8 ways to practice sustainable consumption

January 21, 2021

Canadians are increasingly mindful about their consumption habits thanks to growing concerns about climate change, unfair working conditions, and the harmful chemicals found in everyday products. Shopping in a more sustainable way means considering not just the price of what you’re buying, but how and by whom the product is made, what materials were used in the production process, and what happens after you make your purchase.

Big-box chain stores and online delivery portals might be cost-effective and convenient, but these retailers are often criticized for using excessive packaging, and controversial manufacturing and supply-chain practices that can have a devastating environmental impact.

On the other hand, ethically raised foods from local farms, eco-conscious clothing, cruelty-free beauty brands, green household cleaning supplies, and low-waste specialty products are far less harmful to the environment than their mass-produced counterparts. In fact, shopping local and supporting small, independent retailers in your neighbourhood is one of the best ways to become a more responsible consumer and reduce your carbon footprint.

8 ways to practice sustainable consumption

[Photo Credit: jchizhe]

How to become a more sustainable consumer

If you’re curious about sustainable consumption, here are a few environmentally friendly and socially responsible shopping practices to start practicing in your daily life:

1. Try to reduce your environmental impact by cutting down on single-use plastic and take-out containers. Carry reusable items like canvas tote bags, travel mugs, and glass straws with you when you’re out and about, and consider buying nuts, cereal, pasta, and other bulk food goods from a local waste-conscious retailer like Unboxed Market in Toronto or Nada in Vancouver.

2. As much as possible, purchase organic fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and dairy products from local grocery stores, farms, suppliers, and fisheries that are committed to ethical agricultural processes. Eco-conscious food labels like NON-GMO Project Verified, certified Fair-Trade and the Ocean Wise symbols will help indicate which brands use sustainable farming practices.

3. Avoid buying clothing made with toxic textiles that damage the environment. Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and viscose rayon all contribute to dangerous levels of water pollution and deforestation. Instead, check labels for eco-friendly fabrics and natural fibres such as organic cotton, linen, wool, silk, and hemp.

4. Skip the brand name cosmetic retailers and make sustainable consumption choices by shopping for ethical skincare and makeup at a local beauty boutique or day spa. There are hundreds of clean, cruelty-free beauty brands on the market that are committed to using organic non-toxic materials and low-waste reusable packaging.

5. Household cleaning products are another category that creates a lot of unnecessary waste, so make small changes to incorporate more natural, eco-friendly items into your home.  Swap regular light bulbs for long-lasting LEDs, opt for reusable cloths rather than disposable wipes, purchase non-toxic cleaning products in recycled packaging, and switch to energy-efficient appliances.

6. When shopping for little ones, eco-friendly wooden toys are a more sustainable purchase than cheaper plastic alternatives. Simple wooden building blocks, puzzles, and figurines never go out of style and offer a number of environmental benefits over synthetic playthings – they’re more durable, biodegradable, and aren’t made with harmful chemicals like PVC and phthalates.

7. Stop impulse-buying trendy pieces from fast-fashion retailers and consciously stock your closet with investment pieces that will stand the test of time. Use your dollars to support Canadian designers or find new-to-you threads from a local vintage shop or second-hand clothing store. If you need a splashy outfit for a big event, consider borrowing from a formal wear rental boutique.

8. If you’re committed to practicing sustainable consumption, do your research. Background-check brands and stores that you choose to support. Conscientious manufacturers and retailers are transparent about their business practices and will make their corporate social responsibility policies readily available for consumers who want to learn more about where their products come from.

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