Do you know what it takes to shop responsibly and with respect for the environment? Personally, it makes sense for me to connect practicality with ecology, and that’s why I decided to rethink my shopping behavior.
What does it mean to “shop responsibly”?
Whenever responsible shopping is mentioned, many things come to mind. Whether it’s about supporting the local producers, reading those “tiny labels” on our bought goods or getting a deeper understanding of the products. It can simply be about buying goods that last more than one or two uses. But why move to this style of shopping when, theoretically speaking, I can and always have had almost everything at my fingertips?
Why Is It Important to Shop Responsibly?
Consumer awareness is knowledge-based, and for that reason, I would like to mention several facts that help and make me look at my shopping cart more critically. The first fact being that in the last 50 years, we have consumed as many natural resources as all generations combined. This excessive exploitation of resources is starting to manifest as price of food and products is on the rise. At the same time, third of all produced food globally is thrown away.
So why bring home things that will spoil or break in a not-so-distant future, things I will be forced to throw away? Such a purchase is not only unprofitable for you, but it also depletes natural resources.
Ďalším faktom bolo, že oblečenie, ktoré som si dlho kupovala bolo vyrobené v rozvojových krajinách hlavne východnej The second fact being the origin of clothes I had been buying in the past – they were overwhelmingly manufactured in developing countries, mainly countries of East Asia, such as Bangladesh and India. Obviously, there would be nothing wrong with these products had they not been made by people who worked endless workdays for our selfish enjoyment, often in unimaginable conditions, exposed to chemicals and heavy metals. All that for a ridiculously low wage.
Did you know that the average tailor in a textile factory in Cambodia earns around 40 eur (46$, 34 £) a month? In practice, it seems that from the t-shirt we paid 15 euros for, the tailor gets only about 3% of the entire amount, which is 0,45 cents. With that out of the way, what is the actual price and quality of these goods I am going to be using?
Another question being, who actually makes money on those clothes, given how massively disproportionate the distribution is?
Tips on How to Shop More Responsibly
These are just a few reasons why I started monitoring my own consumption more and why I am no longer a customer at some companies or stores. I would therefore like to share a few tricks & tips on how to become a more aware consumer and how to avoid the traps set by international groups offering so-called sustainable products.
1. Buy Things, That You Really Need
When shopping in malls or supermarkets, we might come across products with a ridiculously high sale. We’re not talking exclusively about food, it’s something we often come across in the electronics and clothing sections. In the sight of a cheaper purchase, our brain goes into overdrive and the product instantly flies right into our shopping cart.
Let’s be real here. Average Slovak throws away what amounts to 100 kilograms annually. What is also thrown away with products and produces, but isn’t visible, are all the natural resources that were needed for production. Just like your money you basically threw away.
Let’s start objectively thinking, whether we really need whatever we’re looking at when we’re out there shopping. After all, there are many things that we do not use a lot nor often, yet these things are often borrowable for the time being, be it from the library, from our acquaintances or other sources.
2. Choose Local
By purchasing from local retailers, you will not only support the local economy, but also reduce your carbon footprint.
Supermarkets often offer products imported from abroad, travelling to our location thousands of kilometers. This distance is what affects the taste and quality of many products. Indeed, the further they have to be shipped, the stricter the measures (and chemicals as well) must be used to increase their durability and shelf-life. The list of issues with this could go on and on.
3. Give Things a Second Chance
Second-hand or bazaars are getting a lot more popular. This is also due to the influence of social networks and the internet, through which it is easier to offer unused things. Vintage is also becoming more popular.
By accepting second-hand goods or by upcycling, I give a product I receive a second chance. It also means I am able to buy clothes cheaper than even in a fast-fashion store. This ultimately creates a unique style that is considerate not only to nature, but also to people working in textile factories.
4. Beware of Greenwashing
Fast-fashion brands will often label their products as eco-friendly, sustainable or organic, without providing any actual certification. Green labels can make the consumer feel good, a feeling for which he is willing to pay extra. If one buys uncertified greenwashed clothes then, at the end of the day, this purchase was nothing more than a needlessly expensive investment that helped nobody but the fast-fashion brand.
If you are interested in shopping for clothing that should meet relevant ecological criteria, it is necessary for you to be able to be knowledgeable about materials used and brands that manufacture clothes. If I shop online, I look for certificates of quality or materials mentioned in the product description and verify their actual authenticity.
Relevant and up-to-date labels can often be found at sites of particular responsible vendors. Certain brands may also provide potential customers with certificates directly on their website. For example, at SLOVFLOW you can find Quality certificates and Material guide to help you with responsible shopping.
5. Look for Alternatives
When buying groceries, I make sure that I only choose groceries without a packaging. I use my own bags and containers for shopping, and I put groceries into them. By doing so, I do not carry unnecessary waste back to my home, and, at the same time, I buy healthier, fresher food.
Semi-finished or packaged products have already undergone a treatment or other process that may affect its nutritional value and quality. However, if it is not possible to buy products without packaging, I will choose a variant that comes with a recyclable or reusable packaging. For example, glass, which can be recycled infinitely.
There are countless ways to shop selflessly and responsibly. It is up to us and our belief that the individual can also inspire his surroundings and thus contribute to positive change within the society. This topic will be covered further in the upcoming issues.
Student and founder of the Zerowaste Girls initiative, under which she organizes workshops and lectures aimed at sustainability and zero waste.
Junior innovation manager at the innovation and digital services department of the Slovak capital city Bratislava. She is responsible for research and formation of digital services for the inhabitants of the capital city Bratislava.