As we’re approaching the New Year, it is always good to think of ways we can better ourselves in the upcoming year. A New Year is a fresh start where we can resolve to break old habits and form new ones or set goals for ourselves. Things like exercising and eating healthier are often at the top of our New Year’s resolutions, and those are good things, but this year what if we set our sights on a more global goal? By incorporating sustainable, eco-friendly practices into our daily lives, we can have a positive impact on the environment, bringing us all one step closer to combating climate change. It sounds easy, but in reality, we know that it can be challenging to transition into an eco-friendly lifestyle. Environmentally harmful products are just so cheap and convenient it can be difficult to cut them out of our lives. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here are 5 tips for shopping sustainably in 2021:
1. Look for things made from recycled or repurposed materials
Sometimes we have to buy paper products--it’s unavoidable--but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be a conscious consumer. When purchasing paper towels, tissues, or toilet paper, look for an all-natural brand that uses recycled or repurposed materials. Because paper can only be recycled so many times, it can be difficult to find 100% recycled paper. However, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has developed a certification process for wood-based products to ensure they are made with sustainability in mind. If a company has been certified by the FSC, it’ll bear an FSC label such as this one:
2. Invest in quality clothing rather than fast fashion
Everyone loves a bargain, but oftentimes, we aren’t getting the good deal we think we are. Consumerism in America has become a cycle of “make cheaply, sell cheaply, buy cheaply”, and that sounds good on the surface, but when things are cheaply made, they don’t last. We think we’re saving money by buying something that’s cheap, but soon it breaks down or deteriorates and then we throw it away and start the process over again. Let’s take a cheaply made pair of pants for example. The pants are cheaply made so the store can sell them for a low price. I believe I’m getting a bargain so I buy the pants. I wear them for a few months, and they quickly deteriorate and wear through and tear. They are no longer wearable, and I don’t know how to sew so rather than donating them or repurposing them, I throw them away. They then end up in a landfill, and I end up back in the store buying another pair of cheap pants. If instead of buying the cheap pants, I had done some research and invested in a quality made pair of pants, I wouldn’t be having to return to the store a few weeks later. Yes, quality clothing costs more, but if you are able to wear them for longer, it ultimately saves you money and keeps clothing out of the landfill.
3. Research the products and companies you buy from
In the digital age, it is easier now than it has ever been to do research and know exactly where the things we buy come from. We may be inclined to think that sweatshops and child labor are a thing of the past, but the reality is that inhumane work practices still exist and thrive today both globally and in the U.S. Many immigrants, farmers, factory and storehouse workers are still underpaid and mistreated in the U.S. Products made overseas and sold by large corporations are often unregulated or are knowingly made by sweatshops and child labor but swept under the rug. It is easy for us to go into a clean, big name retailer and buy everything we need, and we let the convenience of it and the appearance of good convince us there’s nothing wrong. We don’t want to think about the fact that our products were likely made by someone who was not fairly paid for their labor or was otherwise mistreated in the process. It’s uncomfortable and I understand, but the reality doesn’t change just because we don’t want to think about it. In the New Year, it is crucially important that we do our research and invest in fairtrade companies who use ethical business practices.
4. Reuse and repurpose before you throw away
There is very little in our lives that cannot be reused before it is thrown away. If you’re like me and you aren’t a very crafty person, it may be hard to see it right away, but that’s why we have sites like Pinterest. The amount of ways brilliant people on the internet have learned to repurpose household objects never ceases to amaze me. For example, did you know that if you have a candle in a jar that is mostly burnt out, you can put it in the freezer and then the remaining wax will retract and come out easily, leaving you with a cute, decorative jar? Because I didn’t until I joined Pinterest! Taking the time to repurpose things around the house will not only keep objects from needlessly going into the landfill, it will also save you money and reduce clutter!
5. Be intentional with your purchases
In America, we tend to subscribe to the Ariana Grande mentality of “I want it, I got it”, and while that’s all well and good for selling albums, our needless purchases are often just that: things we don’t need. When we impulse buy, there are several things that can happen: 1. We don’t research the company we’re buying from. 2. We don’t consider whether or not the item we’re purchasing will actually be useful to us. 3. We don’t consider the longevity of the item or whether or not it can later be repurposed. Now, I’m not saying we can never buy anything ever, I am simply suggesting that in the upcoming year, we could all stand to be a little more thoughtful in our buying habits.
Have you started thinking about your New Year’s resolutions yet? How do you plan to be more sustainable in 2021? Let us know! We'd love to hear from you.