For most of us, shopping is instinctive. We enter a shopping mall for a pair of sneakers and before we know it, we’ve got three full shopping bags swinging from our arms. In the UAE, the rise in per capita income, higher living standards, and affordable goods in the market mean that we can now shop for more than we could in the past.
While this trend of fast fashion — rapid production and sale of low-cost clothing to keep up with swiftly changing fashion trends – may seem comforting to some, the statistics are anything but. Today, fast fashion leads to more than 1.5 million metric tonnes of microplastics released into the ocean yearly. Not only is it bad for the environment, but it also raises multiple ethical and human rights concerns.
This is where sustainable shopping comes into play. The UN declared March 30 as the day of Zero Waste. Shopping sustainably and reducing waste are becoming increasingly important as we become more aware of the environmental impact of our actions. By making small changes to our shopping habits, we can reduce the amount of waste we produce and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Tips on how to shop sustainably
Be a conscious shopper
You like an item. You check the price tag. You purchase it.
If this is how your standard train of thought goes as far as shopping is concerned, then we need to change it up a little. Rather than blindly purchasing things at a mall, ask yourself about its true purpose. Is it long-lasting? Do I really love it or am I purchasing it simply because I can afford it? Do I have similar items in my wardrobe?
Purchase things that, in Marie Kondo’s words, ‘spark joy’. Go for items that are made of durable materials and that you can see yourself using over a long span of time. When it comes to items like hiking boots or winter coats, saving up and investing in a hardier, higher-quality variety the first time will ensure that you don’t need to replace them each year. If it’s luxury or tech items that you’re looking for, multiple websites make it possible to purchase ‘pre-loved’ options. This will reduce not only your environmental footprint but also the impact on your wallet!
BYOB – Bring your own bags
Instead of using single-use plastic bags or containers, bring your own reusable bags, jars, and containers to carry your purchases. The UAE has declared its plans to ban all single-use plastic bags starting from January 1, 2024. This step is in line with the zero-waste shopping initiative. Today, many stores in the country offer bulk sections where you can fill your own containers with items like grains, nuts, and dried fruit.
Choose products with minimal packaging
When shopping, look for products with minimal packaging. Avoid items that are overly packaged or have excessive plastic wrapping. Instead, choose products with recyclable or no packaging at all. When it comes to buying fresh produce, purchase loose rather than pre-packaged varieties. Plenty of stores also offer packaging that is reusable and/or bio-degradable. If you can afford it, switch to those brands. Each decision counts.
Kick back on the online shopping
In the last decade or so, online shopping has become all the rage. The relative ease and simplicity of shopping online have further reduced the need to think while choosing items. But, did you know that online shopping produces a whopping 4.8 times the packaging waste that offline shopping does in the world? Pace your online shopping tendencies across the year. When you do shop online, make sure to club together your purchases and choose slower, grouped delivery options so as to reduce the amount of individual packaging.
Shop on your own terms
One of the biggest aspects driving up fast fashion is the onslaught of social media and the trends that change in the blink of an eye. We’re all social beings overcome with the need to fit in while also standing out. The ever-shifting fashion trends online make it seem like it’s imperative that we acquire as many things as possible in as short a time period to appease every passing phase. But this isn’t a necessity.
Shop what you want when you want it. You don’t need the latest iPhone or the Airwrap simply because advertisements and Instagram make it seem like you do. Shop for clothes and accessories that speak to you and that are in your price range and know that there is nothing wrong with repeating outfits. Realize that most of these trendy products that you’re in the process of buying may not even make it to the next month, let alone the next year. Develop a style and shopping strategy that is independent of social media.
DIY – Do It Yourself
Another way to reduce waste is to make your own products. This includes everything from making cleaning products using household supplies to crocheting your own clothes. Not only does this enable you to pick up some incredible skills and hobbies, but by making these items yourself, you can control the ingredients and packaging.
Increase the lifecycle of your possessions
As mentioned above, only buy items that you can see yourself using for a long period of time. Rather than purchasing technology and clothing, invest in them. Each year, make it a practice to purge your wardrobe of items that you no longer use or require. If they’re in good condition, give them to your family members or donate them to charity shops. This ensures that somebody else will get more use out of an item that is no longer useful to you. This is especially true of things like baby clothes, as babies grow out of their clothes at record speed.
Therefore, by being a little bit more mindful and conscious of what and how you shop, you can reduce the amount of shopping waste you generate in multiple fun ways. Remember, every little drop counts. Be a conscious consumer and inspire others around you to do the same.