Carbon Footprint of Shopping

Happy Monday Earthlings :)

Starting off this entry with a little fact about me: I hate shopping.

Maybe it was the years I spent working in retail that turned me into a jaded cynic, or maybe it was waking up to the absolutely horrifying consequences of consumer culture on the environment (probably both), but the reason I share this about myself is to discuss how our day-to-day purchases contribute to climate change.

You can't make something out of nothing. The meaning behind this saying seems obvious at first glance, but when you start to ask questions like "how was this made and how does it affect the environment" before you buy something, it feels a lot more complicated. The disturbing truth is that the production of many of our consumer goods leaves an enormous carbon footprint, even if the product itself does not.

This is a complex, multi-faceted, monster of an issue that I could write a book about. For the purposes of this blog post, however, I'll be brief: the companies that make the things we buy are not doing so in a way that is sustainable.

Even though it's a big monster, there are many ways we can fight it. To keep it simple, you can follow the advice of another saying that you've probably heard before: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Reduce: Buy less. And when you can, buy better.

For the most part, we have control over what we invite into our lives when we make our purchases. Sometimes we're limited by income, by the availability of resources, by our personal needs, or by time. And it does take time to research where your products come from. But mostly we have the power to choose what we buy and who we buy it from. Buying less means lowering the part of your footprint caused by the production of your purchases.

Additionally, if every single person made a collective choice to not purchase products that were made in ways that are not sustainable to the environment, it could make a huge difference in the amount of carbon emissions caused by making those products. Not to mention the fact that if people collectively supported companies who make efforts to be environmentally sustainable, then those products could eventually outnumber, or even replace, the more harmful ones. (Note: I'm not encouraging you to bankrupt yourself on expensive alternative products! Just do what you can with what you have.)

Reuse: Buy second-hand, or borrow.

Unless you are planning to use something for a long time, consider borrowing instead of buying. Join a community swap group on social media, or reach out to friends and neighbors.

And when you do buy, see if you can find something that has already been made and therefore won't add any additional emissions to your footprint. To share a personal example: I tend to buy my clothes second-hand, I only buy what fits in my dresser, and I try to wear my clothes until they are unwearable. It's not always an option, as many things cannot be purchased second-hand. But if you can reuse something instead of buying new, it can save you money and lower your carbon footprint.


Finally, when something you own can no longer be used or repaired, recycle or dispose of the item in a way that it will not end up in a landfill or the ocean.

Returning to my original statement: I hate shopping. I hate that consumer culture is so prevalent and that ethical consumption is so difficult. But if there's a better way to buy the things we need, I'll try to find it! And I wish you the best of luck if you try the same :)