10 Tips for Shopping Smart and Green

10 Tips for Shopping Smart and Green

We thought we’d pull together a list of tips for saving bucks and the planet.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 12:10pm


I hate to shop. Or let me put it this way; I’m dangerous when I shop. Especially in a bookstore or hardware store - I can always find some “useful item” I don’t really need or a book I don’t have time to read. If I go food shopping, I buy every food item I think we could possibly want, especially if I’m hungry. And I tend to buy 2 or 3 of something new - like when my wife sent me out for baby bottles for our newborn twins and I came back with two of each kind so we could see which ones we liked best.

So I’ve had to learn how to be easy on the checkbook, credit card and the earth when shopping. Since we vote with our dollars, and our product choices have an impact on our resources, rivers, soils, air and waste streams, we thought we’d pull together a list of tips for saving bucks and the planet when you venture out to your friendly neighborhood merchant, farmer’s market or big box retailer. Use your shopping dollars to make a difference.

  1. Bring a bag or backpack to the store instead of using disposable bags. Some stores now offer a discount for bringing your own bags. You can also check out Earth Bin, a collapsible recycled plastic box that holds 40 pounds of groceries or goods.

  2. Buy non perishables in bulk and avoid products with excess packaging. I’ve been known to ship packaging back to the manufacturer and let them deal with it - good feedback for them.

  3. Buy recycled. Look for high “post consumer content”- stuff that’s been around the block before and is reborn at the end of its life as a new product.

  4. Use a reusable mug or bottle for drinks on the go and avoid single use cups and bottles. Same for buying bulk foods at the market- bring your own container. There’s often a discount to do so. In fact chose reusable over disposable any time you can. “Disposable” really means “indiposable”- it doesn’t go away.

  5. Be a “Second Hand Rose” and buy reused and refurbished items. Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay can be your best friends. Rebuilt or remanufactured to new specifications products also offer a bargain and use less energy and materials than new manufactured goods. The computer I'm typing on is refurbished. It’s lasted over 4 years and still works great.

  6. Buy non-toxic cleaning supplies and personal care products like Seventh Generation, or buy the ingredients. You can go a long way on baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.

  7. Try to repair items rather than toss them. Saves replacement cost and repairs are often cheap. “Mr. Fix-it” here cut through the power cord on my Skilsaw, and for just a few cents worth of electrician’s tape and connectors was able to splice the cord safely back together. If you can’t do it, ask a friend.

  8. Look for clothing, sheets, towels, etc made with organic cotton, wool, linen, hemp. Feels better on your skin, and saves pesticides and fossil fuels.

  9. Same for food- buy local, organic, free range and fair trade whenever possible. The quality is usually higher and nothing beats local for fresh flavor and nutrition. Prices keep coming down so many items are competitive with conventionally grown. She Knows has a good piece on smart organic food buying.

  10. Buy only what you need. We all have enough “tchotchkes” in our lives to last a generation or two. Give ‘em away at Festivus. If you can use an item three different ways, it’s usually a good buy. But you can’t fill spiritual or emotional desires with physical goods, and you can’t get enough of what you don’t really need. You can’t buy love, happiness or sunsets. Don’t try.

Greenopolis.com is dedicated to our users. We focus our attention on changing the world through recycling, waste-to-energy and conservation. We reward our users for their sustainable behaviors on our website, through our Greenopolis Tracking Stations and with curbside recycling programs.