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Consumerism and environmental impacts has always been a complicated equation. Especially as the digital world gains more and more traction every year and it’s easier than ever to shop for whatever you want, whenever you want. But with most of our shopping habits thrown out of whack due to COVID, is consumer behaviour going to change for good?

Over the last year, we found ourselves shopping more for our basic needs and shopping more consciously (apart from the group of people who felt the need to bulk-buy toilet roll). We were going to the supermarket LESS, to minimize the COVID risk. And we also weren’t buying as much, in regards to cosmetics, clothes and other non-essentials. Why?

  • The shops were closed, giving us less options
  • A lot of people were on furlough or had sadly lost their jobs so were more cautious about money
  • We had nowhere to go and therefore, no need for such items

Are shoppers more likely to shop with the kinder more sustainable option?

But we’ve also become much more aware of our shopping habits in regards to sustainability. More brands are introducing sustainable materials or collections (but the issue of green washing mustn’t be overlooked here), offering sustainable and eco-friendly packaging and going full Vegan with their ingredients. There are companies such as The Green Alchemist who even buy and sell recycled materials.

From my own personal experience, I know that I’m much more likely to shop with the kinder and more sustainable option. Of course I’m no where near perfect and there are times where I shop for convenience. But on a whole, I’m much more aware of what’s in the products I’m buying now. For example, my skincare is all cruelty free and Vegan 9 times out of 10.

As we saw so many elements of the natural world thriving during the pandemic when most of us were staying at home, I think it’s likely that shoppers are going to consider the sustainable option much more seriously than before. However my only worry is those who might want to “make up for lost time” now the shops have re-opened.

So how is consumer behaviour changing now?

Well first of all, eCommerce is booming. Selling online is where most people make their money, it’s almost too convenient for it’s own good and more and more small businesses are cropping up everywhere you look. If you have an eCommerce idea, check out Why Matters for help on getting started.

I think we’re also being a bit more cautious with our money and not going on needless shopping sprees anymore. Maybe the novelty has worn off? Or perhaps after the year we’ve had more and more people have realised that anything could happen with their finances and they’re just being a bit more wary. Either way, definitely not a bad thing.

I think more people are also shopping small because we’re aware that small businesses have suffered over the last year. It’s been heartbreaking to see so many small businesses – either online or off – shut their doors due to the pandemic.

And as for sustainability, I also think we’re leaning more towards the way of sustainable shopping. As consumers and as sellers. It’s nice to see more small businesses focus on natural ingredients, Vegan products and sustainable packaging.

How can you be more sustainable when you shop?

If you’re aware that you shopping habits might need to change or perhaps you’re looking to do your bit in living a more sustainable lifestyle and helping the planet in that way, then here are some small ways to be more sustainable when you shop, including everything from the product you buy, to how to get there:

  • Shop small: Shopping from small businesses is a great way to not only be more sustainable but also support a small business at the same time, rather than a chain.
  • Shop local: Try shopping for produce and materials locally, rather than outsourcing from online retailers
  • Make sustainable swaps: These are the simple, every day things that you can swap out for a more sustainable option. For example, eliminating disposable cotton pads from your shopping list and investing in reusable pads instead.
  • Recycle all your packaging: Obviously ensuring what you have is recyclable but making sure you recycle what you can and reuse what you can’t.
  • Avoid using plastic bags: When heading out to the shops, a simple thing you can do is take a tote bag or a shopper.
  • Limit your single use plastic: And if you’re can an able, limit what singe use plastic you buy. For example, you might want to consider buying fruit which isn’t already packaged.
  • Write to brands to enquire about their sustainability measures: If you’re concerned about their sustainability measures or feel like they could do better, don’t hesitate to email them.
  • Limit your meat and dairy intake: Something which not only benefits the environment but also your health and that’s limiting your meat intake. And any meat you do eat, try and shop for it locally.
  • Avoid driving to the shops: And finally, if you can, take a stroll to the shops instead of the car!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you think consumer behaviour is changing? Do you think COVID has played a part? Are you shopping more sustainably now? Let me know!

45 Comments

  1. Amazing post. I discovered this after writing something along these lines. I am a 27 year retail manager and I can tell you through all I’ve been through I’ve never seen such change, both in the people we serve and how we do it. Some things very much for the better! NYC seeing more affordable rent, support of local business, and for someone who gladly no longer works in fast fashion, I’m happy to see people starting to buy less garments. I hope we continue to strive in the right direction. Thanks for the read

  2. I’ve been shopping small whenever I can, but I’m also aware that it’s worth supporting larger stores as they still have to hit pay targets to continue employing their staff too! It’s a tough one – really great post Jenny X

  3. I definitely think my shopping habits are changing. Lockdown was bound to alter the way we shopped but I hope that a lot of us keep up these changes.

    Although I need to stop buying books, that is my biggest downfall right now. Although I share them with friends before taking to a charity shop.

    I have really enjoyed shopping with small businesses and using the local butchers and greengrocers since last March as well x

  4. Very interesting, Jenny. I do think online shopping has, of necessity, become more frequent but, speaking for myself, I do try and shop small and independent (Etsy, Not on the High Street, etc) where I can. Of course, Amazon is still king for a lot of purchases, but I think the ease of buying online is something physical shops are going to struggle to counter over the coming months. I hope I’m wrong though! x

  5. Very interesting read, Jenny! I actually think quite the opposite. Maybe in my country but it seems like everyone on my block has one Amazon package a day or every other day! I think people are buying things to have something to look forward to since everything is so uncertain! I love shopping intentionally and making sure that what I purchase is what I want/need so I do take my time to purchase things! Thanks for sharing x

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

  6. It’s a very interesting question – trends like fast fashion are definitely environmentally damaging, and are being sustained by consumers who are not concerned by their impact. It would be nice to think that consumers will be able to alter the market, because the practises of companies are unlikely to change!

  7. what a lovely little read I totally agree. I work in retail and people have been saying there glad were back open and shopping in the supermarket was ok but not great as they prefer more options ect such a weird thing to be going through x

  8. It’s such a good topic! It’s just a pity that a lot of people can’t afford to shop sustainable and those cheaper items usually win! It would be great if the government could do some incentive to price match sustainable products – especially health, beauty and cleaning products!

    Corinne x

    1. That really would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? Although I definitely think there are other ways to do your bit for sustainability, even if you can’t afford to shop for sustainable clothing!

  9. I have definitely taken a closer look at my shopping habits and plan to continue to do so in the future, but it will be interesting to see how shopping trends change when everything opens up again. Hopefully people continue to shop more responsibly. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I’m certainly trying to make a concious effort to think about where my clothes come from, and, where possible, shopping sustainably. For me that also means accepting hammy-downs and even digging through charity shops. I’ve always loved that sort of stuff anyway, and found it was the best way to come across some rare gems.

  11. I was always looking for ways to shop more sustainable and one of they things I did during this pandemic was switch my skin care and make up to cruelty free. I am also shopping small–Canadian businesses on Etsy, local if I can–bit harder as everything is STILL closed and I’m much more wary of big sell sites now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. This was an interesting read! I know that during this time a lot of people went for a more conscious way of buying and changing habits and hope that more people and companies try to get on a greener and sustainable way, though I am scared everyone will just get back to it as soon as everything is back to normal. Thanks for sharing x

  13. I totally agree with you, I think brands and consumers will have evolved in a way that COVID has caused.
    If we can all try to be more sustainable and greener, I’m 100% behind it

    Rosie

  14. This is a great, thought-provoking post, Jenny! I buy 100% natural and plastic free makeup and 9/10 sun-care and skincare products for my children and I are plastic free and natural. My fashion choices are vastly changing. I am researching brands who produce sustainable pieces, and I try to make better choices when shopping for food. I am also vegan, have breastfed, use washable period products and try my very best to be kind to the planet!

    Within my businesses I choose to collaborate with sustainable brands and use supplies from local small businesses in marketing campaigns as much as possible.

    The Green Alchemist as you mentioned, is just the most amazing initiative for businesses for buying and selling recyclable materials.

    Thank you for spreading the word about sustainability and it’s certainly an area we can all make a change in.

  15. I for sure have used my money more wisely during the pandemic, I’m caring a lot less about wearing the same clothes when meeting up with friends (before I’d always feel I needed a new outfit), and when I do shop, I try to be more sustainable or purchase things I know I’ll get multiple wears out of! So I’d have to agree, I think people’s mindset has changed and it’ll be interesting to see what brands do to combat this (ie: hopefully become more sustainable)

    1. I totally agree. I rarely bought clothes before tbh but I’ve never really found an issue with wearing the same thing more than once for an occasion. I think shopping your own wardrobe is super fun!

  16. This is a very insightful post, and interesting to understand a bit more about your thoughts on consumer habits. I think people are more likely to shop local, choosing small businesses because of the impact of covid! I think that sustainable choices are becoming more common too 🙂

  17. Love this post! I do think buying habits will change but I am worried about a lot of people “making up for lost time” later. That being said, COVID is not going to disappear anytime soon so gradually buying habits will change and last over time.

  18. I love this. I’ve been really big on shopping small (that sentence feels wrong aha) over the last year and I’m super conscious of what I’m buying. I’m not great at it, but I’m definitely more aware of how something is sourced etc. This has got some great ideas – thanks for sharing!

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