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5 tips to becoming a sustainable shopper

5 tips to becoming a sustainable shopper

Making the change to a greener way of living has been one of the best decisions of my life.

True, it was not easy and making a leap to alter any part of your life can shake your foundations. It shook my foundations for the better. What makes it easier is knowing the good that comes from living a more sustainable life, with less plastic and waste. Not just for the environment but also my own life. The everyday has become less complicated as certain consumer choices have been removed. The choices I make are centered around kindness to myself and the world around me. Simple, wholesome choices.

I think that if you are here, there is something inside you that sees a kindred spark in a sustainable life that is free of unnecessary plastic and waste. You might not be ready to flip your whole world on its head and paint it green, and that is OK. I am still learning to live a sustainable life myself. Here are five steps focusing on shopping that I have incorporated into my life to make myself a more sustainable shopper.

1. Understand where the product has come from
Becoming aware of where a product come from and how it is created has given me power as consumer. All of my choices, including how I shop, affects the planet, animals and other human beings. With the internet at our fingertips we can easily dig up information on a brand. Knowledge is power. By NOT supporting a brand that is neither sustainable, eco or ethical I am sending a consumer driven message. There is responsibility and influence in how I spend my money.

2. Give second hand a go
With the rise of quality second hand shops, online swap sites, Ebay, Etsy, Gumtree or Craigslist it is hard not to find what you are after. Making second hand my number one choice when shopping has saved me money and you never know what treasures you will find.

3. Don't be afraid of the fourth R
The three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) has a mighty sister called Refuse. When I want to buy something I check in to see if I really truly need it. I ask myself questions like, does it have longevity? is it purposeful?Second hand shopping can be a little bit harder as that particular dress or kitchen item I might have in mind is not always sitting there in a store for me. Second hand shopping can be like a lucky dip! This is when I find myself making do with what I have or borrowing from friends and family as the effort usually ends up outweighing my desire for it.

4. Take your own bag
The construction of a bag, whether it is made of paper or plastic adds on the carbon foot prints too. I have two bags that I always keep with me. One is for food shopping and the other is for clothes, shoes and miscellaneous. That way I do not worry about anything food related mixing with that bargain shirt that I thrifted earlier in the day.

5. Put a handy reminder in your wallet or purse
This is my favorite tip to share. You know how some wallets have a plastic (eek!) window for photos or licence? In the place of a photo I scrawled a quote to remind myself each time I am out shopping of my choices. The quote I use is 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without'. It is an old wartime quote that reminds me to think before I hand over my cash. I have created one for you to print and pop into your wallet.

5 tips to becoming a sustainable shopper
Print this little gem and put it into your wallet or somewhere that will remind you. Right click the image, save to your desktop, print and cut. Make sure you recycle the paper you do not use. Or as an alternative write the quote on a scrap of paper. (Confession: mine is scribbled on the back of an old receipt).

These five steps have helped me become a smarter, sustainable shopper. I would love to hear in the comments below what helped YOU become a more sustainable shopper.
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G-Star RAW turn ocean plastic into denim

This time last year, a story about jeans being fashioned out of recycled plastic would not have excited me as it does today.

I would have glazed over the information feeling warm inside that the clothing was recycled and I would have moved on. Now I read the stories of innovation in the name of saving our environment and you will find me fist pumping the air. You see, I become REALLY excited knowing there are people finding ways to deal with plastics afterlife. I mentioned it here. These people rock my world and when I read about this neat idea, I had to share it.

Let me introduce you to The Vortex Project. This is a joint venture between Bionic Yarn, Parley for the Oceans and Sea Shepard.

The aim is to gather as much of the plastic that is in our oceans and littering our shorelines as possible and turn this into a product that we use everyday; jeans.

It is a simple and meaningful project. Here is how it works:

Plastic is collected by Sea Shepard from heavily polluted areas of our oceans. These plastics will then be given to Bionic Yarn to be integrated into fabric to be used to make jeans and fashion for G-Star Raw. The first collection Raw for the Oceans will feature eco-jeans made from Bionic Yarn fabric. Look out for it in stores and online beginning in August 2014.

Image from Raw for the Oceans
"Plastic is choking our oceans and precious marine wildlife at an unprecedented rate. Straws, single-use bags, six-pack rings, drink lids and more are ensnaring marine animals or blocking their digestive systems, killing these magnificent creatures. It’s time humanity takes responsibility for our actions and cleans up the mess we’ve made. We hope this is the first of many meaningful collaborations to come.”
I completely agree Captain Paul Watson.

First and foremost I support buying second hand clothes. When I cannot find that second hand item I turn to garments that have been made under sustainable and ethical conditions. New clothing will always be made. Recycling plastic and turning into an item that most people have in their closet shows the never ending creativity capacity we have as humans to turn waste into a functioning object of use.

Can you see yourself wearing jeans made out of recycled plastic fibers?
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Sustainable Valentine's day ideas

Sustainable Valentine's day ideas
Photo by Death to Stock Photos
Valentines is tomorrow. I had penned a post about sustainable gifts to give loved ones. But something did not feel right. It felt limited. If anything the world needs less stuff and more love. 

On Valentines day, I make an effort to smile bigger smiles, give random people a compliment, organise a dinner with friends, and make phone calls to loved ones.

Here is my list of sustainable ways to show love on the 14th February, and beyond.

♥ Help an elderly person like your grandparents or neighbour with the grocery shopping 
 Grab a friend and pick up rubbish in your neighbourhood 
 Cook a meal for a friend that has been a bit stressed or busy lately 
 Go through your contacts and pick three people you have not spoken to in a while. Send them a message, email or call them to say hello 
 Write a love letter to yourself listing your achievements in your life so far 
 Volunteer your time at a shelter 
 Walk a busy friend's dog 
 Get a massage 
 Host a clothes swap party 
 Give a random person a compliment 
 If there is a home on your street with a beautiful garden that makes you happy, drop a note in their mailbox telling them how much you appreciate their garden 
 Adopt an animal 
 Donate to your favorite charity 
 Volunteer at your local hospital, school or library for story time 
 Plant a tree 
 Support that friend/partner/parent/sibling and go with them to that free dance class they have wanted to try 
 Smile at everyone you see

You can even do some of these with your loved one. Throw out your net of love wide this year. 
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Hey, Mr Postman: talking about plastic in the mail

When my bank began offering my statements in electronic format, I hit the yes button immediately and have since received no statements except during tax time.

Electronic delivery is so much easier and saves me having to file and put away those forms. Plus less trees are cut down. It is a win.

Since going electronic I rarely receive mail apart from postcards, wedding invites or the useless bulk of letter box drops spruiking the latest deals. My life is filed away in databases on my laptop. So I had never paid attention to the plastic and waste that can come in through the mailbox at our house until I received a magazine from my health fund. There it was, sticking its body out of the mailbox, wrapped in glistening plastic.

plastic in the mail

I could not identify the plastic and had no idea if it was recyclable. I remembered that the REDcycle program at Coles allowed newspaper wrapping to be dropped off. I emailed the company asking if the plastic casing could be recycled. Turns out it can be recycled, so off it went into the REDcycle bins at Coles.

I didn't want to have to do this each time a magazine from my health fund was dropped off into our mailbox in the future. It was unnecessary and also a waste of time and energy to dispose of correctly. I contacted the company with the following note:
To whom it may concern, 
 I am writing to you with regard to a recent magazine that was mailed to my house. I do not wish to receive any postal mail from your company and would prefer all correspondence to remain digital. I am trying my hardest to live a life with less plastic consumption and find the catalogues plastic casing unnecessary. My address is xxxxxxxx. My membership number is xxxxxxx.
Kind regards,
Erin
The company was quick to respond (which I knew would be from previous correspondence) and were more than happy to oblige. I continued the conversation by letting them know that if they continue to send magazines to their members in plastic casing then they should encourage users to drop the plastic off at the REDcycle bins at Coles. They said it would be considered.

Truthfully I have never tracked any other mail that comes into the house. As I mentioned before, I rarely receive anything unless it is from friends or letter box drops. So when bills come for the builder I collect them from the mailbox and pass onto him. I can go down stairs right now and see our latest gas bill with its plastic window face sitting on his desk. It is something neither of us had thought of and from habit, probably placed into our yellow recycling bin in the past (luckily these envelops types are accepted!)

Recycling for us is the second step when we use anything. Our first step is to REFUSE. The quarterly gas, electricity, water and internet bill, can and should, be addressed. So what are we going to do?
  • Contact the companies like I did with my health care fund and request for our bills to be sent digital if possible. If they cannot or refuse to, then we will continue to recycle as we do now or reuse the envelopes. 
  • Reuse the envelopes for new letters. 
  • Remove the plastic window from the envelopes if applicable, recycle plastic and use the envelope paper for shopping lists and general notes. I am big on list writing. 
What about the rest of the mail, like supermarket catalogues, that does not come in plastic casing or with plastic window facing? It is in no way sustainable to have a constant stream of unwanted catalogues each week telling me about deals. We never look at these and they take up the bulk of our recycling each week. We are putting up a “no junk mail” sign to curb the constant sale pitches.

If you think companies will not listen to you. Think again. Don't be afraid to speak up. Put aside half an hour of your week, sit down and contact the companies. I am going to give it a go and persuade the lovely utilities companies to save some paper and plastic, and send my bills via my inbox rather than the postbox.

If you like reading catalogues but do not want to sacrifice an acre of woodland, check out www.cataloguecentral.com.au
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