How To Shop More Sustainably

Shopping sustainably is not as hard (or expensive) as you might think. Even little changes can make a difference. Environmental journalist Candice Batista shares her tips—including how to get reluctant family members on board.

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shop sustainably feature image shows a pink cotton string bag holding green leafy vegetables

Photo, Carmen Cheung.

How did you become so passionate about reducing waste?

I’ve always been an environmentalist. I grew up in a home where nothing was wasted, and I learned early on about the importance of being a steward of the earth.

What was the first thing you changed about your own shopping habits?

I started in my kitchen with plastic bags when I realized just how wasteful they are. You bag your bananas, apples and oranges, bring them home, take them out and then toss the bags in the garbage—those bags have about an eight-minute lifespan, and the thin ones can’t be recycled. That was a real aha moment for me, and now I never use them.

What if your favourite stores aren’t using sustainable practices?

Speak up. Tell the store owner you’d like to bring your own bags and containers. Tell them why. Email them; reach out on social media. Retailers want to please customers, and I’ve found that just asking goes a long way. I’ve taken Mason jars to the deli section and asked them to weigh and fill them—and they do it. It’s a great opportunity for me to explain why I’m doing it and ask if it’s something they’d consider doing more of.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about reducing waste?

People think going green is expensive, but making your own cleaning products saves a lot of money. So does switching paper napkins for cloth napkins. Same goes for paper towels—you can save more than $400 a year with reusable cloths. (Paper towels are normally made with paper that comes from old-growth forests.) I keep at least a dozen cloths in key areas of my home that I can access easily.


Finding common ground on climate change with Katharine Hayhoe – The Big Story podcast.

Learn more at The Big Story Podcast.


Do you have any strategies for getting reluctant family members on board?

People don’t want to be told their actions are bad. I’ve learned that telling people why I’m doing something comes across much better than telling them they should be doing something. I might say something like, “I don’t use paper towels because I’m worried about our forests. And if I do use them, I try to find ones that are made from post-recycled consumer materials.” Another great way is to gift someone a green product, like beeswax wrap to use in place of plastic wrap. You could say something like, “Did you see the news about the whale with all that plastic in its belly? I’m trying these new beeswax wraps instead, and I thought you might like to try them too.”