The most crucial sustainable shopping etiquette rules to shop responsibly. The best practices to limit our footprint.

What sustainable shopping etiquette is

Sustainability has a crucial role in our modern social etiquette. On many occasions, behaviors that can harm the environment are no longer accepted.

Sustainable shopping etiquette is the set of rules to shop sustainably and responsibly. Such rules help us avoid behaviors that may lead to a negative environmental impact. They include:

  • How to limit our production of waste.
  • How to choose sustainable products and brands.
  • The behaviors to avoid.

Every shopper should follow sustainable shopping etiquette to limit environmental footprint and avoid behaviors, products, or brands that may be unsustainable or unethical.

sustainable shopping rules to limit footprint

Sustainable shopping etiquette rules

1) Moderate your shopping habits

Any type of product requires resources for its production. Thus, any product has a footprint. Furthermore, waste disposal and recycling have a high environmental footprint.

So, the most sustainable shopping habit is to moderate the number of new items that we buy and our shopping frequency. Try your best to buy only items that you need, and adopt sustainable food practices to limit the amount of excess food that you buy.

2) Pool online purchases together

E-commerce has a relatively high footprint too. First, because every shipment requires its own packaging, such as cardboard boxes and plastic bubble wraps. Second, every shipment needs to be delivered to the customer’s doorstep. Thus, e-commerce has a significantly higher environmental footprint compared to physical stores.

Thus, it is best to avoid buying cheap items online frequently, as we risk polluting unnecessarily. Instead, try to buy cheap items in physical stores and bundle your online purchases together, so they can be shipped in the same box.

3) Shop sustainable products

A product is sustainable if its production does not have a negative environmental and societal footprint.

Unsustainable products require large amounts of resources to be produced. Their production, processing, and transportation are inefficient and harm their ecosystems. Their value creation does not benefit the local communities involved.

As consumers, we have the duty to get informed about the products we purchase and to make ethical buying decisions. For example, some popular foods, such as bananas, avocados, almonds, or sugarcane, are among the most water-intensive crops and can seriously affect their ecosystems. Cotton requires large amounts of water too and it can have a disastrous footprint. Plastic or batteries are hard to dispose of and recycle. The best course of action is to limit our consumption of such products or even avoid them altogether.

4) Buy from sustainable retailers and brands

Many popular brands manufacture their products without the appropriate care for the ecosystems and communities they operate in. For example, some brands manufacture or source their products from developing countries, sometimes offering unfair wages and working conditions to their employees. Other brands keep unsustainable or high-footprint practices, such as maintaining inefficient supply chains or producing large amounts of waste.

Sustainable shopping etiquette calls for avoiding such brands.

5) Avoid shopping for new items by reusing old ones

Before throwing away old items to buy new ones, try to reuse them. Many old items can still be reused differently. For example, worn-out clothes can be kept and used for activities such as physical exercise or gardening.

6) Consider shopping for pre-loved items

Nowadays, there are many popular online marketplaces to buy and sell second-hand or “pre-loved” items. It is easy to find almost anything, such as clothes, kitchenware, appliances, and even furniture. The items are very often in optimal conditions. Furthermore, the marketplaces usually guarantee the shopping experience, so buyers are protected from negative experiences.

Shopping for pre-loved items is sustainable as it extends the life of such items, avoiding the need to produce new items as replacements.

sustainable shopping worst mistakes

Sustainable shopping etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst sustainable shopping etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Buying from unsustainable brands.
  • 9/10. Buying unsustainable products.
  • 6/10. Not moderating shopping habits.
  • 5/10. Not moderating online shopping habits.


  • The Elusive Green Consumer: