What seemed to be a never-ending year has finally ended, and with all the hope and renewal that this year is bringing, we are all tempted to pretend that 2020 never existed. But it would be unfortunate to embark on this year without reflecting on how our lives have changed over the past few months and what we can learn from this. For a start, we have all realized that a) online shopping serves as a lifeline in times of crisis and b) humans are giant polluters.
Although the negative effects of the pandemic go without saying, we can draw some lessons from its effect on our day to day lives: notably, these disruptions have shown us the real and tangible impact of reduced human activity on the environment. Thanks to government restrictions on production, international trade and travel, global carbon emissions have decreased by 7% compared to last year. This is the biggest drop ever recorded, but scientists warn that emissions may rise again once the pandemic ends.
The urgency of the issue at stake becomes apparent if we consider that, each year, we use more resources then the planet can provide, especially as a result of large-scale consumption in developed countries. If we continue to consume at this pace, by 2050 we will need three Earths to meet the constant demand for resources.
This is why it is important to carry the lessons 2020 has taught us into the New Year: we need to become more conscious of what we can do to limit environmental degradation and, most crucially, change our habits for the better. And since the world has gone through major changes in the past few months, the New Year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start when it comes to our shopping habits.
So before we step into the new “roaring 20s”, let’s see what (small) changes we can all make to make our consumption more sustainable in this New Year.
Buy less, buy smart
As the old saying goes, less is more. When celebrating your friends’ birthdays in 2021 (hopefully in person rather than through video calls) try to opt for minimal, biodegradable packaging (this becomes all the more important when you consider that 65% of household waste is packaging). Don’t hesitate to use your imagination and look for gifts that serve a practical purpose so that they won’t be thrown away as soon as you’ve left the party. This way, you’re making sure that your gifts aren’t going to landfills – a major source of methane emissions, which contribute to climate change.
Besides, practical, useful gifts do not need to be boring, and most people appreciate personalized gifts rather than shiny store-bought items because they bear your individual mark! Check out this page for tips on sustainable gift-giving, as well as a list of meaningful gifts that aren’t found on your typical store shelves.
Local shopping for a global impact
Another good option is to look for locally produced and handmade gifts. Today’s marketplace is flooded with products from far-flung corners of the world, with transportation being a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. This is why local craftspeople and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that do not harm the environment.
On top of that, you are more likely to find these handmade items to be made from recycled materials or used objects, a process known as “upcycling”. By turning to small ‘green’ businesses instead of mass-market products, you can reduce the waste stream while fighting the preconception that quality products have to be made from brand new material. Here are some ideas for gifts made from recycled materials.
Green is the new black
Who says that staying at home means ditching your love for fashion? In 2020, the bedroom has become our new runway! But even if the New Year will be easier on us and we will go back to shopping cool outfits so we can dress to impress, it is important to remember that fashion is one of the most polluting industries out there. In 2021, look for sustainable and ethical clothing brands like these ones here, and try to stay away from fast fashion.
If you’re feeling crafty, you could start by creating your own knitwear, especially if you love sweaters and jumpers. This is a great way to create your own style while limiting fashion’s environmental impact. Check out this tutorial if you’re a complete beginner.
Something you might not have thought of is your choice of materials. If you love to go all shiny and glittery, take into consideration that sequins are made from PVC and they aren’t biodegradable. So when that sparkly rainbow dress is tossed in the bin, all those sequins will wreak havoc on the environment. Similarly, synthetic fibres (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc) are much more polluting than natural fibres because their production is based on fossil fuels and thus requires much more energy. Choose sustainable materials instead or try one of these clothes-swapping apps to spare the planet.
Voilà! These are some tips and tricks for shopping in 2021 in a way that doesn’t leave the planet gasping for air. If there’s one thing that this year has taught us, it is that individual action brings collective results, and the fight against climate change requires us all to take that action. There has been no better time to make sustainability the guiding principle for our next decade.