Just because consumerism got us into the climate change mess that threatens everyone's livelihood and safety, doesn't mean that the collective “we” can't change our spending habits to support a solution. There are plenty of ways you can adjust your spending habits into a more of a green shopping experience. They fall into the generalized categories of buying more durable goods, purchasing items that are sustainably and ethically brought to market and buying used.
Discontinuing Discount Items
For starters, the raw materials needed to make most durable goods are obtained either through drilling or mining in environmentally sensitive areas. They are, at the very least, brought to market with a great deal of carbon-belching equipment or travel. Many goods that are made inexpensively use chemicals and toxic substances that are harmful to the local environment where they're made. Adults and children alike are at risk from such mass-produced items over time.
You can support more durably and domestically produced items by shopping local. For most budgets, this may mean buying fewer things, but spending a bit more on well-made items that have been crafted less than an ocean away. Domestically-produced goods also have the advantage of being made in a place were environmental laws are enforced, protecting another environment from bearing the brunt of your purchase practices.
Green Applies to People, Too
Green shopping isn't just about buzz-words like “organic” or “eco-something.” It's a commitment to understanding how things are made and how they get to you. It means considering how things are made, how they get to you and even how the people who make them are treated.
Recycling your water bottles isn't enough – though, considering how many are thrown away, that would be a good start. You need to consider how much plastic your purchase decisions are making as well as just where that water is coming from.
For example, the environmental and social consequences of some major water manufacturers who located bottling facilities in India were profoundly negative, despite their protests to be “green.” It isn't ethical or very smart at all to assume that the more developed world can get away with polluting other parts of the world. When you shop, consider where each item comes from. If there's packaging or travel that can be reduced by making another choice, go for it.
Another tenant of green shopping is to purchase items using as few fossil fuels as possible. On-line shopping fits that bill, using what some estimate to be 1/16 the amount of fuel when the operation of a store is considered. Green shopping is about looking at every aspect of your purchase and doing your best to harm none.
And, as evidenced in recent years, cutting carbon is highly fashionable.
When it comes to giving gifts, you have plenty of options. Consider an upcycled gift, for instance. Such items are thoroughly new items made from old component parts. They are a hybrid type of fashion and consumer goods, in a sense.
Another green shopping idea is to use the occasion of a birthday to make a charitable donation to a group or organization that you know the recipient is affiliated with. There are no carbon or pollution-producing side effects to mar such a gift. Of course, this would not be the best option for teenagers or children, but plenty of adults would consider this a fine gift.
Not only are there a great many old or vintage items that are made of natural materials, but there are also quite a few new markets for such materials that have sprung up. Consider withdrawing your support for the chemical industry and taking a stand for your personal and environmental health by replacing your bedding and bathroom towels with cotton, linen, silk, wool, hemp or bamboo. The same is true of clothing. Try trading our you wardrobe over time to support organic fiber farming.
Even the choice of what sort of furniture is an element of a green shopping ethic. Bamboo, for example, is a highly renewable and adaptable resource. It makes great flooring and furniture (among many other things) that you might not expect from this humble grass.
Replacing wood with bamboo when it comes time to replace your old, worn-out furniture saves a great deal of carbon. Since the trees remain standing, they are able to remove excess climate-change inducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That they also provide habitat for animals and are a unique natural habitat, doesn't hurt either.
Second Life of Goods
Our culture is awash in extra stuff. The tremendous surge in trade and barter sites on the Internet suggests that people are starting to take used items very seriously. Green shopping is just as much about buying used when possible as finding neat new uses for old junk. You can up-cycle your own goods, transforming them into exactly what you need with some slight modifications.
Some places are really going the extra mile towards giving their customers the whole “green shop” experience. Buying things doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can be a wonderful thing that you share with your friends and neighbors by shopping green, durable, natural and sometimes used items, locally.