Monday, February 14, 2011

Green Up Your Next Shopping Trip

If there is one thing I've learned in my many many years as a conservationist, it's that it's all about the baby steps.  The human impact on the environment is overwhelming. So overwhelming in fact that some people might be tempted to throw their hands up in the air and think that there really isn't anything they can do to fix it.  I have to disagree, every little contribution you make equals a big difference when it is combined with the little changes that your neighbors make.  Here are some simple tips that you can incorporate into a typical shopping trip that will help reduce your impact on the environment:

T-shirt Shopping Bag

*  So this first tip isn't at all revolutionary, quite the contrary it's "all the rage" to use your own reusable shopping bags nowadays.  Some folks even make their own out of items headed to the landfill, like the colorful bag pictured to the left.  I actually made this one from a t-shirt and duct tape!  Besides the bags that your groceries are carried home in, you should also consider those extra produce bags.  Do we really need to put our one lemon in a plastic produce bag and then put that into another plastic grocery bag?  Instead, skip the bag for that bunch of bananas and loose produce that really doesn't need it.  Just let the cashier drop it all in one plastic shopping bag...better yet, your own reusable shopping bag.

*  When you're walking down the isles you can make a difference every time you put something in your shopping cart.  It might take some getting used to but once you figure it out, your shopping trips will be a breeze!  Some things to be aware of when you're shopping are packaging, post consumer content, perfumes and dyes. 

In addition to adding more garbage to the landfill, too much packaging adds weight to cargo.  Therefore, using more fuel and costing the end user extra money to ship the product.  So look for products with minimal packaging and skip the individual serving packs.  Instead opt for the regular or bulk size snacks and make your own individual servings at home with reusable containers. The same goes for hand soaps and cleaners, refill your containers instead of buying all new dispensers. Making these little changes can make a big difference without sacrificing your own product preferences and it'll save you money too.

Be on the lookout for products that contain a large portion of post consumer content (it contains some amount of recycled materials).  Whether it is in the packaging or the actual product itself every little bit helps.  Things like recycled paper, paper towels and toilet paper really help to save those old growth forests.  Did you know that the planet looses 27,000 tree EVERY DAY just in the making of toilet paper? 

Unnatural perfumes and dyes harm the environment both in their manufacture and later as they bioaccumulate in our soil and water.  Stick with clear, non-stinky (this IS the technical term for it) products.  If you bore easily and simply must add a little color or aroma stick to natural fragrances and dyes, it's better for your health too.

Most of these issues come up when we shop for cleaning and other household products, I found my green answer in the Method line of products. Why?  As a whole, the company does not test on animals, their packaging (which is minimal) is made from 100% recycled material and is also recyclable, their cleaning agents are non-toxic and biodegradable, and the list goes on.  While this is not meant to be a product endorsement I do encourage you to visit their website for a more in depth look at what types of things you should be looking for when you select your green purchases.

Made from a French Toast Box
*  Now that you know what to look for whilst loading up that shopping cart, consider what you'll do once you get home.  What can you possibly upcycle?  For starters, those pesky plastic bags make great trash can liners for bathroom and other smaller wastebaskets.  And all that packaging?  Resuse what you can, see my blog post on plastics for oodles of tips on what you can do with all those plastic containers. If you're crafty, there's lots you can do with cardboard before you decide to toss it in the recycling bin.  A quick search on youtube and you can even learn how to make cardboard furniture.  But seriously, I use old cereal boxes and the like to make patterns that I can later trace over and over again.  I even started making jewelry from cardboard.

Post below and tell me how you reduce, reuse, recycle or upcycle items from your shopping trips.


  1. These are great tips! I've started using Method products too, and often just baking soda for some jobs.

    My latest "baby step" is giving up bottled water at work. We can't drink the tap water there, so I bought one of those refillable metal ones and fill it at home every morning. It holds 2 bottles worth, so I figure I that's at least 24 plastic bottles a month, and probably around 300 a year!

  2. That's the perfect example of a baby step that makes a huge difference. Now imagine if everyone you worked with did that. If there are 50 people working with you that's more than 14,000 bottles a year. THAT'S HUGE!!!

  3. A lot of great tips! We've had reusable grocery bags for a couple of years now but I never thought of just using one plastic bag or nix the plastic bag altogether for fresh produce. Will start that on our next grocery shopping trip.

    I've also started using Method (soap and cleaning) when we moved into our new home about a year and half ago. When the method liquid soaps ran out, I reused the soap foam dispensers and switched to Dr Bronners with 2/3 to 3/4 water added.

    I've experimented with using just good ol' hot water, vinegar, baking soda and lemon for cleaning up the kitchen and sinks. Works so well, I will switch to this when my Method stuff runs out.

    When we painted, we used no voc paint.

    Our latest eco-friendly move - we switched to a reusable glass water bottle and just fill it up at home with filtered water.

    Like you said, every little bit helps. What really did it for me was seeing a picture of that huge plastic garbage island floating in the Pacific Ocean.

  4. Isn't that Pacific Ocean garbage island gross? For anyone who hasn't seen it. There are photos all over google, check it out.

    Thanks for all the great ideas! I'm going to try your cleaning solution.


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