First published: 21/02/2024 -

Last updated: 21/03/2024 -

Verified by our Editorial Panel

Buy less and shop sustainably

A little more sustainable shopping and a little less buying things we don’t really need will help us save money, reduce the amount of precious resources we use and help lower our carbon emissions.

Over-consumption is at the root of the climate and nature emergencies – the production of everyday products, including cars, clothes and food, accounts for 45% of global carbon emissions. Reducing consumption and learning how to make more sustainable shopping decisions is one of the easiest ways to help protect our environment and wildlife.

What can we do?

There’s so much we can be proud of in Wales already. Recycling our waste is embedded in our culture, but we need to do more by reducing the number of things we buy in the first place and by buying sustainably produced products where we can. While recycling is important, there are other ways to reduce our impact, too.  

Here are some ideas: 

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Think before you buy 

One of the best things we can do for the planet and ourselves is to think about every single purchase we make. By taking a pre-purchase pause to ask whether you really need something, you’ll almost certainly buy less. And that will help save money, too.

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Share, borrow, rent or buy second hand 

Reusing or rehoming something is always more sustainable than buying it new, and it’s often cheaper. Try charity shops, vintage shops, and online outlets like eBay or Vinted. Apps like Olio, or the website Freecycle are useful for finding things that other people no longer need or want. If you only need something short term, sharing, renting, borrowing and swapping items with friends, family or through social media is a great way to prolong their life. When buying something new, try donating, recycling or selling old products you no longer need so others can use them.  

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Invest in things that will last

When budget allows, we should consider what we buy, whether it’s built to last and designed to be fixed, so the item won’t be thrown away for a very long time. And when something does break, try fixing it rather than replacing it. There are great high-street repair shops all over, or you might visit your local repair café for help and advice.

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Use your buying power wisely

We can all use our buying power to support businesses leading the way in tackling climate change. Begin by investigating a brand before buying from them. Think about things like whether the brand considers the environmental impact of its operations, whether it takes care of its workers, and whether it sells eco-friendly, ethical or fair-trade products. The answers can often be found on their websites. Also, look for standard certifications, and, if it’s a fashion brand, check their rating on the Good On You directory.  

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Choose clothes made of natural materials

We can all be more sustainable when buying clothes and shoes by considering the materials they are made from. Avoid non-biodegradable fabrics like nylon, synthetic materials which shed polluting fibres when washed, and clothing with polyester and acrylic threads.  Choose recycled materials and organic cotton, linen and bamboo instead – these all use less water and chemicals when manufactured. If you’re considering cloth nappies, you can find your nearest local nappy library to try before you buy. 

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Buying online

When buying online, try to buy items together to minimise several deliveries and the need for more packaging. Choosing slower delivery options from larger companies will allow them to wait until the van is full for an area, instead of sending out a single delivery for your order. 

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Go for fair trade 

Buying fair trade means more respect for the environment and protecting the world from deforestation. Most shops now sell fair trade products. Local shops or farmers markets may also stock a few items. Look for the Fairtrade mark or World Fair Trade Organization guarantee. Visit Fair Trade Wales for more information.

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Avoid plastic and too much packaging

Avoid products with unnecessary or excessive packaging and use recyclable and reusable shopping bags as much as possible. In some areas, there are now zero-waste shops where you can buy refillable versions of household essentials.  

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Check labels 

Look for eco-friendly materials and ingredients by checking product labels. The fewer toxic chemicals and artificial ingredients, the better for the environment.

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Shop local 

Supporting the small businesses near your home means you can avoid using the car, control the amount of packaging offered, and enjoy locally sourced produce. 

Why take Action

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Save money

Quite simply, reducing the amount you buy will help you save money for other things. And these other things could provide more long-term satisfaction than an impulse purchase. It’s also often cheaper to get items repaired or buy second-hand than to replace them with new items. 

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Find joy in experiences  

Buying things tends to make us happy temporarily, but that’s short lived and leads to needing another boost by buying even more. As you save money from would-be purchases, start to plan and look forward to experiences such as concerts, shows or even local getaways instead – they’ll provide more long-term satisfaction than one-off impulse purchases. Plus, doing your bit for the planet feels good, too.  

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Reduce waste and your carbon footprint 

The manufacture and transport of new products and recycling of unwanted materials uses a lot of energy and contributes to carbon emissions. Buying less and choosing products with minimal or recyclable packaging minimises waste, reducing the burden on landfills and minimises pollution.

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Protect rainforests and biodiversity

Wales imports large quantities of goods, some of which are causing the destruction of rainforests and animal habitats. This includes palm oil, which is used in everyday supermarket items like soap, cosmetics and rubber. The fewer goods we buy, the less we need to import, and the more we can do our bit to protect the natural environment 

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Preserve water quality 

Many manufacturing processes pollute water sources with chemicals. By buying sustainably produced items, you contribute to preserving water quality and protecting aquatic ecosystems. 

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Support ethical practices

Choosing sustainable and ethically produced goods encourages businesses to adopt responsible practices. It supports companies that prioritise fair wages, safe working conditions, and environmentally-friendly production methods. 

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Encourage innovation 

Consumer demand drives innovation. By choosing sustainable products, you encourage companies to invest in eco-friendly technologies and practices, fostering a culture of continuous improvement in sustainability. 

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