Conscious shopping? Ask yourself these questions before checkout

I’ve always been quite a conscious person when it comes to my buying choices. I’ve never been an impulse buyer or a trend victim, although of course I’ve wasted money on things I didn’t need or stuff I only bought because it seemed cool. However, especially since last year, I’ve been putting some restrictions on what I buy and I always try to look for alternatives first. I’ve also been shifting more towards sustainable choices and I focus more on the origin of what I buy. In this blog post I share the questions I ask myself before proceeding to checkout, in order to make more conscious, ethical and eco-friendly choices. So before your next purchase: ask yourself these!

Can I buy this second-hand?

Oh, the joy of second-hand purchases! I always feel like such a winner whenever I find something really nice in a thrift store or I can get a beautiful piece off my grandma’s attic. Very much cheaper, but also more sustainable! Whether it’s clothes, interior stuff, books or even tools: check a few second hand stores to see if they have what you’re looking for. It’s a great way to prevent someone else’s items going to waste and you don’t have to invest in something brand new – which is good both for the environment (as you don’t invest in more pollutant production processes) and for your wallet.

I like to simply shop at local thrift stores (de Kringwinkel) or stop by Think Twice. I’ve also been scooping around online on United Wardrobe where I’ve found a beautiful Paloma Wool jumpsuit, and you can also check for vintage sellers in your country through ASOS Marketplace. And I love visiting second-hand stores when travelling!

Can I buy this locally and independently?

Not always easy but very much important: try to shop from a local brand or store. Preferably, also choose one that’s independent – so not part of a big, global corporation. By shopping locally, you keep your money in your own community instead of investing it in abroad. But it’s also just a great way to support small brands that are still lead by passion and real people. I always think: when I buy from a small company, an actual person does a little happy dance. That’s something you don’t get from multinationals! Extra conscious-points when the products are also made in your own country or at least your continent, because that means they don’t have to be transported really far to get to you and you reduce your ecological footprint, too.

Buying local can go from vegetables to shoes, so it’s best to just look around and do some research on where things come from and what’s to be found in your neighbourhood.

Can I buy this sustainably manufactured?

If I can’t buy something second-hand, my next move is looking for sustainable brands who offer what I’m looking for. It’s always quite easy to find brands who work with organic materials and produce in an ethical way. What I do find hard, is finding them in Belgium and for a reasonable price. Sustainable products are mostly a lot more expensive than your usual fast fashion brands and that doesn’t necessarily mean the quality and longevity is better.

Doubting about the sustainability of a certain item? A nice tool for clothing is Rank A Brand, where you can enter a certain fashion company and see how sustainable they really are.

Can I buy this in a physical store?

I’ve only really started being conscious about how much I buy online a few weeks ago. It’s such a convenience to get things delivered at your door, especially when you’re quite busy and you don’t live in a city full of cool stores. But it’s also a burden for the environment. Having a van driving around and stopping at your door for just one product is a bit of an unnecessary luxury, no?

If you do only have the chance to buy something online, because it can’t be found anywhere near you or you you can’t leave the house, avoid choosing next day delivery or other fast-shipping options. Wanting an item delivered at your door the next day (or even worse, the same day) is very unethical towards drivers. They often have to deliver 200 packages a day. If you do the maths, that’s simply not possible in an 8-hour workday unless they deliver a package every 2 minutes. No wonder they often just throw your package into your hands at delivery or even just drop it at your door.

There’s a very interesting shift of some online stores offering a not-urgent delivery. That way they can just deliver your package when there’s more to deliver in your neighbourhood. A really good idea in my opinion, both for the climate and the workload of drivers.

Conscious shopping is not a yes-or-no story, of course. For me it’s always about looking for alternatives and finding an option that’s ecological and ethical. My first choice will always be second-hand because I focus mostly on circular economy and minimalism, and I’ll always try to buy local and in-store. However, it’s not a sin if that doesn’t work out and it’s not the end of the world if I do end up buying something from a multinational or online shop.

I believe in small choices making big differences, so I hope I’ve been able to inspire you to make some more conscious choices too! And don’t forget the most important question of them all: do I actually really need to buy this?