Family Purchasing Power: Eco-Friendly Style

July 24, 2012

From the day they are born, children are exposed to marketing and advertising. In 2004, the FTC estimated that children watched 10,700 minutes of television advertisements a year—that’s over seven days of commercials.

It is our responsibility to show children how to navigate our consumer world by modelling purchasing power that is both ethically and environmentally conscious.

Buy Smart

The number on a price tag isn’t the only cost associated with an item, more often than not, the hidden environmental costs of a product are much larger than the dollar price implies. One cotton T-shirt, for example, will take about 2,700 litres of water to manufacture! As sustainability guru Anna Lappe says, “Every time we spend a dollar, we’re casting a vote for the kind of world we want to live in”. Vote for the healthier, happier world, and enlist your kids’ help!

  • Pore Over Packaging: Talk to your kids about how items are packaged and displayed, consider making purchasing decisions that involve less waste. For example buy items in bulk and put them in reusable containers for lunches instead of individually wrapped items.

  • Look for Logos: Lots of companies have responded to consumer demand for environmentally friendly products, for example Bird friendly coffee, fair trade chocolate and sustainable paper products. Show your kids where to find logos that identify ethically and environmentally responsible products and discuss what they mean.

  • Find Local Loot: Read the stickers on your produce to teach your children a bit about geography and the environmental impact of buying food that comes from far away.

Buy Less

When you replace your old cell phone, you are requiring the resource extraction and manufacturing of a new product, all of which impact the planet. For example, your cell phone relies on a precious metal called Coltan. 80% of this resource comes from Africa, mining of which threatens the Eastern Lowland Gorilla. It’s time to talk to younger generations about the items we buy and at times make the most environmentally conscious consumer choice, buy less.

  • Define Want and Need: Explore the idea of want and need by making a list as a family of the different products you are considering purchasing. Discuss as a family what things you will purchase and what you can perhaps either live without or repair what you already have. Include in your discussion not just whether you can afford each item but if you really need it and the impact manufacturing and shipping this item to you has on the planet.

  • Give it Away: Donate items to charity that you are no longer using, make a family hunt for that extra clutter sitting in your closet and give them away to people that will bring new life to these products.

  • Magic of Make Believe: Instead of rushing out to the store to buy the latest toy to entertain the family, consider activities and projects that use imagination and rely on found or recycled items. Start a game of tag, collect leaves on a nature hike to make a collage or have a scavenger hunt in your backyard.

Check out The Story of Stuff to find out more about the cost of the things we make, use and throw away and remember to empower the whole family with eco-friendly purchasing power!

This guest post has been provided by Earth Rangers, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate children about the importance of biodiversity and empower them to protect animals and their habitats. To learn more, visit