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10 Tips to Lower Your Carbon Footprint When You Shop

It’s a fact of modern life that we have to buy Stuff—most of us aren’t farmers, for example, and even farmers have to buy Stuff to keep their farms going. That Stuff we buy has a carbon footprint. We can’t eradicate it, but we can do our darndest to shop responsibly and make sure the Stuff we buy leaves the smallest carbon footprint possible.

Here are 10 things you can do to fight climate change while you shop.

The following is an excerpt from Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do to Make a Difference by Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert. It has been edited for the Web.

What does my shopping have to do with climate change?

  • Everything you buy has an effect on your carbon footprint — the amount of CO2 your lifestyle generates.
  • The kind of food and clothing you buy makes a difference. Artificial fertilizers and pesticides, used to grow most food and cotton, are derived from oil and natural gas, and their manufacture is energy-intensive and emits CO2.
  • When you buy anything made of timber from non-sustainable forests there is an additional impact on your carbon footprint. Trees are the “lungs” of our world — they transform CO2 into oxygen, thereby reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • The number of miles your goods have traveled to get from their source to your home makes a difference. All else being equal, the greater the distance, the greater the CO2 emitted, especially if they have been transported by air.
  • Shopping trips by car add CO2 to the atmosphere.

Buying locally produced products = less CO2

What can I do about it?

  1. Buy locally grown food, in season, from your local markets and farm stands. Reduce your food miles — avoid food that has traveled a long way to reach you.
  2. Buy organic if possible: organic food and clothing will have been grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
  3. Buy furniture made from natural timber that has come from a sustainable source. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol.
  4. Buy the most energy-efficient household appliances.
  5. Plan your shopping so that you do as much in one trip as possible.
  6. Use a bike or the bus for your shopping trips where possible.
  7. Share a car — shop with a friend.
  8. Buy secondhand whenever you can.
  9. Buy goods that will last.
  10. Buy less!


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