When trying to make lifestyle choices to live more sustainably, purchasing decisions can be near the top of the list in terms of overall impact. Choosing to support products that are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner can serve as a springboard to make these products more economically competitive to the general populace.
It is not always possible, but purchasing local products is typically a socially and environmentally responsible choice. In order to help local economies prosper, individuals must choose to purchase products manufactured locally instead of supporting large national or multinational corporations. This keeps the flow of money localized, which is in turn reinvested into the economic vitality of the local area. One of the largest environmental impacts of our purchasing decisions actually involves the transportation of the products to the area where it is going to be purchased. The carbon footprint of the U.S. transportation sector alone is contributing significantly to the global climate change, and this impact could be reduced dramatically if individuals chose to purchase locally.
When considering purchasing decisions related to food, it is of the utmost importance to support local food economies for reasons outlined above, but it is also intelligent to know the process by which the product that you are consuming was produced. When purchasing fruits and vegetables, products that were grown with lower chemical use and didn’t compromise soil integrity through activities such as monoculture should be considered.
If a consumer is in need of purchasing wood products, it is very important to be very conscious and thorough in their research. There is one primary sustainable forestry certification in the U.S. that helps consumers make responsible purchasing decisions when it is related to timber. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is interested in timber sales that promote the three pillars of sustainability: environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic vitality. More information about the certification requirements can be found at their website. 
Consumers should also consider alternatives to plastics (taking special care to avoid single-use plastics) if they wish to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, consumption of plastics has become ubiquitous in our society due to their convenience and cheapness. However, plastics are not biodegradable, and a very small percentage of them are actually recycled. Thus, plastics end up in landfills and much of it finds its way into our oceans, threatening marine (and subsequently terrestrial) life. Furthermore, plastics are made from toxic chemicals, including BPA, a developmental and reproductive toxicant.
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- Bring reusable plastic bags to the grocery store.
- Rather than purchasing bottled water, use a water filtration system. For travel carry a reusable stainless steel canteen.
- Use glass or pyrex food containers rather than plastic. To avoid leaching of BPA and chemicals, never microwave food in plastic containers.
- Avoid processed and frozen convenience foods that are packaged in plastics.
- Buy in bulk when possible to minimize plastic packaging waste.
- Reuse or recycle plastics whenever possible.[/expand]
1. Forest Stewardship Council, Forest Stewardship Council-United States