Shopping isn't as carefree at it used to be for me, and it has nothing to do with money. I'm trying to curb the number of things I bring into my home, partly because I'm attracted to minimalism (even if I'm not quite there yet) and partly because I foresee moving to a smaller place in the next three to five years. I'm also paying more attention than ever to the sustainable impact of the things I buy. Yet, there are still some things I need and some things I want.
I've gotten pretty smart about making my grocery shopping as zero-waste as possible, and now I'm working on the other types of shopping I do. I get a sense of satisfaction out of a purchase that's in some way more sustainable than it would have been a few years ago. Here are some of the ideas I'm putting into practice.
Less beauty product packaging waste
There's a lot of plastic that comes with beauty products, and while I haven't been able to do away with all of it, I'm taking steps to eliminate it where I can. I've switched to a shampoo bar that comes wrapped in paper, eliminating the thick plastic shampoo bottles I used to buy. As a bonus, the bar works much better on my thick, curly hair and lasts a long time. I'd love to find a conditioner bar that works well.
I also purchase a minimal amount of makeup and buy the same makeup all the time. That way I don't throw away makeup that's gotten old before being used up. It means my made-up face looks the same all the time, except for perhaps a lipstick change every once in a while. As a bonus, I've trimmed my makeup routine down to less than five minutes, and I never have to stare at a drawer full of makeup wondering what to choose.
I've also learned how to fix a broken eye shadow so I don't have to throw away a palate before it's used up.
I've gotten (almost) perfect with taking reusable bags to the grocery store, but reusable bags can be used at all stores. I'm working on that, or choosing to walk out with my purchase without the bag. I now either take bags on my trips to places like Target, the hardware store and the pharmacy, or if reasonable, I put everything back in the cart without the bags.
There have been a few times when I've piled everything in my trunk, and then when I got home, I grab the bags and load them up in my driveway to make it easy to carry everything inside.
Buy fair trade
Sustainability goes beyond the environment. Choosing to be more sustainable with your purchases can take people into consideration, too. When I buy fair trade from a trusted source, I know I'm helping someone earn a livable wage in fair working conditions. I often shop at My Fair Trade Lady, a small store near me that I trust to have authentic fair trade products. It's my favorite place to buy gifts for others. They get beautiful, handmade, unique presents, and I get to use my money to support artisans instead of big corporations.
It's never been easier to find what I need in pre-owned condition. Facebook Marketplace and private Facebook yard sale sites provide information and even photos of items that are available in my town or nearby right onto my smartphone. I'm an avid yard sale shopper, and sites like Yard Sale Finder tell me where the local yard sales will be on any given Saturday morning, and I can map out a route instead of driving around looking for signs on trees. Thrift stores are filled to the brim with goods at the moment as everyone "tidies up," and even my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore puts new items on their Facebook page so I know what's new without having to make a trip.
What I love most about buying pre-owned furniture, home and yard decor, kitchenware and clothing is that I don't have to be a slave to what's in fashion at the moment. I can choose items that really appeal to me instead of things I'm gong to see everywhere.
At the moment, I'm looking to replace my dishwasher and I'm searching for a used one that's affordable and in good condition. My son said he doesn't think our one used dishwasher is going to make a difference against the sheer number that are made new by appliance companies. He's right. Our one used dishwasher may not, but if everyone chose to replace broken appliances with perfectly good pre-owned ones, it would make a big difference.
Rent or borrow
I know. This one isn't purchasing, but sometimes the most sustainable action you can take, especially if you can borrow what you need from a friend or rent one. I find this especially helpful with tools and yard equipment. If I need to power wash my brick home, I can borrow a friend's power washer. If a friend who doesn't do a lot of work around the house is doing a one-time project and needs sawhorses, she can borrow mine. I've rented a weed whacker while mine was getting fixed.
That brings me to another simple way to be sustainable with shopping: Fix things that can be fixed instead of buying something new. It's a simple step, but it's one we often forget in the rush of things.