Let sustainability dictate your shopping list

This new year keep in mind the buying decisions that will make you stand apart.

The last thing you want to hear is advice when you go shopping in the celebratory month of December. The mood is ebullient, and everyone is thinking of the Christmas and New Year festivities awaiting them. In the markets the shopping windows are lit up to match the joyous mood imploring you to go on a shopping spree for yourself, friends, and family.

So, amidst all the bonhomie and cheer should you be giving a thought to what you choose to buy? If this was 1953 and not 2023 counting down to 2024, I wouldn’t have bothered to restrain you. In any case, back then global warming, climate change and saving the environment would not have been your concern and anyone offering unsolicited advice would not have been heard or would be dismissed as a killjoy or a party pooper.

But the times have changed. Today, we must be abundantly careful about all our actions, including the shopping we indulge in. It is only if you are environment friendly can green be the colour of your lifestyle; with a slight twist to the adage, you are what you buy.

Let’s start with the big buys — cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, fans and other gadgets. In today’s world, thanks to the Internet, it is easy to thoroughly research products online before you even enter a shop or a showroom.

So, when you start, see that sustainability is a factor that contributes to at least 70 per cent of your decision. Go in for white goods that have the ‘energy efficient’ certificate. As you may know, the government’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), set up in 2002, has done a lot of work in comparing products for their cost and energy consumption and has given Energy Star Ratings to home appliances such as air conditioners, fans, heaters, refrigerators, bulbs and others. It even has an app that helps you to compare products, their energy and cost savings, energy ratings etc. This is to aid consumers in making an informed choice.

 So, when you go shopping do check these parameters and check the stars on the products you buy to ascertain that it is the most energy efficient and, hence, eco-friendly.

While buying electrical gadgets, choose those that have the ‘energy efficient’ certificate, and for artifacts and clothes, shop for goods made by local artisans and tailors.

Apart from the big buys, clothes and artifacts are high on the list of those looking for Xmas and New Year gifts. Here too, it is best to go in for those that have not crossed the seven seas to reach you. In short, shopping locally for goods made by our own artisans, tailors and sold by our micro-entrepreneurs, is the greener option. As you know, the fashion industry is responsible for around 10 per cent of global carbon emission, which means its contribution to climate change is substantial. So, when it comes to clothes, please try to avoid cheap, fast fashion garments that are meant to wear and throw as the majority of them land up in landfills.

If you must do away with some clothes, try to give them out for repurposing or reuse before you add more to your wardrobe. There are several organisations that collect old clothes and refurbish them for people in need and disaster-related situations such as floods. In Delhi, we have an organisation like Goonj that does wonders with repurposing old clothes. If your garments are on the verge of tearing, even those can be transformed into stylish and tasteful durries, foot mats and table mats. Cloths of different colours and textures is braided into long chains and then stitched together to create new products.

To be part of the sustainable fashion movement, it would be prudent to check on the supply chain of the garments you are purchasing. Are the manufacturers ethical, do they have a transparent supply chain, do they pay fair wages and provide healthy working conditions to their employees?

Also, a large number of fabrics are petroleum-based with fossil fuel used to manufacture them. Nylon, polyester, acrylic fabric require more energy to produce, while organic and recycled fibres take relatively less energy. All these factors contribute to the carbon footprint of a product. Organic cotton, hemp, linen, though expensive, are the best of course as they are mostly biodegradable. You could also look for eco-friendly brands made from natural or recycled fabrics. Our very own khadi is a good, green choice for clothing. Today, Khadi stores offer a wide range of options.

Artifacts too are a favourite with shoppers. The rules here are clear for a shopper looking for eco-friendly gifts. If the gift is in wood, go for bamboo — you have great bamboo lamps, furniture, tables, table mats, coasters, name the item and you find it in this most sustainable material. Both metal and glass too are a good choice of material as both can be recycled.

Organic foods such as tea, coffee, dry fruits, honey, chocolates, have also become popular to stock at home or give away as gifts. Here too, it is important to keep the supply chain, packaging and labelling in focus. Are they buying from local growers, are they packing in natural, biodegradable, recyclable fibres instead of single use plastic containers? If a product ticks the right boxes, then it is worthy of your patronage.

Today, there are also some online green websites providing you guilt-free gifting solutions. Some of the popular ones who swear by their green supply chain are Loopify and Bombay Greens.

However, if you are more the kind who needs to see, touch or feel a product before you buy, please do so with utmost care. And, of course, use a decomposable, reusable shopping bag all the time. Your sustainable buying decision today will grow the demand for more of the same kind of products, and the world will thank you for it.

Happy shopping and a Happy New Year!

The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues

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