Bye, Buy Carbon - Reducing The Carbon Footprint in Your Spending

Win or loose, we go shopping after the election.
— Imelda Marcos

What and where we buy makes a difference.  Being aware of our choices and shopping smart can help.  It’s not as hard as you may think.  You just need to know where to look.  

  • Eat Local:  If possible, try to buy locally grown foods as well as fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area.  This cuts down on transportation emissions, and you get fresher food to boot!  Here’s a link to finding locally grown produce in your area -
  • Grow Your Own:  Try growing some fruits and vegetables yourself.  There are many varieties designed to be grown in smaller spaces, and talk about cutting down on transportation emissions!  Need a tomato for that sandwich?  Just a second - I’ll be right back.  Here’s a link to get you started -
  • Drink Local:  Really local, like your kitchen faucet.  If your tap H2O is safe to drink, avoid buying bottled water.  Manufacturing plastic bottles uses millions of gallons of crude oil each year, and they often end up in lakes, rivers, or landfills.  If you do need to buy bottled water, don’t forget to recycle!  Here’s a link to find out more about the impact of bottled water -
  • A Little Research Goes A Long Way:  There are lots of eco-friendly products out there and more in the works.  Finding ways to get what you need and still be kind to the earth involves a little surfing but can be well worth it.  Here’s a link to help you navigate the eco waters -

If the typical American household were to reduce their non-essential spending by just 10%, each would reduce their annual greenhouse gas emission by nearly 800 pounds - a volume of atmosphere of over 7,000 cubic feet!

For US families, reducing non-essential shopping 10 percent saves 7,000 cubic feet of Greenhouse Gas

We have begun to be more aware of how our economy is intimately connected to individual 'consumer' spending - it is hard to miss that with the monthly reports on "consumer confidence" and how that impacts the economic outlook!  We have not yet, however, begun to talk as a society about the direct linkage between our personal spending habits and our collective environmental impact. 

In fact, a frequent response I receive when I talk about that linkage with folks is "well isn't the environmental impact of that (fill in the blank I just bought) really the responsibility of the company that made it?".  Clearly that is one way to look at it, but I believe it misses a core point: if I do not buy a product, or if I buy less product, the demand is reduced; the energy consumption, resource consumption, and environmental impact all go down as well.  In a very real sense, the impact of all of the products our society uses is directly linked to those of us consuming them.  Clearly, this is not to say that organizations manufacturing them are not obligated to do all they can to reduce and mitigate their impact - but so too is it the obligation of all of us who consume those products.


Photo: Jo Jakeman via Flickr