How To Become A More Eco-Friendly Consumer In The Next Decade

Published on December 27, 2019

It’s no secret that fast fashion and single use plastics are contributing to a lot of our global waste problems and labor issues. Companies like H&M were put under fire throughout the last year for burning millions of dollars’ worth of unsold inventory, while others like Whole Foods are facing increased pressure to phase out single use plastics once and for all. Just this week the fast fashion empire Fashion Nova was exposed for its unethical labor practices.

Efforts From Retail Giants

But while fast fashion giants and other retailers are (allegedly) investing in resources to help combat these major issues, consumers are losing faith that these companies will ever be able to fully neutralize their carbon footprints. H&M revealed that in 2019 it would be working on creating technology that can further predict which fashion trends are the most lucrative.

In the future the company would be able to use that data to adjust its production to cut back on unsold products later on. Christopher Wylie, the famed whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, took a position with the company in 2019 to further develop this technology. But the problem is more urgent than that, and only really addresses the millions of dollars’ worth of wasted products that H&M burns every year (instead of, you know, donating them).

Whole Foods, meanwhile, promised to reduce its single-use plastic in May 2019. But since the problem encompasses much of the company’s produce and meat products (how many plastic containers have you thrown away this month?), the Amazon-owned company still has a long way to go. So how can you, the consumer, take matters into your own hands? A common misconception is that shopping package free is more expensive, but here are some tips to keep it affordable while making a difference.

Buy In Bulk

Many of the products and ingredients you purchase in single-use plastic can be purchased in bulk at stores like Whole Foods or other natural grocers throughout the country. These options are often cheaper and let you stock up on anything from spices and baking ingredients to cereals and dried fruit or nuts.

Use empty jars to hold things like flour or spices that can’t be put into fabric bags, and cotton bags to hold your bigger items (this blog post describes how to shop in bulk without using the plastic bags).

Rent Your Clothes

I love fashion. I’m obsessed with it and I always have been, and that isn’t going away just because I want to be more eco-friendly. But it’s expensive, and most styles I experiment with are fleeting and my interest is lost after about a year. Where I can take control of my habits, though, are in how I buy my clothes and what I do with them.

Rental subscription companies like Rent The Runway or Nuuly (Urban Outfitters’ version of RTR) let you pick out a handful of items each month to rent. You can wear them into the ground, and then you return them at the end of the month to get something else. If you’d like you can often purchase and keep them, but for more trendy items it feels nice to be able to wear them and return them without buying.

It cuts back on how many garments sit in your closet, sad and unloved, and helps you take part in more sustainable buying practices while feeling like you’re scratching the shopping itch. Nuuly even ships in sustainable packaging, so you can feel better about not adding more empty packaging to your trash each month. You can also thrift more, but sometimes you just want to peruse the new stuff and that’s fine too.

Shop Package Free

Just like shopping from the bulk aisle, did you know you can buy a lot of your goods package free? Lauren Singer, a blogger turned entrepreneur, pledged to live package free at the start of the decade. Years later, her trendy Package Free shops are taking New York by storm to show that it’s easy and convenient to buy things for every aspect of your life without contributing to a landfill or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Package Free lets you load up on anything from reusable cotton swabs (it’s a lot less gross than it sounds), kitchen wares, soaps, beauty products, clothing, and other goods. They even have starter kits to help you start your package free life if you don’t know where to start. If there is packaging, it’s either reusable or totally biodegradable.


Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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