We Cannot Shop Our Way Out Of The Climate Crisis.

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No matter how many “green” or “eco-friendly” products we all buy, we cannot shop our way out of the climate crisis. Sure, we can buy more reusable bags, more eco-friendly gadgets, hybrid cars, Energy Star-rated appliances, or clothing made out of bamboo. We can do all the right things when it comes to watching where we spend our dollars; doing so will benefit us for sure. But in reality, the things we don’t spend our money on or consume at all are going to do more for our environment and the climate crisis than shopping “green” ever can.

I have said over and over again here on the site that the small things do matter, and to not let anyone tell you otherwise — and I stand by this statement. Too often, the changes we can easily make are belittled by others who claim we aren’t doing enough, but I don’t believe that for a second. ANY changes we make for the better are helping the cause. But one mistake I see people make too often is thinking that shopping, as long as you are “buying green”, is better than making simpler, less expensive, and less labor-intensive choices. And nothing could be further from the truth! For many of the items that we buy in order to “go green”, there are raw materials being mined, used, and thrown away; workers being underpaid; landfills being filled up; chemicals being sprayed about. Oftentimes, looking for alternative ways to make changes, rather than shopping for them, can have an even bigger impact on our world.

Creative Commons License photo credit: l i b a t i q u e*

Yes, we all need to shop sometimes. And yes, when we need to, we should look for the most eco-friendly option available. And yes, those purchases can make a difference.

But that doesn’t mean that shopping is the best way out of our problems. If you want to make effective small changes, take a minute to think of a few things you can do that leave no trace of your money at the mall but yet can make an impact, such as:

  • If you can do it, a clothesline in the backyard dries clothes just as well as a new shiny Energy-Star rated dryer does.
  • Taking care of the clothes you already have is a lot greener than buying the most eco-friendly fabrics.
  • Check in the back of your closet for old bags you can use at the grocery store – they work just as well as new hemp ones!
  • Natural cleaners made out things like baking soda or vinegar are cheaper, less toxic, and use less plastic than even the greenest of the name brand stuff.
  • Using old rags or towels instead of recycled-paper paper towels results in a lot less waste going into landfills.

Remember – the small things do matter, but that doesn’t mean you need to shop to do them effectively. Shopping never saved anyone, and it won’t save us either. Keep that in mind next time you reach for your wallet!

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  1. I totally agree on all points mentioned. Before I buy something I always make sure there is something that I already have that I can use instead. If not, then I buy used. Buying new and “green” is usually my last resort.

  2. Great article!
    I think the average consumer can connect to be greener through there consuming choices and hopefully get better from there… I know it’s a work in progress for me and my family.

  3. YES! I am a little weary of people saying they are ‘going green’ but they just use that as an excuse to buy new bamboo sheets and towels, more reusable designer bags, expensive designer ‘eco’ furniture etc. Yes, when i need to replace my sheets I’ll make an eviro friendly choice, if my ikea bookshelf from college finally gives way i’ll buy a new one made from sustainable wood and enviro friendly finish but I’m not going to rush all my stuff (that has already consumed resources) to the landfill!

  4. You make an excellent point that tends to get lost in all the marketing of green products. I am all about buying green IF we have to buy, but living this lifestyle has made my realize that the greenest choice I can make is not to buy at all. Which I why I can count on one hand the number of item’s I’ve bought for myself this year just because I wanted them. There’s a learning curve, to be sure, but I’m proud of the change 🙂

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