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Smarter Shopping


We often forget the importance of the origin of the products we buy, how they are packaged, or how we use them. If everyone were to take a moment and consider this while shopping we would make a great leap forward towards sustainable living.

Remember, that organic fruit you’re eyeing might come from overseas or that new television might have a very low energy rating. Here are just a few tips to help you shop smarter. 


1. Buy local products without packaging or recycled/recyclable packaging 

First of all, local products don’t have to travel as far and therefore have fewer carbon emissions than a product from further away. A good rule of thumb is to buy products grown or made within your city wherever possible, then your state, and finally your country – products from overseas should be avoided.

Secondly, consider the packaging. Does the product come in five different layers of plastic? Or is it in a container made from recycled materials? Even better are products that have no packaging at all! If you’re buying a gift and want to wrap it, try using reusable products such as fabric instead of wrapping paper.

2. Bring your own reusable bags to the shops

Although common, this often isn’t followed, especially when people forget to bring reusable bags with them to the shops. A good way to avoid forgetting your own bags is to keep at least one or two in the car if you drive or keep a small collapsible bag in your handbag or briefcase.

There are also small, reusable mesh bags that are fantastic for veggies and fruit – no more using the plastic bags in the fruit and veg section. The bags are clear so no hassles when checking out at the register and the mesh allows for rinsing your fruit and veg while they’re still in the bag. They can also be used to store produce in the fridge.

Remember, reusable bags aren’t just for food. If you bring bags with you everywhere they can be very handy when you buy books, CDs, clothing, etc. and save you from tossing out the shop’s branded bag the moment you get home. Just let the person at the register know that you don’t need one of their bags – don’t be shy, shops are generally very supportive and it’s your choice after all.

3. Use biodegradable household cleaners

When you clean your home or do your laundry, chemicals from the cleaning products you use end up in our water. The best way to prevent harsh chemicals ending up in the environment and damaging animals and plants is to use biodegradable cleaners. There are several good brands that are sold in shops.

Alternatively you can make your own using common ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon and lavender oil. For recipes, see the Easy Green Cleaning guide.

4. Choose recycled wood products 

When buying any wood product, whether it’s toilet paper or timber, choose recycled products. A good place to start is to choose products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). If you’re a book lover, try to buy from second-hand bookstores or hold a book swap with your friends. Many books are also now being printed on FSC-certified paper so make sure to check the publishing details.

5. Choose sustainable seafood 

The Australian Marine Conservation Society has made an app to go with their website, listing seafood on a sliding scale from green (‘better choice’) to red (‘say no’). Check out their website. They include information on whether the species is over-fished, where it comes from, the amount of by-catch, scientific publications and more. Very handy if you’re at a restaurant and want to know which seafood to choose! Another option is to look for seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

6. Reuse and repair products rather than buying new

Before you throw out your belongings and buy a new replacement, ask yourself this: can I repair this? Do I really need a new product or is my old one still good? Can I give my belonging away instead of throwing it in the bin?

These questions can help save usable goods from ending up as landfill. It’s great if you can reuse or repair your belongings but if you can’t or have decided to buy new, giving goods away is a great option. The Bower and Reverse Garbage in Marrickville are places that will take your unwanted belongings, such as books, furniture, bicycle parts and more. Go to the Bower website or the Reverse Garbage website for more details. 

7. When buying new appliances, choose those with the best energy/water ratings

A higher rating means your appliance is more efficient and uses less energy or water compared to a product with a lower rating. For more details on how these ratings work and which appliances to buy, go to the Energy Ratings website or the Water Ratings website.