A guide to shopping sustainably


Florence Robson


Many of us want to be more ethical and sustainable in our day-to-day lives but the constant bombardment of advertising (not to mention the convenience of online shopping) encourages us to spend compulsively, taking a toll on both our wallets and the planet. 

By introducing a mindful approach to our shopping habits we can reduce the impact on both the environment and our fellow human beings. Here are our tips for shopping more sustainably. 

Get to know your own mindset

Everyone’s relationship with shopping is different: we all have our own budgets, lifestyles and personal circumstances. Some people might respond well to setting clear rules for themselves (such as only buying one new item per month) while others need more flexibility. Consider which approach will work best for you and allow you to build habits that will stick.

Think twice before you buy

While following trends can be fun, it also encourages us to buy more frequently. Instead, cultivate your own taste: do you really love that pattern or are you feeling compelled to do so because you saw it in a magazine? What need or problem will this new item solve? If you’re buying a new item of clothing, can you imagine yourself still loving it in three years’ time? Evaluate what you already have in your wardrobe and home: do you need that new top or can you update an old one with tailoring or accessories? Do you need a brand new armchair or can you reupholster an old one with a fresh fabric?

If you are shopping online, it is also important to double check what you’ve put in your basket. Make sure you’ve chosen the correct size, colour and style and read reviews to avoid making a purchase you will need to return (which can double the environmental impact of the item).

Go for quality over quantity

Whether you’re buying new bed sheets or a scented candle, if you are able to afford it, invest in higher quality pieces that are likely to last longer. Check the workmanship of any item you buy (seams and zips are often an indicator of quality) and try to buy natural fibres like cotton and bamboo instead of synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon (when washed, these shed microplastics into rivers and oceans).

Get savvy to sustainability credentials

Although expensive can mean better quality, that’s not always the case. It is easy to assume that a designer bag might be made more ethically or sustainably than its high street counterpart but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Whenever you can, do your research before you buy. Is the brand being transparent about their sustainability practices across their supply chain? How do they treat and pay their workers? A company might use renewable materials but still have unethical working practices. 

The Good on You App and Fashion Revolution's Transparency Index both allow you to see how your favourite brands score on the sustainability scale while the Eco Label Index helps consumers to decode the various sustainability acronyms that appear on textiles labels.

“Buying locally supports your local economy and helps to build and maintain a thriving community.”

Buy secondhand or vintage

Buying secondhand or vintage is not only a more conscious way to consume but is also usually cheaper – and more fun! Who doesn’t love feeling like they’ve found a hidden treasure or scored a bargain? Pop into charity shops, visit vintage fairs when they come to your local area and browse the likes of eBay, Gumtree, Vestiaire Collective and Facebook Marketplace for clothes, furniture, accessories and more. If you’re looking for something specific, set up alerts to make sure you don’t miss an exciting item (just be as clear as possible in your description to make sure you don’t get spammed with tens of links daily). 

Shop locally

From food to jewellery to homeware, buying locally reduces carbon emissions from shipping, supports your local economy and helps to build and maintain a thriving community. Plus, purchasing something from an independent shop reduces the likelihood that everyone else will have the same item!

If you’re based in the UK, looking for items made in Britain helps to support national manufacturing, as well as reducing air miles.

Reuse, refill and recycle

Before you throw something away or buy a replacement, consider whether you can upcycle it. Can you patch that jumper instead of buying a new one? Embrace the Japanese art of ‘kintsugi’ (repairing broken pottery with gold) and turn a damaged item into something unique. If you’ve outgrown a piece of clothing or your taste has changed, consider reselling it or taking it to the charity shop. After all, something that’s not right for you might be just what someone else is looking for. 

At True Grace, we offer refills for our candles, diffusers and many of our toiletries, so that our customers can enjoy the same product over and over again without having to buy new packaging. We’ve also seen our customers use old glass candle holders in a number of creative ways, from toothbrush holders to plant pots!

While individuals can’t make systemic changes, if we act consciously and adopt mindful shopping practices we can have a collective impact. The power of communal action is not to be underestimated.

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