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Shopping sustainably using life cycle analysis

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JULY 07, 2022

It’s no question that fast fashion and high rates of consumerism are bad for the environment. Just for a refresher, the fast fashion industry produces trendy, cheap clothes at a very fast rate. It’s actually responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, and about 8% of water waste. 

When processing information like this, my brain goes through a pretty simple equation of sorts. Okay, so we have this problem. How do we solve it?

And even though it’s not that easy, you can make mental changes in your own daily life to avoid buying fast fashion, and cut down on buying in general, too.

I think an important thing to consider in regards to your sustainability goals is how long an item can last and what process it went through to get into your hands. In short, this is called life cycle analysis, or LCA. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, “an LCA is a systematic analysis of environmental impact over the course of the entire life cycle of a product, material, process or other measurable activity.”

I like to keep LCA in mind when I’m shopping. For example, if I’m contemplating buying something that has a lot of plastic in it, I try to think about plastic’s LCA. Plastic can take a lot of carbon emissions to produce. Often, the product cannot be reused either. This shortens its lifespan; therefore it’s better to invest in products that can be used time and time again. 

Here are a few steps I like to go through while shopping. 

Do I really need this?

If this item is a necessity, then by all means buy it. However, are there any more eco-friendly alternatives?

Let’s take soap as an example. Everybody needs it, right? You don’t want to be walking around all stinky and full of germs. However, there are some soaps that are more sustainable than others. Bar soaps do not contain any water and require less transportation than liquid soaps. That means their LCA proves less wasteful than that of liquid soap. They’re also much cheaper. 

So, next time you’re shopping for a new shampoo, conditioner or hand soap, try a bar alternative. Use this trick for your everyday purchases. Pretty soon, you can make small changes to the things you buy to make your money worth the product. 

Do I already have this at home?

Okay, this tip has some nuances. 

If you’re contemplating buying a new sweater, take some time to think. It’s not good to buy a sweater that’s too similar to one that you already have at home. However, it’s also not good to just buy statement pieces because they will be harder to style, and you’ll just have to keep buying more. A balance between these two extremes is buying items that are in the same color range, in the same palette and cohesive. That way, everything you have can be mixed and matched, thus minimizing what you need. 

Know your brands

It’s always good to keep yourself in the know about which brands are sustainable, and which aren’t as much. Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious. Brands like H&M and Shein are large corporations selling cheap clothes. Although the prices are alluring, the items are not good quality and the rapid rate of manufacturing is bad for the environment. 

When in doubt, do some simple research about the brand in question. Look up their sustainability claims and goals, as well as reviews from reputable third-party sources. 

One brand that has been popular recently for its cute clothes and admirable sustainability measures is Reformation. They are “a certified Climate Neutral company and will be Climate Positive by 2025,” according to its website.

Now that you know a little more about LCAs and what makes products sustainable, take these tips to the mall with you. Hopefully, they will help you keep in mind some very important ideas. 

Contact Sophie Horvath at [email protected].

JULY 07, 2022

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