Shop differently – 5 simple tips

Reduce, reuse, recycle is the basic mantra of sustainable living, but we all have to buy *some* stuff to get by. Even on our weekly shop the choices we make can make a difference to our environmental impact.

You might already do all of this, but just in case you don’t, here are 5 simple tips to help reduce your environmental impact as you shop…

  1. Stick to your list. You’ve probably said this to yourself before, and you were right. We often chuck a few extra things into the basket, thinking they might be handy later, but how often does that little bit extra end up in the bin when you discover it in the back of the cupboard weeks later, long past its use-by date?
  2. Only buy what you need. Everyone likes a bargain, and very often a ‘family pack’ or a 50% extra deal looks like a great deal. But do you need that little bit extra or will it end up in the bin? Sometimes spending a few pence more to bag a great deal isn’t a bargain at all, if all you’re doing is paying for more stuff to throw away.
  3. Big bag, little bag. Now that shops have to charge for disposable carrier bags, most of us now carry our own reusable shopping bags with us. Those disposable ones were a huge source of unnecessary waste. But how about going one step further and reusing those little, clear, plastic bags that you use for your fresh fruit & veg? Just slip them into your bag for life once you’ve eaten whatever came in them and you’re good to go, again and again.
  4. Check the Packaging. Manufacturers are fantastically creative in finding new ways to package the stuff they sell us. Exotic plastics, paper, card and foils combined in ingenious ways to make your stuff more alluring, or to increase its shelf life. The problem is that much of it either can’t be recycled at all or won’t be recycled because its too difficult (and costly) to – things like foil-coated card need specialist recycling facilities that many places don’t have or aren’t cost-effective for cash-strapped Councils. Try to pick stuff with the least packaging, and avoid stuff with packaging that you can’t compost or recycle.
  5. Check the Label. A seemingly obvious point is that locally grown produce is better for the environment, because it hasn’t traveled so far. But is an out of season British tomato grown in a energy-burning hot-house really better than a Spanish one that’s grown in natural sunlight? It’s a tricky balancing act, but as a general rule locally grown seasonal produce is a definite plus, the more local the better. The label will also help you choose products with sustainably produced ingredients. Palm oil, for instance, can have a devastating impact with the destruction of rainforests to make way for plantations, so avoiding it altogether or choosing brands that only use certified sustainable sources is another way to make a difference.

I know, there are many others, hopefully you’ll find some of those covered in other articles on the site… why not have a poke around?