Lately, here at Growing a Green Family, we’ve been talking about how to live green on a limited income. In the last post we looked at how to save money simply by living greener in the first place. Beyond just living green you should have some basic eco-friendly shopping criteria in place. Having good shopping skills in general will save you money.
Excellent green shopping know-how consists of three basic components:
- Knowing what and if you need something.
- Knowing what eco-friendly really means to you.
- Knowing how to figure out if a product is eco-friendly.
Let’s look at all three components…
KNOW IF YOU NEED IT
Face it, everyone needs to shop for stuff at some point; groceries, shoes, tools and more. However, it’s seriously unthinkable that we need everything we buy. I’m not perfect so I don’t want preach at you but there are some items you don’t need. Like maybe all those knick knacks or an extra set of dishes just because they’re on sale. I can’t guess your family’s comfort level when it comes to “having things” but I do know that if you want to go green the first big step is to limit your belongings to a more necessity based approach. When I first started thinking green I used to carry a little slip of paper with me to remind me to use more eco-sense when shopping. My slip of paper looked like this:
Ask yourself these questions before you buy:
- Do I have one already?
- Do I need more of this item?
- Can I borrow this from someone else?
- Can I use something I already have instead of buying this?
- Is it recyclable?
- Will I make good use of it (honestly)?
- How will this purchase improve my world? Or will it not?
Using these questions helped me to make better, greener shopping decisions. Sometimes I do make a purchase after asking myself these questions because the questions allow me to realize that the product will be a good purchase for me or my home or son. Often though these questions remind me that nope, I don’t need the item in question. Once in a while, even if I don’t NEED it, I will buy something after using the questions but it’s rare. If you honestly aren’t positive you need something, use a seven day waiting period. Don’t buy it, and if you still think you need it after seven days go ahead and get it. If it’s not worth a trek back to the store than you likely didn’t need it in the first place.
KNOW WHAT ECO-FRIENDLY MEANS TO YOU
Everyone’s idea of eco-friendly is different. I’m pretty excessive with my ideals about green products, other people are more chill. It doesn’t matter how extreme you are or aren’t though. What matters is that you have personal criteria in place so that you don’t buy stuff that doesn’t fit your ideal. If you need to formulate some green criteria check out my list of green product criteria and adapt it to suit your needs.
KNOW HOW TO LEARN ABOUT A PRODUCT’S ECO-WORTH
Once you have your own green criteria in place, you need to know how to find out which products meet that criteria. You can’t trust everyone’s opinion and knowledge though… so, who can you trust?
To learn more about product shelf life and usability:
- Visit Consumer Reports
- Visit Consumer Search
- Find consumer opinions at sites like Amazon or Epinions.
To learn if a company selling the product is a green and ethical company:
- Household Product Database
- National Green Pages – to find a greener alternative for almost anything. I especially suggest you visit Responsible Shopper!
- 100% Fair Trade companies
- World’s Most Ethical Companies
To learn if you can recycle the product:
To learn if you can get the product from a local company:
- Check your local yellow pages.
- Do an online search but use your local area as a search perimeter.
- Ask a local friend.
To learn if a product is safe and not toxic:
- For beauty product safety visit Skin Deep
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Washington Toxics Coalition
To learn if a product is tested on animals:
- Visit Caring Consumer to see companies that do and do not test on animals.
If you ask yourself some questions and do a little research before you buy a product, you can make sure that you’re getting the least toxic and most eco-friendly product for your dollar.