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Consumers need to become more aware of the indirect impacts their purchases have. Though grocery and household items make up the bulk of our spending habits, they aren’t the only areas to focus on. After food, clothing purchases alone have the second highest environmental impact (in terms of land disturbance, energy and water use) of all our consumption activities. The amount of water used in the production and transport of clothes bought by an average household each year is 150,000 litres.

Even products you might think are environmentally neutral, like your favourite band’s latest CD, will often require significant resources to produce. Consider the energy and embodied water used in the creation of the disc, its booklet and packaging, how the CD was transported to the shop and how you travelled to buy it.

Next time you go shopping ask yourself a few questions before making a purchase. For example, how far has this product travelled to reach the shelf? How long will this product last? Is there a better alternative, or do I even need it at all?

Here are a few more ways to reduce the impact of your shopping on the environment.

Plan before you go shopping
If you prepare a shopping list before buying, you can avoid purchasing redundant or unnecessary items, which will reduce waste.

Buy Products in the Largest Size You Can Use
A family of four can save up to an estimated US$2,500 a year in the supermarket by choosing just large sizes instead of individual serving sizes. Remember, 10 percent of every shopping dollar is used to pay for packaging. Small sizes use more packaging for each ounce of product than larger sizes. So, if you buy large sizes, you save money, reduce waste, and help the environment.

Avoid buying new appliances
A substantial amount of household energy consumption and greenhouse pollution can be attributed to white goods (fridges, freezers, washing machines, televisions and clothes dryers). If you don't really need a new appliance and you only want the latest model because it looks good and your friend has one, don't buy it. If you really do need a new appliance, compare the energy rating of different models (and buy the most efficient one), buy the most durable one, and only operate it to the manufacturer's instructions.

Only buy things that last
There is no point buying a cheap air conditioner or TV that you know will not last for long. Look for, and only purchase items that are water and/or energy efficient. Items that are built to last may be more expensive up-front but they'll be much cheaper in the long run. This applies to big purchases (like cars), and equally to smaller purchases (like light bulbs, for example).

Buy Products in Containers That You Know You Will Be Able to Recycle
It is important to familiarize yourself with what types of containers and can be recycled in your local recycling program. Once you know what you can recycle, look for products that come in the containers that you know you will be able to recycle when the products are all used up.

Look for the stars
All new appliances are required to show their energy or water efficiency under a star rating system. More stars equal greater product efficiency. Some products like TVs and stereos may comply with energy standards without a label displayed. Ask sales staff and check in brochures for information on how a product compares to the ENERGY STAR standard. If sales staff can't tell you, get them to ask their supplier. And if you can't get any information, don't buy the product.

Buy the most energy or water efficient option
Make sure you purchase the most energy or water efficient item that meets your needs. Consider alternatives. For example, laptop computers are more efficient than desktops. Front-loading washing machines use significantly less water than top-loaders. And refrigerators with built in icemakers are a waste of energy. Use rechargeable batteries in toys, flashlights and radios. You can save up to US$ 250 a year by using rechargeable batteries instead of disposables in one CD player used two hours a day.

Finally, carry an environmentally friendly shopping bag rather than taking plastic bags each time you purchase. After all, every plastic bag saved is worth 62.5kg of carbon!











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