Have you ever heard the phrase “shop ‘til you drop?” It often means that you’ve shopped so much that your feet simply can’t take it any longer. But now, instead of our feet bearing the weight- our planet is the one suffering from a shopping-obsessed culture.
It is not common to associate shopping with negatively impacting our environment. However, there are many ways that it actually does! From the pollution caused by excess plastic bags and packaging to the extreme amount of waste produced by tossing out perfectly edible food, our Earth pays a price when we go out and spend our money.
Let’s start with some surprising statistics about consumerism and waste in the United States, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Are you feeling a bit guilty yet? If so, no one expects you to just give up shopping, don't worry! But there are easy steps that you can take to make your shopping habits more earth-friendly.
We all know the negative impacts of plastic bags by now. They take years upon years to break down in our landfills, and sometimes even end up in our oceans. In most stores nowadays, you can actually purchase reusable bags and take them home to keep forever. Some stores like Target and Sprouts even offer a 5-cent discount for each bag that you bring. Be sure to use them until they are completely useless, or else you’ll actually be adding to the problem rather than not solving it.
One of the largest issues that Americans face in the realm of pollution and environmental impact is how much waste we create. We are all guilty of throwing away perfectly good fruits and vegetables because of how they look. Yet, right here in our own country, there are over 40 million Americans who live in food insecure households, including over 15 million children.
Additionally, according to WorldFoodDayUsa.org, U.S. food waste is the second most prominent component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions.
The solution to this is to reduce the amount of things we buy so that we are only satisfying our needs, and not our wants.
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This one speaks for itself. Why would someone wrap perfectly fresh and delicious produce in plastic and then attach it to Styrofoam? All it does it create more waste. Most fruits and vegetables have their own natural, protective skins.
Supporting local, independent businesses can have a positive environmental impact. Locally sourced goods do not have to travel as far, using less fuel and creating less pollution than retail giants. When it comes to food, be sure that when buying local you are also buying what is in season, otherwise, there is a good chance that food was transported from another region.
When you buy used or refurbished items, you are supporting sustainability. You can directly reduce the amount of waste that winds up in our landfills. In essence, you are recycling!
As life goes on, we often grow out of clothes, whether in size or in style. Luckily, there are several organizations that will gladly take it all! You know what they say, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ And judging by the statistics mentioned earlier, our landfills really don’t need any more clothing clogging them up.
Can’t let go of that amazing dress you bought years ago? Try upcycling! There are hundreds upon hundreds of videos on YouTube that can guide you in making your too-small dress into a fabulous new top! This also goes for old electronics, furniture, appliances, and even cars. There are hundreds of organizations accepting donations of all kinds including Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Dress for Success, and the Big Brother Big Sister foundation.
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It is important to consider that there are several shades of green. Just because a product is branded as “environmentally friendly” does not necessarily mean that it applies to all aspects of that product. Watch out for generalized claims and words like "natural" that don't have any context, as well as a company's lack of transparency on these claims.
Some questions to ask yourself when choosing an environmentally friendly product include: Has the item been shipped thousands of miles away? What are the values of the company selling the product? What does the company selling the product do with their profits?
If research just isn’t your thing, there are several websites to make it all easier. Here are just a few:
So, keep these steps in mind the next time that you plan a shopping trip. And then, pass the information along to your friends and family! Change all starts with just one person.