5 ways to shop sustainable

by ZSL on

Our Sustainable Business and Finance team works with companies around the world to protect wildlife and their habitats. They’re also tasked with assessing timber, pulp, rubber and palm oil companies on their sustainability commitments – so they know a thing or two about how to be sustainable! Sam Ginger, ZSL’s Sustainable Business Analyst, shares his top tips for going green this spring. 

We can all do our bit to protect the animals we love, from colobus monkeys to Sumatran tigers, by limiting our impact on their habitats. Growing food and the raw materials we need to make clothes, furniture and cars requires vast amounts of land, and often that means companies clear away ecosystems full of animal homes to make way. By making certain choices, like choosing which things we buy, we can reduce the amount of land required and fuel used – and help protect homes for wildlife.   

  1. 1. Choose seasonal specialties grown in the UK 

Can you tell the difference between a Spanish red pepper, and a red pepper grown in the UK? No? Me neither! Fresh fruit and vegetables are flown in from all around the world, and supermarkets label their food to tell us where each item comes from. But transporting food by air produces a lot of greenhouse gases, and choosing fresh food grown in the UK is a great way to limit your carbon footprint – as well as trying out some new recipes along the way. Look out for apples and parsnips in January, asparagus in April, blueberries in June, aubergine in August, blackberries and pears in October, and brussel sprouts in December. And you can’t go wrong with British strawberries in summer!

Seasonal vegetables. Source: Shutterstock


  1. 2. Go meat-free on Mondays

It’s hard to beat a Sunday roast with the family, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. For example, lots of cows produce a lot of methane gas, and they also need plenty of land to graze – sometimes taking land that might have been home to a whole host of other animals. In fact, farming animals takes up 80% of agricultural land and produces a sixth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change and driving deforestation. So choosing to reduce our meat intake and swapping in extra vegetables once a week is not only good for our bodies but important for protecting the forests and savannahs that everything from elephants to ants depend on. If you’re already off the red stuff, great work! But there’s still more you can do. Why not try a milk substitute, like oat or soy milk, in your next latte? 

Dairy cow. Source: Shutterstock


  1. 3. Learn to tell your cross stitch from your slip stitch 

You bend down to tie up a shoelace, or trip over the family pet, and hear the tell-tale rip of jeans tearing. We’ve all been there, and normally it means a trip to the high street or a few clicks online to buy a new pair. But can they be repaired? Poorly produced clothing uses lots of toxic chemicals which are often dumped in rivers, killing off not just fish but the animals that rely on them for food (like kingfishers). I bought a sewing machine last year and I’m currently learning how to repair my ripped jeans, but buying second-hand clothes from charity shops or apps like Ebay, Depop and Vinted is another good option. You can also have a look online to see what clothing brands align with your principles. 

Jeans repair. Source: Shutterstock


  1. 4. Hug a tree, go FSC

Buying a birthday card? Looking for loo roll? Picking out a new chest of drawers? All of these items have one thing in common: trees! You can make sure any wood products you buy – from books to food packaging to patio furniture – are sustainably sourced by looking out for the FSC logo. FSC stands for ‘Forest Stewardship Council’, and they’re in charge of making sure that wood comes from carefully managed forests where nature is protected (which is also why our Zoos only use FSC-certified wood and paper). It’s especially important to look for the FSC logo when buying furniture because tropical hardwoods like teak or mahogany grow in rainforests and support huge numbers of rare animals. 

Choose sustainable wood products. Source: Shutterstock


  1. 5. Turn that nest egg into a pension you can be proud of  

They say that money talks, but what is yours saying? That pension pot you’ve been adding to every month, or the savings account you’ve been squirrelling away into, can actually be a powerful tool in the fight for Mother Nature. In the UK alone, around £2.5 trillion is invested in pensions, that’s about 25 times more than the whole world spends on biodiversity conservation every year! But often banks invest your pension into practices that are damaging our planet, like fossil fuels and deforestation. Speak to your bank or pension provider about where they invest your money and if it’s possible to ensure that your money is only invested in sustainable industries – it could be your smartest investment yet! 

Piggy bank. Source: Shutterstock


Gold members, Fellows and Patrons receive articles like this one three times a year in our Wild About magazine. To get your paws on the next edition become a Gold Member today. 


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