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Did you know…

  • For every one garbage can of waste put out at the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste
    were produced upstream to make the junk in that one garbage can.
  • Since the 1980s, 1/3 of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed.
  • If everybody consumed at the rate of Canadians, we would need 4 planets to sustain us.

Download the SHOP LIKE THE PLANET’S WATCHING booklet & learn how to be a smart eco shopper.

Workshops teach you to become savvy eco-shopper. York Region Environmental Alliance communications co-ordinator Fiona Wood shows a bottle containing the amount of pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals used to produce one regular cotton T-shirt. She is wearing an organically produced cotton shirt. Staff photo/Steve Somerville.

Full YREA Article can be found at YorkRegion.com

Not just the Bag
By Amanda Persico,  yorkregion.com

Thinking “green” while shopping takes more than using a reusable bag to cart your groceries home.

It’s more about what’s in the bag than the bag itself.

Beginning this week, the York Region Environmental Alliance hosts a series of seminars and workshops for the eco-shopper dubbed Shop Like the Planet is Watching.

The educational campaign, along with an accompanying publication, aims to demonstrate you can shop in a sustainable fashion.

We will never stop buying things, alliance community programs co-ordinator Fiona Wood says.

“But we can shop like the planet is watching,” she adds. “It’s what you put in that bag that will make a difference.”

The regionwide campaign, which launches at the Aurora Public Library Tuesday, will provide you with helpful tips to on how to shop green, what to buy and what to look for when making a purchase. The workshops will also focus on product labelling and what to look for on packaging.

Being an eco-shopper is about reading the labels, knowing what the symbols mean and knowing how to tell the difference, Ms Wood says.

“We already know how hard it is to shop,” she says. “But take the half a second to look beyond the nutrition label and look for the green label, too.”

Sometimes, green labeling – or green washing – can be confusing for the consumers. In many cases, the recycling logo on a package refers to how much recycled material was used to make the packaging, but it doesn’t include recycled material in the product itself, Ms Wood said.

“It’s about being smart. Just because the label says low fat doesn’t mean it’s sugar-free,” she said. “The Kleenex box was made from recycled products, but not the Kleenex.”

Another aspect of green shopping is the cradle-to-grave philosophy, through which the entire lifecycle of a product is considered.

Buying green doesn’t mean you have to travel to a specialty store, Ms Wood says, as many large retailers are creating their own line of eco-friendly products and organic clothing.

“It’s easier to find green products everywhere. It might cost an extra $2 for something green, but you are helping save the planet,” Ms Wood says.

“Green shopping is about making as many good choices about what you bring home as you can.”

The Shop Like the Planet is Watching booklet, which is printed on paper produced from a managed forest through a waterless mechanical printing method, will be available from the alliance in a few weeks.

Buyer be aware: Sustainable summer shopping

By Lee Ann Waterman,  yorkregion.com

Jun 30, 2010

The York Region Environmental Alliance is asking residents to take a long hard look at the items they’ve been tucking into those reusable shopping bags.

This spring, it published Shop Like the Planet’s Watching, a booklet loaded with tips for greening purchases from food to fashion.
The guide, explains executive director Gloria Marsh, “gives residents the tools to make personal lifestyle changes that will help the environment”.

In its quest to raise awareness of environmental issues within the region and promote healthy lifestyle alternatives, the YREA support municipal efforts to do the same.

Shopping, Ms Marsh explains, is directly connected to waste.

York’s nine municipalities are just past the mid-point of a 10-year initiative to increase their waste diversion rate of 34 per cent in 2006 to 65 per cent by 2010 and 75 per cent by 2016.

The guide includes sections for eco-friendly approaches to home renos, making cleaning products and clothing shopping.

“If everyone did all these things that would make a big difference,” she says. “We are asking people to commit to changing their habits.”

For older generations, Ms Marsh says, many of the ideas are not new. They turned shirt collars and darned socks, passed clothing from child to child to child and wouldn’t have dreamed of replacing a perfectly good serving dish or area rug because it was not the

latest style.

In an effort to up my green quotient, I decided to apply the guide’s rules to some summer shopping

The first step is to make a list. Buying items that you don’t need, won’t wear and will end up tossing is a real waste — of your money and the world’s resources. Are there basics you need to replace? Or are you looking for a few trendy pieces to update your look for the season? Plan to buy items that fit perfectly and work with items you have and love.

“Fewer purchases,” YREA says, “equals less demand on crop productivity, less dependence on pesticides and less use of non-renewable natural resources.”

The group’s second recommendation is to consider used first. Visit consignment shops, thrift stores or vintage clothing boutiques or host a clothing swap with a group of girlfriends.

When buying new, fabric is key. Look for bamboo or hemp, which have sustainable fast growth and natural pest resistance, organic cotton or recycled polyester. Look for labels that indicate third-party certification.


• V-neck T-shirts

These are a staple of my summer wardrobe and I usually buy a couple every year. As they wear, I demote them from suitable for work when matched with a cute skirt to OK for running around town to good for camping or cleaning to rag bag. This year, I’m thinking I can find something in organic cotton or bamboo.

• Purse

• Brown shoes

Something that will work for work but also for walking, which I tend to do a lot in the summer.

• Jacket/blazer

To take along on an evening out or throw over a summery outfit at the office. Maybe something in a bright colour.


I don’t want to go out of my way to find the items on my list — driving all over York Region to save the environment just doesn’t make sense.

Following the YREA guidelines, I look for used first and focus my search in Newmarket.

I start at Changes Boutique on Main Street, Newmarket. This store, which specializes in mastectomy clothing and accessories, is selling (and accepting donations of) used handbags to raise money for cancer research.

I find a simple Liz Claiborne purse in camel (a hot neutral this season) for $6.

Then, I head down the street to Still in Style, a used clothing store. I spot a great suede jacket in lime green but, at $56 for a used item, I’d like a better fit. I also pass on a great ‘70s-inspired cherry red spring coat ($25) because it isn’t on my list — and I’ve already committed to buying an Aviva sports skort, which still had original tags and was only $10. I am pleasantly surprised to see a small selection of athletic wear at the store.

Finally, I stop in at the Value Village near the corner of Davis and Yonge streets. Here, I focus my search on jackets and find five possibilities in the $8-10 range. Again a lime green number catches my eye — this time Benetton corduroy — but again it is not to be. I also decide against a dark grey corduroy and black velvet options, both of which have top buttons in unfortunate spots for my body type. But I do purchase a cute grey and black checked jacket with a wide collar, faux belt at the waist and slight flare below. It won’t really work for summer, but I can definitely match it with black trousers or skirt I already own for fall.

With a few items still to check off my list, it’s time to look for new and sustainable. I begin this search on the Internet. I know from experience looking for a bamboo T-shirt or vegan shoes at the mall can be akin to finding the needle in that proverbial haystack. Although I find several Toronto-based boutiques specializing in eco-fashion as well as few online stores, I can’t find anything similar in York Region.

Instead, I turn to well-known chains that have introduced some environmentally friendly fabrics to their mix. Armed with a still shortish list of possibilities, I head to the mall.

At Stance, I hope to find something in hemp, organic cotton or eco-certified leather from Simple shoes. But the clerk tells me they only carry the men’s line. I do try on a pair of Toms espadrilles. They are sustainable in a different way — for every pair purchased, the company donates a pair to a needy child in Argentina or Ethiopia — and some styles contain materials such as hemp and recycled plastic bottles. But for shoes styled like slippers, I expect something a little more comfortable.

Hoping to find some cheap eco-chic, I head to H&M to check out its Garden Collection, which promises items made from organic cotton and linen as well as recycled polyester. I am disappointed with how hard I have to search for these items — a flowered blouse on one rack, a peacock blue ruffled tunic on the other side of the store. I try on a brown motorcycle-style jacket in organic linen ($40) but don’t feel the love.

Again, I leave the store empty-handed.

At Roots, I try on two styles of organic cotton T-shirts — V-neck and a cute scoop neck with ruffled sleeves. Sticking to my list, I buy two of the V-necks, one white, one black (although the store does have a range of colours), for $40 for the pair.

My final stop is Walmart. Yes, Walmart. The retail giant’s George line is dipping its toe into sustainable fabrics. For women, all I find is socks. A four-pack of trouser socks in bamboo rayon or organic cotton in $9.46. A two-pack of bamboo knee socks is $7. In the men’s department however, there are stacks of T-shirts, all $7, made from 100 per cent organic cotton or 85 per cent organic cotton and 15 per cent viscose.

Nothing on my list, but worth noting.


Being eco-fashionable is not easy. It takes patience and persistence to find items you love at consignment or thrift stores and stores stocking sustainably made new ones.

I did find many of the items on my list (and a couple extras) and all at reasonable prices. But to be truly successful at sustainable shopping, I would need to hit many consignment and secondhand stores on a regular basis or discover a local eco-boutique.