Learn How To Shop

Earth911 is honoring the 52 years of Earth Day with 52 Actions for the Earth. Each week through Earth Day 2023, we will share an action you can take to invest in the Earth and make your life more sustainable. Too often, sustainability is framed as an extra thing to do. But sustainability is not an extra step, it’s how you take every step. This week, you can invest in the Earth by learning how to shop more sustainably.

Action: Learn To Shop More Sustainably

Sustainable Shopping

Whatever you are shopping for, sustainable shopping starts in your head. Before you make any specific purchase, ask yourself four questions to evaluate your decision. A little information goes a long way towards helping you shop your values. Learn about different certification systems. What is TCO-certified? What does it mean for a home to be LEED certified? Are all cruelty-free labels equal?

Before making large purchases, study Earth911’s buyers guides to inform your choices for appliances and home improvements from mattresses to patio pavers and refrigerators. It also makes sense to pay particular attention to small purchases you make frequently. Little things like paper towels can really add up over time. Earth911’s greener shopping articles focus deeply on individual items from coffee to shampoo. And of course, we can all learn how to produce less plastic pollution. Food and clothing are two purchase categories that can have an outsized impact.


The environmental impact of the textile and fashion industry is shocking. Consumers who quit fast fashion and commit to building a more sustainable wardrobe can make a difference. EarthDay.org’s sustainable shopping toolkit provides good guidelines: shop less, shop locally and secondhand. Prioritize natural fibers over synthetics, and choose organic when you can. Learn how to care for your clothes so they last a long time, and swap or sell them if you can’t keep them until they wear out.


The two biggest steps people can take to reduce their foodprint are to eliminate animal products from their diet and reduce food waste. Even if you’re not ready to quit meat, you can move towards a plant-based diet through meatless Mondays or meatless breakfast. Eating less meat not only cuts your climate emissions, it can also improve your physical and mental health.

There are countless ways to reduce food waste, which benefits your budget as well as the environment. Use helpful apps and learn how meal planning keeps you from buying too much while cooking ahead ensures you use what you buy. Learn how to store produce so it keeps longer, and how to use leftovers to further reduce food waste.

How You Shop

A lot of sustainable shopping is about choosing to buy less and choosing more sustainable products. But you can further reduce your consumer footprint by looking at the “how” of your shopping habits. Carrying reusable shopping bags is an obvious first step. Figure out when it’s better to shop online vs in person and always try to avoid online returns; learn whether to have your groceries delivered; and consider how you get to the store and how many trips you take.

No matter how much or how little you shop, you can do it more sustainably. Let this be the week you learn how.

By Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.