[How to] Do shopper research on carbon footprint before you buy

CO2 pollution is embedded in everything we buy. While most of us would like to reduce our carbon footprints and choose sustainable options where possible, it can be tricky to work out where to start.

To help you out, here are some top tips to get you started on being a planet-strong shopper!

1. Start with the basics

It's hard to get your head around calculating carbon footprints and understanding commodity chains when you're not aware of the issues. Everyone starts somewhere, so begin your journey to being a planet-conscious consumer by making yourself familiar with some of these key terms:

Carbon dioxide: A colourless, odourless gas produced by burning carbon and organic compounds and by animals (such as humans) breathing out. It's the overabundance of gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2) that is causing issues such as global warming.

Carbon footprint: The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of making, using and disposing of a product. For example, a pair of shoes might have a carbon footprint of 250kg of carbon over their lifetime.

Some other terms you might like to Google are "renewable resources", "fossil fuels", "textile industry" and "textile waste". There are thousands of articles, videos and resources out there, but even five minutes of research can help to get you more familiar with some of these key issues.

2. Plan your shopping trip in advance

Get prepared before you go by making a mental or written list of what you need to do and buy. This will help to make the most of each trip, saving you time and money, and helping the environment by cutting down on multiple trips. Making a list can also help you to cut down on impulse buying and make you focus on what it is that you really need, rather than what advertising makes you believe that you need!

3. Always carry reusable shopping bags with you

This is a simple and easy tip that everyone can do! Keep a reusable bag or two in your backpack, car boot and handbag so that you always have one on the go. If you remember your bags, you can say 'no' to plastic bags and prevent unnecessary rubbish from being produced.

4. Study the labels to look for products that have credible environmental claims supported by independent verification

While a fashion label or shop might declare that a product is "eco" or "green", bear in mind that this might be little more than "greenwashing": marketing tactics made to trick you into thinking that something is planet-strong when it really isn't. Get to know what are the genuine standards in your area (such as "recyclable" or "GMO free") and which aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Pick brands that you've researched before, or ask the retailer questions if you have any doubts or queries about the claims being made or the origins of the product. In general, look for locally made products that use natural ingredients/materials.

6. Think about the packaging

Look for products that:

  • Help you to reduce bulk and waste such as concentrated laundry and kitchen detergents for cleaning, or cordials to make up tasty drinks with tap water
  • Are refillable and/or the packaging is recyclable
  • Are lightly packaged, and avoid anything you think is excessively packaged
  • Use recycled content in their production and packaging (eg. a glass jar or a paper bag).

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you need some expert advice, get online and contact a company or organisation. Share information with your friends and family to help them make better purchasing decisions as well.

Being aware of the issues and trying to make small changes in your life may not seem like much, but imagine if we all did this when we went out shopping. You can take the next step into making this a reality!


Images: Shutterstock

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Steph Newman Former Social Media Assistant Suggest an article Send us an email

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