Ensuring Your Product is Eco Friendly
The easiest way to become a green shopper is to just say no. There is temptation at every turn on every high street, and the internet has made shopping from home more convenient than ever, but every product sold has an environmental price as well as a financial one.
Cheap labour in countries like China and Bangladesh has driven down the price of clothes and led to bulging wardrobes in many UK homes. Unfortunately, even clothes have a carbon footprint, and the average tee-shirt will generate 28 times its weight in harmful carbon emissions in its lifetime. Transportation is part of the problem, with cotton grown in one country, made into clothes in another and then sold in different parts of the world. Growing the cotton, knitting and stitching the material and washing and drying clothes all adds to the carbon footprint. Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world too. It accounts for a quarter of the world’s total pesticide use.
Don’t Give in to Temptation
The most effective way to reduce the environmental impact of clothes is to resist the temptation to follow the latest trends. Simply buying fewer clothes will save money and reduce emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases. Everyone needs to buy clothes at some time, however, and when a purchase is necessary it is worth considering products made using Fairtrade cotton. Fairtrade was set up by charities to give those in the developing world a better deal, and Africa is the world’s largest exporter of cotton.
Well-known high street retailers stock Fairtrade clothes, and there is an ever-increasing range of organic cotton products too. Organic cotton uses natural plants to repel pests and natural fertilisers. It is up to 50 per cent more expensive, but encourages more sustainable practices in the countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.
Old Ones the Best Ones
When it comes to shopping for furniture, antiques can provide a green alternative. The manufacture and transportation of new furniture adds to its carbon footprint, but antique and second-hand furniture can be bought at local auctions or on the internet. Other second-hand household items can be purchased locally and a wide range of products can be collected free of charge from people who no longer have use for them.
Where possible, it is better to buy re-usable items, such as cotton nappies and electric razors, rather than the disposable alternatives, as this will reduce the huge burden on landfill sites. Also, take advantage of the massive array of recycled products on the market now, which includes everything from chairs and plant pots to garden hoses and wellington boots.
Consider the packaging when buying a product, as this can have an environmental impact too. Packaging contributes to around a quarter of the average UK household’s waste. Little or no packaging is best. It may be possible to recycle packaging made from glass, tin, plastic or cardboard, but the recycling process will require energy that would not have to be spent if there was no packaging in the first place. Given the choice, it is still better to opt for packaging that can easily be recycled rather than materials such as polystyrene, which is difficult to recycle.
Check energy efficiency ratings when buying white goods such as washing machines, fridges and freezers, and buy seasonal fruit and vegetables from local producers when shopping for groceries to help save food miles. Finally, take the purchases home in a re-useable shopping bag.