Shopping – Green, Ethical, Sustainable, Organic, Fair-trade, Local

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How do you balance the competing priorities when you shop?  This is a question with which I constantly wrestle.

While meandering through blogland I found this gem of a post at Little Eco Footprints.  If you are concerned about the impact of your shopping habits I would strongly recommend that you read this and also the very wise comments.

Buying ‘green’ products may salve your conscience but it is not enough to just toss a few green cleaning products in your trolley and assume that all will be well.  Where were they made?  How much transport was involved in getting them to your supermarket?  Are they really ‘green’?

I think the priority should be to reduce consumption because everything, yes, EVERY single thing that you buy has been manufactured and that process uses resources and produces greenhouse gases.

While we can and do produce some of our own food there are still many things which I have to buy.  My priorities are to buy things as local as possible and with the minimum of packaging and preferably recyclable packaging.  Organic is not particularly high on my radar. Here is a reason why.

Today while I was shopping I saw a tin of organic kidney beans that were product of USA.  There is nothing wrong with produce from USA if that is where you live.  However, these beans had been processed, canned and then transported halfway around the world.  I can buy dried kidney beans at Simply Good in Morayfield.  This is a family-owned local business where I can put my purchases in recycled paper bags that I bring from home.  See a previous post for more detail.  Even if the beans happen to be imported there is much less weight/packaging to transport a 25kg bag of dried beans than individual steel cans of processed beans.

I try to buy some things second-hand and also re-home things that I no longer need.  For this I generally use my local Freecycle group.  Freecycle is a fantastic concept which was born in Tuscon, Arizona and is now a world-wide phenomenon where people can give away almost anything (there are rules).

Good quality items, which can cost a little more are also my preferred option as they have a longer life and are much more ‘green’ in the long run than something that gets used/worn a few times before it breaks or wears out and is then discarded to landfill.

What are your priorities? How do you decide?  Have you tried to reduce your overall consumption?