Over the last few years, the way in which we shop has changed. It used to be that a lot of people sourced items – especially expensive items like homeware – second-hand, but at the same time there was little care for the environment. It is now the case that we are more conscious about the environment, but the way we shop is in fact more destructive to the planet.
Getting things second-hand is no longer the norm; it has since been replaced with shopping online and sourcing cheap, brand new furniture that has been produced on a mass scale. Most appealing of all, online shopping allows you to get your goods often the very next day. This is convenient, but it’s incredibly destructive because the rush to get items delivered often incurs a huge amount of carbon emissions.
For those who are in the market for new homeware but who also want to avoid contributing to the negative global impact of buying from big online companies, shopping sustainably is an option, and here’s how you can do it.
The obvious choice for shopping sustainably is by thrifting. This is where you go to a charity shop (sometimes called thrift shops) and buy something second hand. This is great for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s sustainable because furniture isn’t sent to landfill or wasted – it gets a second lease of life. The next benefit is that the proceeds of shopping at a thrift shop often go to a charitable cause to help those who need it, so not only are you being more eco-friendly, but you’re also helping a secondar cause, too. In addition, thrifting is typically much cheaper than buying brand new so is a great option for those on a budget.
A lot of big brands are beginning to release ranges of ethically sourced/made items, so if you can, shop from these ranges rather than standard ranges. Certain materials are more polluting than others, so it might mean switching to something else. For example, if you’re looking for a new sofa and like leather but want to be sustainable, opt for fabric instead. Leather is sourced from animals which is not only an animal rights problem, but the environment impact of farming animals is vast. PVC alternatives are extremely toxic to the environment, so although no animals are harmed, the impact on the Earth is just as great. Another example is instead of buying plastic straws, opt for re-usable titanium or paper. This isn’t to say that there aren’t sustainable leather options.
There’s a chance that naturally or sustainably sourced items might be more expensive to account for the fact natural materials are sometimes more expensive to source than man-made materials, but the benefits of saving the environment far outweigh the increased price.
One of the biggest impacts of shopping online for homeware from big brands is the effort involved in getting the product to your door. Instead of this, consider shopping locally. If you live in the UK, you can shop more sustainably by sourcing items from the UK. Better still, you could support small businesses by shopping with smaller brands whose carbon footprint is guaranteed to be far smaller than big brands, and your custom will support both the local economy and the environment whilst reducing your own carbon footprint.
Before you buy anything – be it homeware or clothes – ask yourself if you really need it. Do you already own something that can be revamped and upcycled to be what you want? Could you make it yourself from existing items and organize sustainable rubbish removal for the parts you can’t use? Whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting things, you should ask yourself if you really need them, or if you only want something to keep up with a social media trend or peer pressure – despite not wanting the item beforehand. If you need something or if you really want something and feel like it’s a worthwhile investment, go ahead and buy it, but try to do sustainably using the tips above.
Shopping sustainably isn’t easy and it might take some getting used to, but even implementing one of these four tips will ensure you’re playing a small role in shopping sustainably.