As Black Friday arrives, shopping and holiday preparations are on many people’s minds. If the environment is also a concern, eco-friendly shopping is easier than some might think.
Diane Waddell and Emily Fite are with the Ecumenical Eco-Justice group of St. Joseph and the Sustainable Environment Advisory Committee headed by St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray. The mother-daughter duo has made it a goal to live a sustainable lifestyle.
“We’ve been interested and aware of the necessity to really be kind to the Earth,” Waddell said. “A lot of products that we use go directly into the river, and we’re so close to the river, I think that makes us even more aware that we need to be really careful on what we do.”
Single-use plastic is especially harmful to the environment, as it is estimated plastic bags and Styrofoam containers can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Program. In addition to bringing a reusable bag when shopping, Fite recommends trying to avoid plastic when buying.
“Homemade goodies would be quite lovely,” she said. “Have the kids come together and make a card or jewelry. Or maybe a gift certificate for a service that would help someone very much but might not go as far as a material product.”
Another option is gifting a symbolic adoption of an animal on behalf of the recipient. A $75 donation to the World Wildlife Fund gets the donor a choice of three stuffed animals, a wooden bucket, a species card and a thank-you letter.
“It’s a nice way of finding a gift or an additional gift that comes with a little heartfelt something to hold but it’s also going to help animals,” Fite said.
Shopping local also can help reduce a shopping trip’s environmental impact, especially if a store sells locally or regionally made products.
“We like that Friedrich’s (Market) is promoting local foods and even meats from local butcheries and so forth,” Waddell said. “Any other local sources, particularly some of the ones Downtown, we would encourage people to visit as well.”
Fite likes using the smartphone app Buycott while shopping. The app lets users scan barcodes and learn more about the sustainability of products. While buying sustainable gifts is important, Fite encourages people to also think about the wrapping.
“The less plastic the better, by far. Even going as far as being conscious of the amount of ribbon we use. Jute or hemp would be a good kind of sustainable ribbon,” Fite said.
Natural fibers also can make good material for sustainable clothing. On the other hand, materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic are made of plastic and leach microscopic fibers into the water during a washing cycle. Cotton, hemp or linen fabrics provide a more sustainable alternative. While such clothing might be more expensive at first, Fite said it makes up for its initial price by lasting longer.
“Organic cotton will last many wearings and is good for passing along, because I think when a company is conscious as far as using organic cotton, they’re going to be conscientious of how that product is made,” she said.
Waddell hopes if people make their priorities known through shopping, companies and retailers will take note.
“Once we begin to do this as individuals and small groups, hopefully those large companies will listen and realize this is really important,” Waddell said. “Sustainability is really much more important in the long run than purchasing lost of things.