Buying green back

Greening the shopping trolley is possibly the easiest place to start getting environmental.

First Published in

You see it, you love it, you want it – a plump watermelon, an inspiring piece of art, to-die-for handbag or that much-needed washing machine. Before handing over your cash, ask yourself a few simple questions to ensure your purchase is a green purchase.  

  • Material matters
    Recent years have seen designers embracing the use of recycled materials in everything from housing, furniture, clothing and fashion accessories. Choosing recycled materials reduces production and eliminates waste, without the loss of style.
  • Lasting love
    Mass production increases our emotional detachment from an item, making discarding it so much easier. Seek out items that are a little bit special. Organic fabrics and fair-trade production may cost a little more, but will remain a true love for years to come.
  • Awesome organic
    An apple a day is great, apples sprayed with chemicals are not. Check out the organic aisles in the supermarket (growing by the day) or browse road stalls and farm shops for locally grown, organic, home-baked food. Healthier for you, your family and the planet.
  • Say goodbye to standby
    Many electrical products that don't draw power on standby can now be purchased. For older appliances, the old-fashioned system of getting up and switching your television off is back in mode. If tempted to pick up the remote, remember six items on standby burn the energy of a 60-watt bulb. 
  • Hooray for handmade
    Handmade means cleaner, streamlined production that uses fewer resources such as water and energy, while increasing employment opportunities. An added benefit is that everyone's hands are unique and, unlike machines, ensure your product will be one of a kind.
  • East or west, home is best
    Transporting products around the globe creates greenhouse emissions – the heavier and further, the more pollution. Look for the same product that has been locally produced, or a company that offsets its carbon footprint by supporting a certified project.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle
    Is this a product you really need? Do you need as many or as much of it? Can you use it less or in a better way? Are there other less harmful products that would do the job just as well? Buy it, by all means, but check out the 3Rs first.  
  • The moon and back
    Despite plastic bag regulations, 80% of shoppers still put everything purchased into supermarket carrier bags. The total in just one year, if placed end-to-end, would reach to the moon and back five times. Get organised with your own collection of bags for life – be that jute, hemp or recycled material. The choice is endless and they don't cost the earth.
  • Cheap costs
    Everyone loves a bargain, but not at a cost to others and the planet. If you feel the materials alone should have cost more than the asking price, do a bit of research. Most retailers will have a website or information stating their policy, both social and environmental. If they don't and they can't answer your questions, shop elsewhere. The Internet has a huge selection of fair-trade and eco-friendly shops to browse in.
  • Design without dumping
    Think about the "whole lifecycle" of the product. Computers and home appliances are now being designed with disassembly in mind. Look out for the worldwide recycling symbols because, even if it's hard to imagine upon purchasing, your shiny new product will one day reach the end of its life.

More on Design Thinking