Five ways to become a more sustainable consumer

Becoming a more sustainable consumer is a conscious effort of reducing the amount of waste you produce daily.

Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 6 November 2020, 1:51 PM

What does it mean to be a sustainable consumer?

It begins with responsible consumption to do more with less because our habits impact the natural environment and the limited resources available on our planet.

To lead a more sustainable lifestyle means you are taking active steps daily to reduce your carbon footprint and usage of the Earth’s natural resources.

Here are some small changes that you can take for a greater impact on the world!

1. Reducing textile waste

Are you an avid shopper or fashion trend chaser? Do monthly sales catch your attention? If you said yes to any of this, perhaps it is time to relook your shopping habits.

In 2019, Singapore generated an estimated 168,000 tonnes of textile waste, with only a low recycling rate of four per cent. Fast fashion is one of the main contributors and with the quick turnover of fashion trends, we’re throwing away our clothes faster than before.

You can start by adopting a capsule closet – an idea that less is more – where you keep a set number of clothes that are everlasting in style and versatile for different occasions.


Start craft projects and upcycle your old clothes into bucket hats or masks. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/SARAH CHAN


Consider alternative shopping choices to stay fashionable yet sustainable too. With a monthly subscription fee, brands like Style Theory allow you to rent fashionable designer pieces so that your closet stays fresh and updated always.

Give your clothes a second lease of life by swapping with other customers using platforms such as Swapaholic. No two pieces are the same and you can declutter your closet too – that’s a score!

Shop second-hand by thrifting or using community platforms like Carousell. These are ways that you can support the circular economy and break away from the ‘use and throw’ cycle that we often fall into.

However, be mindful when you thrift and shop for only what you need. Learn more about mindful thrifting here.

2. Support local initiatives

With the recent pandemic, most of us have turned to online shopping for its convenience. Unsurprisingly, we have amassed a large number of delivery packaging that we most often, myself included, would dispose of into the trash. But we can change that.

Check out @package.pals, a circular packaging initiative that collects single-use packaging such as poly mailers and paper envelopes before they are re-distributed to other small businesses.

If you are a user of contact lenses, save the blisters from going into the trash and consider sending them to Two of a Kind’s recycling initiative.

Also, don’t forget our love for food (and food deliveries). Did you know that our increased usage of takeaways has also led to a surge in single-use plastic waste this year?

Local startup barePack recently collaborated with foodpanda and Deliveroo to establish a subscription-based returnable container initiative to reduce the amount of food packaging generated from deliveries. The initiative is available at over 100 partnering restaurants.

3. Minimal waste living

Being mindful of the amount of waste you produce daily are small changes you can make for a greater change in the long run. PHOTO CREDIT: THE CREATIVE EXCHANGE VIA UNSPLASH


Choose reusable bags and containers when shopping or ordering takeaway food outside.

You can support local businesses such as Unpackt and The Sustainability Project, which offers package-free food and products to provide a zero-waste shopping experience for their customers.

At home, switching to energy-saving products and being mindful of your water usage are ways that you can improve your surroundings to reduce your carbon footprint.

You can also adopt simple habits such as using tea infusers for loose tea leaves instead of tea bags or composting your leftover food waste into fertiliser to reduce your waste generated.

4. Sustainable alternatives to daily items

Your day-to-day living has an impact on your carbon footprint but you don’t have to have a major lifestyle overhaul to make a change. Start by switching your daily items to more sustainable alternatives and aim to reduce your use of single-use disposables at home.


Replace kitchen necessities like ziplock bags and cling wrap with reusable alternatives. PICTURE CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM THE SUSTAINABILITY PROJECT


Did you know that cotton production requires a large amount of water? Almost 20,000 litres is required to produce one kilogram of cotton. This is equivalent to the amount of water one person consumes over three years.

If you are a make-up user, consider purchasing reusable facial rounds made of bamboo or other biodegradable materials as alternatives to replace single-use cotton pads and make-up wipes.

Start do-it-yourself projects to create your own face scrubs, lip stains and other beauty products made from natural ingredients found around the house. Not only is it fun but also chemical free!

Food plays a big part in our life and in the environment too. Food production, deforestation and livestock rearing are factors contributing to greenhouse emissions and climate change.

Consider incorporating more plant-based food products into your diet and support local produce. By supporting our local farmers, not only are your foods fresh but you are also using less resources to bring the food from the farm to you.

5. Be a mindful shopper

Change begins with you. Be an informed shopper and research the brands you support before cashing in on their products.

Does a low priced good always mean a good price behind the scenes? How a product is made, a company’s commitment to the environment and transparency on their practices are factors that you can consider when researching.

When shopping, pay attention to labels such as the Fair Trade certification which ensures that a product was produced sustainably using non-exploitative practices including environmentally-sustainable production methods.

Becoming a more eco-friendly consumer requires our constant effort of being mindful of what we purchase and consume. Our little efforts can make a difference, so let’s work towards a greener environment together.

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