Green consumerism means choosing those products which have the least possible negative impact on the environment. In order to make such a choice, we must consider such things as:

This places a huge responsibility on the consumer. Most of us are probably already practicing green consumerism to some extent, but there is always more we can do.

Type of Purchase

Buy in bulk, or buy the largest size of an item that you will need before it spoils. You will get more product for less packaging that way. Products such as laundry detergent, shampoo, paper products, and other non-perishables can be purchased in large packages; usually saving money as well as decreasing the amount of waste you produce.

Consider whether concentrated products are appropriate for your needs. They often require less packaging and less energy to transport to the store, saving money as well as natural resources.

Consider reusable products. Many products are designed to be used more than once. Reusable products and containers often result in less waste.

Avoid purchasing disposable such as paper plates, plastic eating utensils, disposable cameras and disposable razors.

Use items with recycled content whenever you can. For instance, many paper, glass, metal and plastic products contain recovered materials. Some examples are stationery, wrapping paper, computer paper, many types of containers, and even clothing and carpets are available which are made from recycled plastics. Many of these items are available in grocery, drug and other retail stores, as well as mail order catalogues, stationers and print shops.

When checking products for recycled content, look for a statement that recycled materials were used and, if possible, choose the item with the largest percentage of recycled content, if known. You can also call directory assistance (1-800-555-1212) to obtain manufacturers' 800 numbers to find out how much recycled material their products contain.

Consider products made of materials that are being collected for recycling locally. For Recycle Delaware, these include glass, aluminum, tin, certain plastics, and newspaper. If a system is not in place to return a certain type of material, that material is not easily "recyclable".


Buy goods in the least amount of packaging you can find. As much as 1/3 of what we buy is packaging material.

Wrenches, screwdrivers, nails, and other hardware are often available in loose bins. At the grocery, consider whether it is necessary to purchase items such as tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms in prepackaged containers when they can be bought unpackaged.

Buy goods in containers that are recyclable or made from recycled material. Glass and aluminum are good choices for beverages and other food items, they are 100% recyclable. On other containers, look for the word "recycled" or the "recycled" logo. Many paperboard boxes (the kind cereal, crackers, etc. come in) are made from recycled paper. Look for boxes that are gray on the inside - they are probably recycled.

Recognize and support store managers when they stock products with reduced or not packaging. Let clerks know it is unnecessary to double wrap a purchase.

Shopping Bags

Bring cloth or string bags with you to the supermarket. If you use plastic bags, use them over and over until they break. Many supermarkets are now recycling plastic bags, so bring them back for recycling.

Paper grocery bags can be recycled in the "newspaper" igloos at Recycle Delaware centers.

Buy Quality

Whenever intended for use over a long period of time, choose furniture, luggage, sporting goods, toys and tools that will stand up to vigorous use.

Contact Manufacturers

Contact manufacturers with your comments (both positive and negative) about their products and packaging, they really do listen and respond to their customers. Many products have an 800 number listed on the package for this purpose.

Be a Cautious Consumer

Before you buy a product, read the label, make sure it is the product you want to buy and that you are not uncomfortable with the ingredients.

Buy the least hazardous product that will accomplish the job. Look for signal words, such as "Danger" of "Poison", which mean extremely flammable or highly toxic, "Warning" or "Caution", which mean moderately or slightly toxic. Be aware that the word "Non-Toxic" has no federal regulatory definition, it is only an advertising word, like "natural".

Pre-Purchase Safety Checklist

______Do I really need this product?
______Have I checked for signal words?
______Is there a safer alternative?
______Does this product require safety equipment?
______Am I buying more than I need?
______Can I safely dispose of the excess, or does it require a household hazardous waste collection?
______Can I safely store this product in my home?
Source: Consumer Tips, Household Hazardous Waste Project, Missouri

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