Guest Post: How to become a more eco-friendly shopper
As a parent worried about climate change I've made a lot of lifestyle changes over the past few years - this includes how I shop.
When looking to buy a new item, I no longer just look at the suitability, price and availability - I now consider the eco and ethical credentials of the product and brand I’m interested in buying from.
It has taken me time to research and develop a more eco-friendly approach to shopping. The extra considerations needed to make sustainable choices can be overwhelming, so I've put together my tips for making more sustainable choices and how to turn goals into habits.
How to set a sustainable SMART Goals change your shopping habits
I have found the SMART goal method works well to break down big goals into small achievable steps. If you're having trouble setting realistic goals and sticking to them then this might help.
SMART stands for:
Specific – Be specific about what you want to change. For example: ‘I want buy less’ or ‘I want to buy more sustainable products’.
Measurable – Make this measurable and quantifiable. For example ‘I want to buy only from sustainable brands or secondhand for three months’
Achievable – Be realistic. Is this something you can achieve realistically within a set timeframe? If your goal isn't achievable you might give up or feel guilty and we can all do without more eco guilt.
Set small goals and make them bigger as you progress. For instance, aiming to shop sustainable brands 60% of the time or buying nothing new for a set period.
Relevant – is it likely to have a significant impact for the effort you’ll need to put in?
If you have limited time and energy, make sure that the goal fits with your priorities. Pick the areas you feel most strongly about then you're more likely to stick to it.
Timely – Set a time frame to achieve your goal and make this realistic.
For example: you might decide to give yourself a period of time to make these changes gradually. Alternatively, if your goal relates to buying nothing or not buying new time frame of one or two months so that it doesn’t seem like a long time to give something up. If the initial period goes well you could extend it or just choose to then incorporate more conscious shopping habits into your life going forwards.
Five hacks to help you stick to your sustainability goals and lifestyle changes
1. Use a calendar to mark the days you want to do or not do certain things and tick them off as you go. We don’t want to see a gap on the calendar so we’re more likely to stick to the habit.
2. Reward yourself with something you value. Alone time is a great reward for busy parents so give yourself half an hour uninterrupted with a book and a coffee or whatever activity you enjoy.
3. Stay motivated by reminding yourself why you're making these changes. Many parents feel that their children are the reason to live more sustainably so reminding yourself of this can help you stay on track.
4. Go public with your goal to help to keep you accountable. Post on social media, tell your kids or get a friend to be an accountability buddy and do it together.
5. Find like-minded people to connect with. Join a free FB group like the Smallkind Hub to connect with other people who are also making changes or find a local climate action group:
UK Climate Action local groups https://takeclimateaction.uk/join
Australian Parents For Climate Action https://www.ap4ca.org/localgroups
Australia Active Groups Directory http://www.ecoshout.org.au/green-environmental-social-justice-active-groups
Sustainable mindset shift to shopping
The most sustainable option is to use or repurpose something you already have. Not buying something is just as powerful in the fight against climate changes as making an informed purchase decision.
Second to this is borrowing the thing you need. This is a really quick way to reduce your carbon footprint and often saves you money.
Buying preloved is a great option as you don’t need to worry about the eco credentials of the product or brand as much. If you really love a particular fast fashion or toy brand but don’t want to buy from them anymore you can probably find them secondhand locally or online marketplaces like eBay and Vinted.
Of course there are some items and occasions when you might be looking to buy new.
What to look for when buying new
As an eco conscious retailer and parent of two I can relate to the minefield of trying to shop more sustainably on a budget. Greenwashing is ever more prevalent as big brands try to tap into a growing market of conscious consumers. The use of words like ‘biodegradable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ is often not backed up with meaningful facts, although advertising regulators are starting to push back on unsubstantiated claims.
Here are a few credentials we look out for when choosing brands to stop at Smallkind:
Sustainable, natural or recycled materials
Minimal, recycled and recyclable packaging
Transparent supply chain and working practices
Fair wages for all employees
A commitment to listening to feedback and taking steps improving and reviewing all the above elements consistently
No brand is perfect. There are always ways to improve as technology and our knowledge advance. Often the brands we work with identify areas for improvement through consultation with retailers and customers. When choosing products we look for brands who have an open dialogue and progressive approach to sustainability.
More recently, when it comes to clothing, we also focus on brands with capsule collections and year round ranges as we recognise that seasonal collections and ‘drops’ contributes to overbuying which is problematic regardless of the product’s ethics.
As a customer sometimes it’s hard to spot greenwashing but generally if information about where and how the products were made and by who is not readily available on the packaging or the website it suggests a lack of transparency this would be a red flag.
If shopping more sustainably feels like a minefield, have a go at setting a SMART goal and see if it helps change your habits. Remember that buying less, buying better and choosing products which are made to last is a great start.
Natalie is the founder and owner of Smallkind, an online store stocking sustainable brands for kids and parents. As a mum of two boys she set up the company after struggling to find ethical brands on the high street and spending hours researching products online. Smallkind aims to do the research for you to help make eco feel easy for busy parents.