7 Ways to Shop Sustainably

So, you want to change the way you shop. Great! But not sure how to get started? Or doubt that your individual efforts can have a positive impact on the planet? We hope this article can guide you to some answers. This article is also for you if your supermarket does not carry sustainable packaging options.

1. Change your mindset

The way we shop now has an impact on the air we breathe, on our water and food. Everything is contaminated with microplastic originating from consumer waste. Changing this begins with shifting the way we shop. And that begins with changing the way we think. Over the decades the ease of access to plastic for products and packaging has increased the number and variety of products. There is a product for everything we can possibly think of. We are spoiled for choice. It’s more than our parents and grandparents ever had to live with. And over half of the things, we have or use in our households and daily life are not essential. So our consumer philosophy must move from convenience to minimalistic living.

We ought to ask ourselves:

Can I do without it? Do I already have it?

Is there an eco-friendly option for this?

2. Make a list

A list of the things you need to buy will help you avoid spontaneous buys that are non-essential most of the time. It will also help you figure out all your sustainable shopping needs with just one trip reducing your travel footprint. And make-out how much of it can be fulfilled at sustainable vendors.

3. Take a cloth bag

This is a no-brainer. But how about for our unscheduled runs to the supermarket, grocery or retail stores. We must adapt to a lifestyle of always carrying a cloth bag with us. Keep several cloth bags – one in your bag, another in your vehicle and another at office. Want to be more sustainable in carrying a cloth bag? Get one made from old, discarded cloth or clothes instead of buying one.

4. Say no to unwoven cloth bags

These are the cloth bags offered at supermarkets and retail stores. While cotton organic fibers can be used to make these, they are more often than not made using non-biodegradable synthetic fibres. Therefore, it is always wise to say no to them. This makes carrying a cloth bag in your hand bag or backpack more important.

5. Choose package-less options

While a zero-waste store seems a new concept, it is inspired by grocery stores back in the day. In these, shop owners held wet and dry ingredients in tubs, barrels and gunny bags and would wrap the weighed ingredient in paper. In Asian countries leaves were used to wrap meat and fish. Visiting your local farmer’s market or weekend market also provides the option of shopping without plastic.

6. Buy in bulk

This would mean buying one large item instead of several smaller items, therefore the packaging waste is less – saves money too. It also increases the chances of reusing the empty container – for example, if you buy a 10-litre bottle of floor cleaner, you can use the empty container as a plant pot.

7. Cook at home

Our busy lifestyles have given way to the ‘takeaway’ phenomenon. This further increases packaging waste. Most of the food packaging is low density plastic that cannot be recycled and ends up in landfills. With a few adjustments we can change this:

  1. Start by choosing local ingredients that are easy to cook and keep longer in the fridge.
  2. Select simple recipes that do not take long to cook and are nutritious to boot.
  3. Cook in batches, preferably over the weekend and freeze half of them – so they keep till the end of the week without spoiling.

If more of us start practicing responsible consumerism we can make a sustainable impact in our families, organisations and communities.

See Dilmah’s commitment to sustainable packaging here