What is mindful shopping (and why should we do it?)

From boozy buyers to sleep-deprived spenders, there are many different types of shoppers and not all of them sound too healthy. But mindful shopping is different. Mindful shopping can not only improve your overall emotional wellbeing, it can help save the planet too, or at least that’s what its advocates say. So what’s it all about?

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What is mindful shopping?

As the name suggests, mindful shopping is all about thinking before you make a purchase. We all know about mindfulness apps for relaxation and stress-relief, but did you know you can also apply these practices to your shopping habits?

Mindful shopping is about exploring what you are buying, where it is from, why you are buying it, and the bigger picture when it comes to the impact of our purchases.

Alexander Smith, owner and founder of Koziko London says: ‘Mindful shopping is shopping with awareness and knowledge on what is beneficial to you, your surroundings, people and the planet rather than impulsively or without care for how ethical and sustainable a supply chain is.

‘Mindful shopping allows you to make an informed decision on what you want to support and buy into. As a mindful/conscious shopper you will only buy what you really need or want which brings a higher level of care, value and appreciation for each and every item. This leads to improved wellbeing, happiness and gratitude for the person buying and better conditions for the people in the supply chain.’

How does mindful shopping help us?

Research carried out by Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos of University College London has shown that the brain experiences more discomfort spending cash money as opposed to digital money. Effectively it is easier to spend electronically – be it through credit cards or online – than handing over the notes and coins as in days gone by.

Over-spending can lead to guilt, shame, and worry about finances. It is always important to seek help if you feel your finances are out of control.

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What does mindful shopping mean for the environment?

Sustainability pioneer Tara Button is CEO of the Buy Me Once website and author of A Life Less Throwaway. She applies the ethics of mindful shopping and sustainable living to all aspects of her life, including on her wedding day.

She told us: ‘After second-hand, the most sustainable products you can buy are the pieces that last. For example, if you can get an average T-shirt to last just nine months longer, it saves 20-30% on carbon emissions, water waste and pollution.’

The fabric an outfit is made from can also impact the environment, so mindful shoppers will research ethical fabrics and methods as well as suppliers.

Tara says: ‘The fabrics with the lowest CO2 are recycled fabrics and natural fabrics such as hemp, cotton. Choose organic as this also protects the soil and people from harmful chemicals. After that, there are fabrics made from trees or bamboo, using a closed-loop water system – Tencel is one such fabric, which also has the advantage of being highly durable.’

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Tara Button’s five steps to mindful shopping

  1. Eyes on the prize – we’re aiming for quality over quantity

So many of us have full wardrobes but still feel we have nothing to wear. For example, the average person is buying a wheely suitcase of clothes a year – which is leading to the rubbish truck of clothing which is dumped into landfill every second. B

However, we aren’t wearing 70-80% of the clothes we own, so the waste is horrendous. Clearing out and donating/selling the clothes you don’t wear and the homeware you don’t use is the first step. Then take some time to examine the products you want to keep. What is it about them you like? Use this information when you next need to go shopping.

Psst… The feeling of opening your front door or you wardrobe and loving everything inside is totally worth it.

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  1. Get off the “trend treadmill”

Following trends sees us hating our ‘out of date’ styles, and putting new styles on a pedestal. This creates a constant churn of clothing in our lives, some of which doesn’t really do us any favours. The remedy is to discover your true taste. Put aside some time to get to know your own sense of style.

For fashion: Go to a massive shop, put different coloured fabric against your face to determine the ones that make you look radiant and healthy. Experiment with which fabrics you like the feel of against your skin and then and try on each different length and cut of dress/tops and bottoms, making a note of which ones create the most pleasing silhouettes to your eye. This will save you loads of time in the future, and help if you’re shopping online too.

For home: Create a Pinterest board of colours, styles and shapes that you believe you’ll enjoy now and long into the future. Use this every time you shop to prevent yourself from ending up with faddy items you end up hating.

  1. Curate a capsule

Using your findings, curate a capsule wardrobe tailored to your actual lifestyle, not the lifestyle you feel you should have. The key is to buy items that work together to give yourself more options with less pieces.

Try not buy items for particular events, but plan outfits for events of a certain type. e.g. buy an outfit that would suit any smart summer event, rather than panic buying an outfit just before a cousin’s summer wedding. Impulse buying is the enemy – that’s how we get into a cluttered state in the first place.

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  1. Longevity is key

When buying, look for well-made pieces made that will last. So often we go for a cheaper item and end up having to pay more over time because it breaks, and we have to buy a new one.

Unfortunately high prices don’t necessarily mean high quality anymore, so finding these brands can take some research. Look for brands that have put longevity at the centre of their designs, using the highest quality materials, fabrics and reinforcing the places that often get damaged. If they offer free repair warranties this is a good sign. Buy Me Once also collects together all the longest lasting brands, doing the research so that you don’t have to.

  1. Find ethical brands

The most sustainable way to practice mindful shopping is to buy second hand. It’s also a great way to save money. But if you can only find what you want new, then it’s about looking for sustainable brands – brands who have transparent supply chains, treat their workers fairly and use the least impactful materials.

There’s loads of greenwashing out there, but luckily, there are some new exciting tools such as The Beagle Button which will automatically fetch you sustainable alternatives while you shop as normal, or directories such as goodonyou.eco. Seek out companies who are certified with Fairtrade, Soil Association Organic, B-Corp certifications as they will have been verified by independent sources.

Finally, if all else fails, try to keep the immortal words of Vivienne Westwood in mind – “Buy Once, Buy Well”.