Shopping with a carbon neutral mindset


What you can do as a consumer to make a difference

In the last decade or so people have put an enormous focus on how businesses are impacting our environments by not doing all they can to reduce their carbon footprint, meaning how much carbon dioxide they impose on our environment, but did you ever stop to think how much we as shoppers influence their decisions? Or should I say how our lifestyle decisions impact the way we shop which in turn impacts the businesses we shop at. So what can we do to help our environment and local businesses just by changing the way we choose to live.

It is much easier for people to impact environmental change more so than a business. People’s buying habits are mainly based on small scale luxury and lifestyle purchases that only impact us and the people in our homes. The question isn’t can we make a change?  For most of us the question is more, so do we want to? and how many of us are going to do it? Now yes some purchases such as electric cars may be a little bit harder to financially achieve, but for a business their decisions are based on supply and demand. Which means they may not have the ability to not buy into carbon driving products if their customer base is demanding it. If they choose not to supply their demand that can have strong negative impacts to their P&L and may cause many to lose their jobs. 

So with that being said the more conscious we become the more we impact the demand within the business we choose to shop at and the inventory they chose to invest in. 

Food:

Did you know what we eat, the way we eat, and how much we eat, has a significant impact on our environment? Livestock makes up almost 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. Did you know one cow burps 220 pounds of methane which is just about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide?  Cows are ¼ of the overall livestock emissions and the most impactful. 

70% of the water we use is used to help produce our crops. Imagine how much water is wasted by the 52 billion tons of food that end up in landfills each year. That’s excluding the fact of the amount of methane in which this food waste produces. Other countries like Korea have introduced programs into their communities resulting in 95% of food waste being recycled using biodegradable methods. 

Food solutions: 

  • Meat free diets or replace them with plant based meats such as beyond or impossible 
  • Buy what you’re going to eat
  • Buy compost bins
  • Buy more veggies and fruits 
  • Cut down on filling your fridge, this preserves the life of your fridge so it doesn’t have to be replaced. If your fridge fails, replace it with energy efficient ones. Some older fridges can leak HTC’s that are no good for the ozone layer

Travel:

We have to work, that’s no question, but how we choose to get there has an impact on the environment as well. Cars produce ⅓ of the emission polluting our environment today. Cars produce 20 pounds of carbon per gallon of gas burned.

Planes and Buses also have a huge carbon effect as well, however buses and planes that are carrying full capacities are helping reduce emissions by 65%! 

Walking and bicycling not only cuts down on emission it also reduces the need for roadway repair and parking lots.

Travel solutions:

  • Car pool
  • Take public transportation 
  • Buy and use more bicycles 
  • Walk more 
  • Electric cars reduce emissions by 30%
  • Challenge your local transportation agency to schedule based on what needed not just accessibility 

Dress:

One of the best things you can do is buy less. I remember growing up I would have enough clothes for the school week. If my older clothes were in good condition I would get maybe 2 or 3 new outfits. One pair of shoes and coats would last a few years.  There was also no shame in hand me downs, well maybe a little bit, but we did it. Now especially with cheap fast fashion brands the average person buys 68 articles of clothing per year and globally $2.4 trillion  of garments are thrown away per year. On top of all of these wasted garments, production of new garments is also responsible for 10% of overall global carbon emissions and this number continues to grow. 

We can help the environment by thinking differently when it comes to shopping for clothes. Some solutions have already been seen in retail trends especially post pandemic. We have seen a rise in boutiques with higher price clothing. The reason this is trending is if you’re going to buy less, you’re going to want to love that garment and make sure it’s going to last. For those who want to have more of a selection we have seen thrift and consignments shops spiking especially as we now want to support local businesses. When buying second hand remember to look for natural fabrics as these are much better for the environment. Not washing clothes after every use also helps preserve the garment. Jeans do not have to be washed after every wear, neither does a lot of other garments. I mean do you wash your coat after each wear? Also using your washing machines less helps the environment tremendously 

Garment solutions:

  • Support local thrift shops and boutiques 
  • Buy less and love your garments more
  • Give away old garment vs throwing them away
  • Buy and sell consignments 
  • Wash garments only when necessary 
  • If your clothes are damaged try to repair them 
  • Stay away from polyesters and other synthetics

Some other buys that can help impact your environment:

  • Solar panels 
  • Smart appliances and devices
  • If possible switch to central air and controlled thermostats 
  • Cut grass low and less and do not discard clippings 
  • Use more electric tools vs gas powered 
  • Teach the people you live with to conserve energy
  • Work with your community to set up educational seminars to teach how to think and shop with sustainability in mind.