As our families grow our needs change and we need to buy more things… all the time. This kind of material accumulation can take its toll on the environment, our wallets, our communities and even our health. myTOT takes a deep dive into what sustainable shopping is and why it could change our lives and be the best option in the long run.
Why shop sustainably?
Protect the environment
It’s well known that our shopping habits impact the world we live in and the animals we live with. Stats show that as much as 713 gallons of water are used to make a t-shirt (yes, just one!) but according to Winmark Franchises (How Do Your Shopping Habits Impact the Environment?), recycled cotton clothing uses less than 3 percent of energy that would’ve gone into making something new. Most people still shop brand new, though, and from larger companies who are on the fast consumer treadmill. Animals consume plastic and their habitats are destroyed by it and this is just one problem our shopping habits cause them. Making it more accessible to shop sustainably would make a huge difference. Even if you’re only buying one t-shirt.
It’s better for your health
Pesticides, chemical dyes and micro-plastics – oh my! These are just some of the toxic elements we eventually wear, use and consume when we shop. Substances like these can affect our health in so many ways – from fertility (phalates in plastic are known to lower testosterone and studies have found that infertile women have higher BPA levels in their system than fertile women) to skin problems (clothing made of dark synthetic fibres, like workout gear, can trigger allergic contact dermitis. When was the last time you bought something and thought about what it’s made of and how those components will affect your health? By shopping sustainably, you can check out materials before you buy and help yourself and your family detox some pretty grim hidden nasties.
Support Local Business
Now is the time to shop local. Not only do local businesses need our financial support (lockdowns, dying high streets and online shopping are really not helping), they’re also amazing sources of sustainably. If you’re a foodie, have a look and see if you can get your milk, eggs and butter delivered weekly to your door from a nearby farm (milk in glass bottles waiting for you at your front door in the morning… Call me boring, but what a rush!). Perhaps there are craft makers nearby creating super-cool clothes for your littles in organic fabrics. If there’s something you’re in the market to buy, have a quick look for small business and local alternatives – you’re pretty much guaranteed to find longer lasting, better made stuff.
Every supply has a chain. How the links in the chain are affected very much depends on how we shop and how often we do it. It starts with the consumer – we need to knowledge up. What do you want? How is it made, how much does it cost, where is made, what is it made from and who made it? The latter of these questions is often overlooked. According to bustle.com of the world’s estimated 60-plus million garment and textile workers, only 2% earn a living wage. Sustainable businesses are changing this. It’s important that a business is transparent about all elements of its product, and that you can trace everything. If you have to hunt for information, it’s probably not sustainable.
What types of sustainable shopping are there?
Shopping second hand
Here at myTOT, we’re all about shopping second hand (check out why second hand isn’t second best here Why second hand isn’t second best… | mytot). It really is the simplest way to shop sustainably. According to the BBC, increasing a garment’s lifespan by nine months will eliminate its environmental impact up to 30%, compared with buying it new. It’s also super fun. According to an Oxfam survey, the average shopper bought 12 second hand items in 2018 and got a ‘buzz’ from it!
Shopping locally and reducing packaging
Ordering something online, for example, means it has to travel to you. I know, duh, right? But what happens when you need to return something? According to a study by GreenStoryCa (The Impact of Online Shopping on the Environment | Eco-Age), 30% of items bought online are returned and 20% of those items end up on landfill, because they can’t be resold by the retailer. That is shocking. Only 6-8% of items bought from brick-and-mortar stores are returned. If you shop locally, you can experience the product before you buy it and the packaging it comes in will be reduced. If you’re ordering online from somewhere local, the trip to you and back will emit much less emissions. Win, win!
What is the importance of sustainable shopping?
The lifecycle of clothing
The lifecycle of clothing has several stages. From manufacturing and retail, to use and end of life (with transportation in between). According to Science Direct (A systematic review of the life cycle inventory of clothing – ScienceDirect), the use phase is ‘critical’. ‘… energy and water are used for clothes washing, drying, ironing and dry cleaning. The number of washing cycles operated during the user phase is critical since it affects the durability and increases energy use.’ In a garment durability widely used by retailers, an average garment has 49 wash cycles in it. If there are items in your wardrobe going unused but you think could take a few more washes, pass them on to someone else!
Supporting fair pricing
Setting fair prices is fundamental in sustainable shopping. If the supply train is transparent and audible, you as the consumer will understand the pricing. If the price of something is too good to be true it probably is (who got undercut for the goods to be so cheap?) and most likely won’t be sustainable and if you think an item is too pricey, have a look into packaging materials and other elements of the business. It might be justified, or it might not – you are the consumer, so it is up to you.
How to be a great sustainable shopper
Buy second hand
We know you’ll love it, so give it a try if you haven’t already! myTOT marketplace
Look for quality, eco-friendly goods
Swap plastic toys for wood and try investing in natural materials like linen, cotton and wool for your clothes. (That’s where second hand comes in – you can find seriously quality items so much cheaper). Spend some time looking into the companies you’re buying from and check out their ethos and manufacturing standards. Perhaps replace wrapping paper with reusable fabric (most wrapping paper can’t be recycled and in the UK alone we send five million tonnes of paper to landfill every year). Little swaps like this make all the difference in the long run.
Support brands that have a positive impact
Most sustainable brands will have a clear mission statement and a traceable supply chain. Have a look around and see what resonates with you and give the brands you click with some love!
When it comes to shopping sustainably, knowledge is most definitely power and the good news is, it’s not about doing a huge shopping overhaul overnight. Every little purchase you make has a huge impact, so even swapping a couple of brands or items a year can make all the difference. There’s a way to go, but it’s in the right direction.