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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti
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Consumer choices and tips

This page contains information on tips to buy more sustainably when you are shopping.

Manufacturers and retailers have great interest in:

  • How much you are consciously aware of making your shopping choices
  • Why you select what you buy from the choices available
  • Where you go to shop
  • If you know what sub-consciously informs your shopping 'habits'.

They invest huge sums in marketing research and advertising, trying to influence our 'consumer choices'.

When you next see television or print advertising, notice when firms are:

  • Building demand for a product - advertisements promoting large four-wheel drive vehicles to wealthier city residents who may yearn for the outdoors but are actually too busy earning in the city to experience much time in the countryside and rarely go 'off-road'
  • Establishing an identifiable brand name - a particular shoe and clothing brand seeks close association with winning sports people
  • Repetitively promoting a named retailer - for its 'bargains' or convenient location and large range of goods so you are persuaded to start your shopping trip there rather than with its competitor
  • Directing your attention at the point of sale - special offers, key facts, bold colour displays ('today's special', 'one careful owner').

Shopping tips

Follow these tips to buy more sustainably when you are shopping.


  • Durable items that will not need to be replaced for a long time. Avoid products designed to be instantly disposable.
  • Items that will not be abandoned by you after little use, because they are "out of fashion".
  • Items produced locally and in New Zealand to minimise freight fuel use.
  • Items made from recycled materials, which "closes the loop" of recycling.
  • Products and services from businesses that publicly demonstrate a concern for the environment as it helps them prosper and offer new lines.

And for larger items

  • Vehicles - balance out the car's fuel efficiency against safety and potential maintenance/replacement issues.
  • Household appliances - consider energy efficiency ratings (stars), water efficiency and whether it is repairable in New Zealand. (Include image of mark)
  • Furniture timber - was it sustainably produced? look for Forestry Stewardship Council mark. (Include image of mark)
  • Carpets and other floor coverings - adhesives and backing release chemicals.
  • Paints - may contain volatile solvents. Look for water-based or low solvent brands.

Check out packaging

  • You can refuse a plastic bag - bring your own strong washable bag.
  • Select items that can be bought loose rather than individually wrapped items or fresh products presented on unrecyclable film covered polystyrene trays.
  • Favour items in recyclable packaging - glass jars, cans, cardboard, plastics #1 & 2.
  • Avoid too much takeaway food as its packaging is often excessive and once grease-soiled, is no longer recyclable.
  • Buy bulk refills of household cleaners or make you own.

Reduce your exposure to pesticide exposure

  • Grow your own.
  • Buy certified organic produce.
  • Identify genetically modified crops as modification may be for herbicide tolerance.
  • Eat New Zealand fresh produce in season. Fresh food imports are treated with herbicides and fungicides to keep their fresh appearance and to meet New Zealand's bio-security regulations.
  • Replace some red meat with vegetarian options.
  • Note what food labels tell you about preservatives, additives and colourings.

Check environmental claims

A small percentage of products available in New Zealand carry an "Environmental Choice" label to show that they make a reputable New Zealand or Australian environmental claim.

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