sustainability series: shopping habits

How your shopping habits are damaging the environment and how to change them.

For the second article in our Sustainability Series we are going to be talking about shopping habits.

We live in a world where people make new purchases every single day. For a long time, we have been buying new things when we don’t need them and throwing them away a month later. This is not sustainable. It’s time to make a change. From the food we eat to the fashion industry, we are consuming too much and wasting even more. At what cost? Our planet is suffering because of our poor decision making, our everyday choices, and that includes our shopping habits.

Today’s society is one of consumerism. Adverts on TV tell us to buy a new perfume when our current bottle is full. These luxury sofas are ‘half price for this week only’ and yet our current ones are far more comfortable. Perhaps we should order takeout tonight, even though there’s food in the fridge (food that will undoubtedly go to waste). Consume. Consume. Consume. Where does it end?

Consumerism is everywhere, being forced down out throats. It’s convenient. Companies make it easier and easier for us to consume whatever they might sell. Supermarkets are full of premade meals, individually wrapped snacks, and ‘saver brand’ clothing. We can buy anything we want without having to leave the house, without even having to get up from our seats. That thing that you probably don’t need or in fact want is just a tap of a button away. This increase in stuff isn’t making us happier, and it certainly isn’t good for the environment.

Did you know that approximately 1.7 billion people worldwide now belong to the ‘consumer class’? That includes you, me, and probably everyone else you know. The ‘consumer class’ is defined – the group of people characterised by diets of highly processed foods, desire for bigger houses, more and bigger cars, higher levels of debt, and lifestyles devoted to the accumulation of non-essential goods. This is creating a devastating toll on the Earth’s water supplies, natural resources, and ecosystems.

Increased reliance on automobiles means more pollution, more traffic, more use of fossil fuels. Did you know that cars and other forms of transportation account for nearly 30% of world energy use and 95% of global oil consumption? Did you know that, in order to provide enough beef, chicken, and pork to meet demands, the livestock industry is responsible for mass deforestation and factory farming? It takes 25,000 litres of water to produce 8oz of beef (think about that next time you buy a steak, coincidentally vacuum packed in plastic).

In our self-made chaos and unnecessarily busy lives, its almost understandable why we reach for convenient products and online delivery services. The problem is that this addiction to convenience is costing us far more than the price of delivery. How long will it take us to realise that bigger is not better and more is never more?

How can we change these habits engrained into us? What can we do to become more sustainable in something as everyday as our shopping habits?

Here are a few things to consider:

Firstly, think twice before you buy. Do you need it? Do you really need that thing that you’re about to buy? This is a mindset that I have been using when it comes to everything that I buy. Whenever you fall into the trap of window shopping online, before you click ‘add to basket’, ask yourself if you really need this. This pause, this question, this time for reflection, cuts down on my consumption by about 75% annually. Instead of buying something new every month, I end up buying only what I need (most of the time; no one is perfect). Do we really need all that we think we do? Go and check, next time you’re about to buy a new shirt or some new leggings, go and check how many pairs you already have. What condition are they in? Will my wallet thank me for NOT making this purchase? Do I need it?

If you do need it, buy it secondhand. Does everything you buy really have to be brand new? Not only does secondhand buying save you money, but you’re also lengthening the life of a product, keeping it out of landfill, and putting it to good use. Buying secondhand reduces the demand of fast fashion, a leading contributor to climate change. Fast fashion produces 10% of all of our carbon emissions, and more than half the clothing produced ends up in landfill by the end of the year. Did you know that 10,000 litres of water go into making a single pair of jeans? You’re saving that much water just by buying a secondhand pair.

Unsubscribe. Do you get emails from major pizza chains every day too? Adverts are everywhere. If you have a membership card to a ‘fast’ brand, or even just purchased from one once, chances are you’re getting email after email and adverts all the time on your social media, telling you about the latest sales and discounts, telling you to consume more. You won’t realise it, but this does actually cause you to spend more. Who doesn’t want to be offered 50% off their next pair of shoes, right? Wrong. By unsubscribing from these brands and emails, by blocking these ads, you’re helping yourself to reduce your consumption, reducing demands on ‘fast’ brands, and therefore helping the environment. Avoid ‘fast’ and unethical brands at all costs.

Shop small and shop local. This past year has opened our eyes to the importance of supporting your local businesses. The local economy is powered by small businesses – everyday people with big dreams. When you shop at your local bakers, your local farm shop, your local charity shop, you’re putting money towards a good cause and supporting someone in doing something they love. Most local shops are within walking distance, and factory-to-door/farm-to-table journeys will be shorter. Locally sourced goods won’t have travelled great distances to get to you, reducing the amount of air pollution and your carbon footprint. Buying local fights waste too. Large retailers throw away insane amounts of food, clothing, and other products that just haven’t sold. Small brands = small stock = small waste. Overall, shopping local is better for the environment.

Learn more about the importance of supporting your local food suppliers by reading the first article in our Sustainability Series: Food

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to learn more about the dangers of convenient consumerism and how to change to more sustainable shopping habits. I hope that this article was useful for you and provided you with valuable information to consider. 

Before we end, let’s go over those sustainable shopping habits:

  • Think twice before you buy (do I need it?)
  • If you need it, buy it secondhand
  • Unsubscribe from pro-consumer brands e.g. fast fashion, fast food
  • Shop small and shop local

I hope that you take these changes into account the next time you think you need to buy something.

Thank you for joining us on our second Sustainability Series article, and we look forward to seeing you again next week, with our next one!

If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, leave a like and a comment and we’ll be sure to get back to you soon. To keep up with us here at rhythm & green, give us a follow on Instagram @rhythmandgreen to see what we’ve been up to lately and for the very latest of our content.

Until next time,

Katherine x

Articles I read to gather my information and statistics:

Earth Suffers as Consumerism Spreads (nationalgeographic.com)

The Negative Effects of Consumerism | Greentumble

Consumerism plays a huge role in climate change (grist.org)

The cons of convenience culture and 5 steps to break away – Connected to Port Phillip

How fast fashion hurts the planet through pollution and waste – Business Insider

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