Our lives pull us in many conflicting directions.
Messages about having it all, staying fit, advancing our career push us to stay busy, move faster, do more.
Health and relationship experts, meditation studies, and our bodies—when we stop to listen—say slow down. But what if slowing down wasn’t just good for us? What if it was also good for the planet?
Every time we make a purchase, we make a choice. A choice that’s better or worse for the planet and ourselves. Sugary drinks in a single-use plastic bottle? Bad for us and the planet. Refilling our re-usable water bottle? Better for both.
It extends beyond impulse choices. There are products that are chemical-free, locally sourced, and/or sustainably packaged, but they take a little more time and effort to find.
On a typical day, when you are rushing to the grocery store on your way home from work, after the gym, before soccer practice, the easiest decision is to grab what’s in front of you. I do it all of the time. But in today’s society, what’s in front of you is usually a cheap product full of chemicals to make sure it has a long shelf life. It’s usually wrapped in plastic.
But if we can take a moment to breathe, or take time to think about what we’re doing before we’re in the middle of it, there are better choices out there. Here are a few things to consider:
Where you shop.
In Unprocessed, author Megan Kimble makes a compelling argument that our buying power is a source of great influence that we often give away without a thought. Our dollars have the power to change the way things are run if we use them wisely.
For me, it was making a left hand turn instead of a right at a tricky intersection, and going to our local co-op instead of the large chain store. A worshipper of the god of efficiency, I’d been grocery shopping at chain stores because you can get everything in one stop. But when I realized my dollars went further and supported farmers and small businesses when I stayed local, I decided it was worth the extra effort, and possibly a second trip later, to get additional items on the list.
How you shop.
I realized I needed to give some more time and thought to what I was buying before I bought it. The reality is, the best products available often aren’t on the shelf in front of you, especially if you don’t live in a big city.
Internet shopping can be an amazing resource for finding sustainable goods. However, if you are easily distracted online or find your eyes glazing over, there are people who have done the work for you. You can download apps like Think Dirty and The Choice App that will let you know how a product you’re considering rates and give you alternative options.
Shop on sites like elephant journal’s mindful marketplace that have already reviewed their products to make sure they are good options for you and the planet.
Prepping to shop.
On a good day, I manage to make a list before I go to the store, but that’s only the first step. Having re-usable bags in the car, empty containers if your store has bulk options, and re-usable produce bags are an important part of the prep process. Without them your low waste, plastic-free options will be more limited.
You race down the aisles searching for an ingredient for the appetizer you need to make for the potluck you really don’t want to attend. When you find it, many options confront you. Take a second and think so that you select the product that isn’t in a plastic bottle. Cardboard, glass, or metal are all better packaging alternatives.
Breaking old habits and making new ones.
For the longest time, I had no idea that the little plastic bags in the produce department weren’t required. I always grabbed one because everyone else did, and it had become a habit. But one day, when I was moving a little slower, I decided to break free and skip the plastic produce bags. To my delight, no alarms went off in the check-out line. Make sure you aren’t making poor choices out of habit or because you’re in a hurry.
None of this was written to make anyone feel guilty for the choices they have made. Instead, I think we should celebrate our successes, the times we slow down enough to make a conscious choice.
Each plastic bottle saved from a landfill, every plastic bag refused, should be cause for celebration.
Each conscious choice should make us feel good about ourselves and our planet.
Author: Lindsey McCoy
Image: Cyril Caton/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson