Sustainability & climate

An Evergreener's guide to sustainable shopping

It’s time to change the way we shop for the benefit of people and the planet.

Published on April 12, 2024

Stanley Schoolman
Stanley Schoolman

By Laura Iruegas, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Evergreen


I have mixed feelings about shopping.


As someone who has grown up in the age of ‘haul’ videos, ‘microtrends’ and planned obsolescence, I’ve certainly experienced the pressure to keep up with the latest and greatest things.


But in recent years, I’ve become more aware of the devastating consequences of fast fashion and similar industries on both people and our planet.


The constant production and consumption of products results in massive carbon emissions, pollution and unacceptable conditions for factory workers. And with lightning-fast trend cycles, a lot of what we buy ends up in the garbage.


Did you know that a truckload of abandoned textiles is dumped in landfills or incinerated every second around the world? It’s an overwhelming statistic, isn’t it? Our culture of consumption needs to change — and at Evergreen, we’re ready to rise to the challenge.


If you’re looking to embrace the growing movement of sustainable shopping, here are a few tips to help you along the way.


How to shop sustainably: from local markets to the circular economy


Support small, local businesses. Small, local businesses generally have smaller carbon footprints and generate less waste compared to larger corporations. By supporting local businesses, you’re also directly supporting local jobs and the livelihood of people in your community.


The Evergreen Garden Market is a one-stop shop for sustainable goods made by local small-batch creators and artisans, ranging from foraged teas to bath and body products to gardening supplies and so much more. As a social enterprise, the Garden Market directs 100% of its proceeds back to Evergreen, supporting our mission to make cities greener and healthier.


Variety of plants and products on a wooden shelf with a sign that reads 'Welcome to Evergreen Garden Market: quality handmade local goods


Our Garden Market staff would be happy to provide you with sustainable gardening advice, too! The Garden Market has Ontario’s largest selection of native plants, which have adapted to local conditions and require much less watering to thrive.


“By choosing to plant native species, you’re not only beautifying your surroundings, but also providing vital habitats and food sources for local pollinators and birds,” says Michelle Zeppieri, Assistant Manager of the Garden Market. “Every native planting contributes to fostering a more resilient ecosystem in your community.”


Buy food and produce from farmers markets. Did you know that the average distance that food travels in Canada to reach its consumers is 3,000 miles? In contrast, our Saturday Farmers Market features highly local vendors, meaning the food emits fewer transportation-related carbon emissions.


Many of our also vendors practice environmentally-friendly farming methods, like organic and regenerative agriculture, which promote soil health, water conservation, and pollinators.


A man and a woman smile to a customer buying their produce at the farmers market


The Saturday Farmers Market does a lot more than just provide nourishing food. “Farmers markets are gathering places where people can come together to share food, knowledge, a sense of community and connection to the land,” says Chantal Stepa, Farmers Market manager here at Evergreen. “They connect urban dwellers with not only fresh produce, but also with the rural producers. This person-to-person connection builds relationships and trust in the local food system.”


By shopping at the Saturday Farmers Market, you’re boosting the local economy, reducing your carbon footprint and connecting with the people who help keep us put food on the table!


People browse through racks of vintage clothing under the twinkling lights of the pavilions at the Brick Works in spring


Explore sustainable and hand-made goods at vintage and artisan markets. Check out the Ontario Vintage and Artisan Market at the Brick Works and enjoy the hunt! Shop from a wide range of vendors offering unique, local and sustainable products. You’ll find everything from jewelry and skin care, to art, candles and more.


Resist the instant gratification of same-day shipping and take the time to slowly comb through hand-made and pre-loved items. The more time you spend carefully curating your belongings, the less disposable they will feel.


Join a ‘buy nothing’ group near you. In your neighbourhood, there’s likely a ‘buy nothing’ group that encourages you to post any items you’d like to give, take, lend or borrow — no strings attached. The connection with your community is priceless! If you’re looking for other ways to buy and sell used items locally, check out popular apps like Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji and Poshmark.


Volunteers folding donated clothes


Contribute to a circular economy by doing item swaps. Organize a swap with friends or attend our Mini Drop, Swap and Shop: Clothing Edition and our Book Swap events during our Earth Day celebrations on Saturday, April 20. This is the perfect opportunity to sustainably refresh your wardrobe, find new reads and check out all of our fun activities that promote sustainability!


Think critically about your shopping habits. Becoming a more sustainable shopper also takes a great deal of self-awareness and reflection. When buying something, I increasingly find myself asking, do I really need this? Was this item made to last? Resisting overconsumption won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.


The importance of public space in sustainable shopping


Great public places are platforms for local markets, sustainable events like our Earth Day festivities and can even be showcases for green design. By bringing together producers, buyers and community members in one accessible location, public places can play a crucial role in shaping a culture of sustainable shopping.


Let’s challenge the status quo of overconsumption and build a future where our shopping habits create vibrant communities and a healthier planet for generations to come.


Woman stands in front of her products at the outdoor Saturday Farmers Market


Markets and community events bring colour and vibrance to our cities. Donate today to help us support the public places that can make them happen.