechargable batteries in small appliances and use a solar charger. consider a mechanical, human-powered model.
- can it be repaired? can it be upgraded? does it have a good warranty? is it well-made and sturdy? is it classically designed?
- look for product warnings before you buy and minimize chemical wastes and other by-products of production and use. what is the product's impact on indoor air pollution? is there a benign substitute available? can you mix up your own & save money, too?
- consider the source of the product's raw materials -- is the resource being sustainably and carefully extracted? how are animal products "harvested"? how much waste does mining result in? learn about tropical hardwoods, formaldehyde, virgin vs. recycled content, endangered vs. renewable materials.
- minimize your use of disposables, including nylons, take-out food containers, pens, etc.
- if you buy plastic, make sure it can be recycled locally and/or that it's made from recycled plastic. those numbered 1 or 2 have the highest recycling rate.
- are the product and package designed to be taken apart and readily recyclable? look for a single material or single plastic resin, integrated connections, labeled parts.
- check environmental claims on label or package -- use your own common sense. check if claims are independently verified by a respected certifying agency.
- look for minimized packaging -- check product-to-package ratio and buy the lighter weight, less complicated package. shop in bulk, use concentrates & refillables. look for recycled materials.
- what can it be used for after you're done with it -- resale value, hand-me-down, other adaptive reuse. don't buy planned obsolescence, choose products with a second life.
- make comparisons -- check Consumer's Report or other product rating magazines. consider the product company's overall record, consult company watchdog books like Shopping for a Better World, watch for news reports of good business practices.
- consider the advantages of buying products produced in your own local region.
- can you lease, rent or borrow it, rather than buy it? do you really need it? how resourceful and self-reliant can you get?
- always keep a shopping bag in your briefcase or purse (even a reused plastic bag will do) and when shopping, pull it out before your sale is completed. let everyone know you brought your own bag.
- when shopping by mail or phone, tell them, no mailing lists, don't rent or sell your name.
- talk to store managers about your shopping preferences.