Shopping for eco-friendly products can be confusing at first. It isn’t really clear which products are eco-friendly and why/why not. In this post, I will guide you through the basics of what to look for when trying to make your life a bit more eco-friendly.
There are a few things that most eco-friendly products have in common. They will have minimal packaging, no single-use plastic, and no toxic ingredients. Producers who truly have the environment in mind when making their products will go out of their way to do as little harm as possible. This is why eco-friendly products can sometimes cost a little more.
Best Ways to Shop for Eco Friendly Products
Avoid Green Washing
Sadly, there has been a rise in the practice of green washing over the past few years as people have gotten more interested in going green. This is a marketing practice by which companies make vague claims to seem more appealing to concerned consumers.
Don’t let green washing fool you. Earth toned packaging doesn’t guarantee that the product is eco-friendly. Read labels and look for recycling information. If there’s no recycling info, it probably isn’t recyclable. If the packaging can’t be recycled or reused, try your best to find a suitable alternative.
Shop local whenever you can! When products are sold closer to where they’re produced, they tend to be more eco-friendly. Less fuel is used to transport them and they don’t require as much packaging and padding for shipping purposes.
You can find the majority of the groceries you need at local farmer’s markets and produce stores. These kinds of businesses usually use little to no packaging and local farmers are also less likely to use harmful chemicals when growing their crops.
You can also find local makers of beauty + wellness products, clothing, jewelry and accessories, at the farmer’s market or smaller shops/boutiques. Try flea markets and antique shops for furniture and decorative items for your home. This has an added bonus: your home will be totally unique! I love Target as much as the next girl, and I can spot one of their mass-produced wall hangings from a mile away.
Eco Friendly Fashion
If you want to shop for eco-friendly clothes, shoes, bags and accessories, you have way more options than you might think. The best way to go about this is to buy all of your clothes second hand. You can do this by shopping at thrift stores and using websites like ThreddUp and Posh Mark.
When you do buy new clothes, stay away from “fast fashion.” This term applies to stores like Forever 21 and sites like Shein that sell trendy fashion items for cheap prices. This can be appealing, especially if you’re like me and don’t like spending too much money on clothes. But the truth is, these items are sold for cheap because they are very cheaply made and are based on trends that won’t last.
You’ll spend less and love your closet more if you focus on thrifting first, and make the choice to spend a bit more on new items that are very well-made and meant to last. For example, when you buy brand new jeans, choose a pair that fits you perfectly and goes well with clothes you already have. You should feel OK spending more than you normally would, because you are planning on wearing them often and keeping them for a long time. In fact, you’ll probably save money in the long run, since you won’t need to buy new jeans every few months.
Eco Friendly Beauty Products
Trying to find eco-friendly beauty products that work for you can be tricky. We all have our own concerns when it comes to our skin, hair and nails. Some of us have super-sensitive skin, others can use any ingredient. Some dye their hair and need serious protection/repair from their shampoo and conditioner, while others need frizz or dandruff control.
Once you find a product that works for your specific needs, it’s tough to try something new that might not work. I totally get it and I struggle with this in a major way.
The whole idea behind this site is to find eco-friendly choices that work with your lifestyle, so I’m not going to tell you to throw out your favorite face cream and switch to coconut oil! I suggest starting small and seeing how things feel. Buy some locally made soap at the farmer’s market or try using shave bars instead of shaving cream (those cans really are so bad). Keep looking for tweaks like this, and you will be on the road to a truly sustainable lifestyle.
Eco Friendly Product Packaging
Opt For Sustainable Packaging
The first and most obvious packaging to avoid is plastic. Single-use plastic is worse than something that can be reused, but avoiding plastic in general is the best way to go. Look for products that are in glass, post-consumer recycled paper/cardboard, or even not packaged at all. My general rule is I don’t buy anything in packaging that I can’t re-purpose or easily recycle.
Some types of packaging should be avoided at all costs. Probably the worst and most common is polyethelene terephthalate (PET), which is used in most plastic bottles and Styrofoam. PET is made from crude oil and is never compostable or biodegradable.
PET is everywhere, so it’s hard to avoid. Be weary of plastic when buying water/soft drinks. You can usually find glass bottles or even aluminum cans as alternatives. Look out for produce and deli items that are sold in a Styrofoam tray and then wrapped in plastic! If there is another version available, buy that instead. Let the store clerk know about your choice if you think the product was packaged there (an example of this is cucumbers or squash that have been packaged at the grocery store).
Over-packaging is a huge problem that seems to come from a place of ignorance by large corporations. Most single-serve and individually wrapped items are meant to make life more convenient for people, but they’re almost always unnecessary. There are some glaring examples – we’ve all seen the memes of apples wrapped in plastic wrap at the grocery store. This kind of thing is obvious, but there are many other examples of needless packaging. Keep an eye out for over-the-top packaging and do not support those brands.
When it comes to over-packaging, two of the biggest offenders are coffee pods and bottled water. Luckily, they both have super easy (and cost-effective) fixes. If you love your Keurig, invest in some reusable coffee pods. You just fill them with ground coffee and pop them like you would a single-use pod. Opt for larger jugs of water and consider refilling jugs at the store. It just takes a few minutes and is much cheaper than buying new ones every week. If you’re an everyday coffee/water bottle drinker, think of how much impact you can have with just these two small changes!
Try to think of some more examples of this kind of over-packaging in your life. I bet there are a few items you buy each week or month that you could modify to be more eco-friendly 🙂