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Be mindful when purchasing goods and services

Consumption has expanded to the Internet and the marketing of products and services is sometimes aggressive. A smart consumer pays attention to their purchasing decisions, repairs and maintains the goods they own, and prefers borrowing and sharing.
A woman looking at a shoe in her hand in a park, in front of shoes placed on a canvas on the lawn.
© Laura Rautjoki

Your purchasing decisions are important. The share of various goods and services in the carbon footprint of consumption in households was approximately 25 per cent in 2019, and the share is increasing. A large part of these emissions is generated abroad, for example in the manufacture of products ordered from online shops. 

Environmentally friendly consumption at its best creates savings and opens up opportunities for a new kind of sense of community. The services of a sharing economy create new opportunities to influence with our choices. 

Make smart choices online and at the shop

The cornerstone of sustainable consumption is to not buy and consume needlessly. Advertisements, social media, and the media often create unnecessary needs to buy things. By considering and researching products, you can make sensible decisions, both environmentally and economically.

Take good care of the things you already own.

Take good care of the things you already own.

Take good care of the things you already own.

Think carefully before making a purchase. Things in joint use can also meet your needs. You can for example borrow a drill. 

Give preference to durable, versatile, and repairable products.

Choose products that are also stylistically sustainable.

Remember that a used product is often as good as a new one.

Remember that a used product is often as good as a new one. 

Remember that a used product is often as good as a new one.

You can for instance give a cultural experience as a gift.

Do not order products by express delivery from an online shop, as their transport and packaging significantly burden the environment.

Also consider whether you need home delivery or if you could pick up the ordered product, for example when you go shopping.

Before making a purchase, find out how the product can be updated, repaired, and recycled.

You can ask about this at the shop. 

Calculate the climate effects of your consumption with the Climate Diet Calculator
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Repair and maintain – extend the working life of your belongings 

Extending the life cycle of products and increasing the number of times they can be used are good ways to reduce the related environmental impacts. By reusing products, you can avoid buying new ones. However, this requires that the product is well taken care of and repaired if necessary.

Manage and maintain your products properly.

For example, by following the washing instructions for textiles, you can make your clothes last longer. You don't always have to wash – even airing them can be enough. It is advisable to get protective covers for phones and make all the recommended software updates.

Repair things by yourself and utilise repair services.

Clothes can be taken to a clothes repair shop, furniture to an upholsterer and electronic devices to warranty service or an authorised dealership. 

Some products can also be upgraded, improved, or modernised.

In these cases, the value of the product may even increase. In certain products, the improvement can be done by yourself, or the product can be taken to a professional.

Deliver your own usable products for reuse through recycling centres or peer-to-peer marketplaces.

This will give the goods a new life. One person's useless possessions may be another person's treasure.

Take irreparable products to material recycling.

When materials are recycled, valuable natural resources are saved.

A young person is sewing on a sewing machine.
Repairs and the use of repair services prolong the useful life of products. © Pexels

Favour borrowing and sharing

A sharing economy and the joint use of products can reduce the environmental impact of goods. When there are more users, the number of new products can be reduced. Shared cars, facilities and clothing rental services are examples of joint use. New forms of sharing can also create a sense of community.  

Joint use models have a number of possible implementations, all of which may not be equally effective from an environmental point of view. If joint use creates a need for additional transport, dry cleaning or other measures between uses, the effects of these should also be taken into account.

Think about renting or borrowing instead of buying.

If you only need the product a few times, this will be more economical. 

Find out what kind of items your library offers.

In addition to books, you can borrow tools, sports equipment, and games from libraries.

You can get clothes you need rarely, like for festive occasions, at a clothes rental service.

This gives you variety in your outfits, and no garment is left unused at the back of the closet.

Encourage ridesharing, carpooling and city bikes.

If you rarely need a car, a shared car is something to consider.

Many municipalities and housing companies offer their residents facilities for joint use.

These shared spaces can be used for example for working remotely, organising parties or hobby activities.

You can find many interesting sharing services online.

Explore various joint use services.

A little boy is looking at games in the library.
In addition to books, you can borrow many other things from libraries, such as games.  © Janne Ulvinen

Eco-labels help you make sustainable choices 

Eco-labels allow you to identify the environmental impact of a product and choose products that are less harmful to the environment. Known eco-labels established by authorities include the Nordic Ecolabel, i.e. the Nordic swan, the EU Ecolabel, the EU Energy Label and the EU Organic Label. The criteria for products labelled with these labels have been defined and the environmental impact has been assessed by an impartial body.

In addition, there are a number of unofficial eco-labels developed by various companies, but they are not controlled by authorities, and it is difficult to know the real impact based on the information they provide. 

Source: The Consumers’ Union of Finland

Read more about eco-labels:

Perspectives on e-commerce  

E-commerce refers to the sale of goods or services over the Internet. Clothing accounts for the majority (68%) of online shopping, and young people in particular use online shopping. Online shopping is an easy way to buy things because the buyer does not have to go to a shop. Instead, the purchase happens with the touch of a button at a suitable time and from a convenient place. Thus, the environmental impact of travelling to the shop is eliminated, but on the other hand, the ordered products may be transported by express, air or home transport, which causes environmental load.

Often, convenience can also lead to unnecessary purchases; returns are more common in e-commerce than in brick-and-mortar stores. According to some estimates, 20–30 per cent of e-commerce purchases are returned, which is more than double compared to brick-and-mortar stores. The high number of returns can also be affected by the inability to try on clothes or the fact that returns are free of charge.

The fate of the returned products is often unclear. They are rarely sent as new to the next buyer, which means that the products end up for sale in an outlet store, are left in surplus or are returned to the manufacturer. In the worst case, they end up being destroyed, which the European Commission is now proposing to ban. In addition to the fact that returns make products less valuable or even worthless, they also involve unnecessary transport, which increases the environmental burden.

Sort and recycle
Digitalisation has significant environmental impacts
Learn more about the circular economy of electronics (

The tips on this page have been compiled and adapted from sources such as the Martha Organization.


Finnish Environment Institute (Syke)