Do you ever get a guilty feeling when you go shopping? Not the one where you have spent the last of your money set aside for bills on the raddest shoes that you have ever seen (but will likely never wear because of their out-there colour which won’t go with anything you own, and their complete lack of comfort).
I mean the guilty feeling you get when you know you should be choosing products which are better for the planet than the all too readily available, mass produced, on sale and in-your-face products at Coles. As an environmental professional, I get these feelings pretty intensely. It can be hard though – sometimes we don’t have the time or money to shop at beautiful little family owned organic health food shops.
I’ve come to realise that there are some really simple shopping preferences we can make, wherever we shop, which can help the planet:
1. Look for products with less or recycled packaging and use your own material carry bags
This one is simple – the less you buy, the less waste you create. If it’s a product you buy all the time, try getting larger containers of it. Plastic is terrible for the planet. It doesn’t break down and much of it ends up in our waterways or in animals which kills them.
2. Buy fruit and vegetables that are locally in season
This was a tip from my personal food guru @cookandkid (http://cookandkid.com/). In this day and age, fruit is available to us all year round, even if it’s not locally in season. It is imported from places where it is in season so that we never have to go without. The problem is that buying food from so far away requires a lot of energy to get it from its place of origin to our local stores. Energy for transport, energy for refrigeration and energy for rehandling so many times. In addition, there is more waste generated by non-local produce because the more you handle fruit, the more damaged it gets. It also has less shelf life, meaning you have less time to buy it before it goes off.
Consideration should also be given to the fact that you are putting your local farmers who are growing whatever is actually in season, out of business, because you are choosing produce from somewhere far away, over theirs.
3. Buy organic
Yeah, yeah, organic products are often more expensive. But the more we buy, the more demand there will be for them and the cheaper they will become. Organic products are well known for their health benefits, but have you thought how they benefit the environment too? Non-organic products require the application or inclusion of unnatural and harsh chemicals. These chemicals then end up in our soils, waterways and waste streams. Unnatural chemicals in the environment wreak havoc on ecosystems and kill plants, insects and animals. They are bad mkay?
4. Eat less meat
As animal lover, my primary reason for listing this one is for animal welfare. If you aren’t aware of what happens behind closed doors in meat production, check out the Animals Australia website (http://www.animalsaustralia.org/). If you do like meat, there are more animal friendly options to lookout for such as RSPCA certified products.
Eating less meat is also good for the environment because it reduces the carbon footprint created from the production of animals (cows, for example, fart a lot and the amount of energy that goes into growing them is crazy!). The meat industry also locks up a lot of land which could otherwise be home to forests and wildlife.
5. Buy from socially responsible companies
More and more companies are giving something back to communities or environments in need with their proceeds. My favourite range of products is by ‘thankyou.’ (https://thankyou.co/). They started out by producing spring water and turning the funds they made from sales into clean water for people in third world communities who had access to none. They now sell food and body care products to support projects all over the world. Best of all, thankyou. is Australian. (thankyou. water should not be confused with ‘Water Please’ which has a similar logo but no evident links to good will projects.)
6. Get over your fear of buying second hand gear
Ok, so I had to give myself this pep talk years ago. My personal aversion was to wearing dead people’s stuff. I got over that naturally through spiritual development and the realisation that death, dead people and their stuff is all around anyway so who cares if you wear their clothes? For those less spiritual, perhaps the fact that buying second hand stuff is better for the environment is more of an incentive. The more you buy from second hand shops, the less goes to landfill. Plus, many of the places that sell second hand gear send their proceeds to those in desperate need of assistance (i.e the Salvo’s and the Red Cross).
7. Stay the hell away from palm oil products
Having spent time in Borneo, I can’t relay the amount of heartbreak I felt from seeing the devastation caused by palm plantations. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime forest, home to animals such as orangutans and rhinos, wiped out. You might be surprised to find out how many products palm oil is actually in – food, soaps, cosmetics. So be sure to check the labels on whatever you are buying.