Posted on February 26, 2015 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
As greater awareness surrounds greener living, it becomes easier for the average consumer to participate in the movement and make small—but important—changes in the way she shops.
Below are a few widely applicable tips to help guide your eco-focused shopping.
What to look for:
Earth-friendly brands large and small make a point of keeping their customers in the loop. By visiting a company’s webpage, you’re likely to find information about their materials, ingredients, and production methods by clicking on their “about” or “mission” pages.
For example, Feral Childe, an eco clothing designer provides a helpful “our story” page that details the kinds of fabrics they use as well as their production methods. Likewise, S.W. Basics, a green beauty line, shares information about its sustainably-sourced ingredients on its about page.
Companies that are eager to share these details and answer your questions are a good place to start.
A caution about “green-washing:” Green- or eco-washing is a clever marketing trick used to disguise not-so-conscious products as natural, earth-friendly, healthy, and/or sustainable.
To avoid being duped, be sure to always read ingredients lists on foods and beauty products. If there are only a few natural or sustainable ingredients—and they appear at the very bottom of the ingredients lists on a package that claims to be green—there’s a good chance that the item has been green-washed.
Once you’re in the habit of shopping more consciously, it gets easier, and you’ll learn how to rely on your intuition.
Environmental and Social Benefits Certifications:
ECOLOGO: Applies to cleaning products, toys, cell phones, tissue and copy paper, and paint. The ECOLOGO certifies that a product has met environmental leadership standards through a third-party audit.
Energy Star: Identifies the most energy-efficient appliances per the federal government’s regulations. Energy Star appliances must undergo third-party testing.
EPEAT: Applies to computers, printers, monitors, and televisions that meet consensus-based environmental standards. Some EPEAT-labeled products may also be independently certified by organizations like the UL Environment.
Fair Trade: Refers to trade practices that support worker communities in developing countries by ensuring that workers are treated and paid fairly. Fair Trade also seeks to promote self-sufficient local economies and sustainable environmental practices.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): Identifies forest products (lumber, furniture, and paper) harvested in a more sustainable manner according to FSC standards.
GREENGAURD: Applies to baby cribs, mattresses, carpets, paints, electronics, and cleaning products. GREENGARUD products go through independent lab tests, and meet strict indoor air quality requirements to minimize air pollution.
USDA Organic: A USDA certified organic product contains at least 95% organic agricultural ingredients and was produced in a certified organic manufacturing facility.
Principles to Keep in Mind:
Buy local. When possible, purchase products made locally. This avoids the environmental (and fiscal) cost of shipping finished goods. Local vendors may also source some (or all) of their raw materials locally.
Buy seasonal. Depending on where you live, it may be nearly impossible to purchase only seasonal and local food, but try to do the best you can. Make a date with yourself to visit the farmers market, and challenge yourself to create a delicious meal with seasonal produce—why not make sustainable shopping fun?
Buying seasonally doesn’t only apply to what you eat. Flowers, too, can be locally sourced. The good news is that local flowers may be less expensive, and, depending on the species of flower, may last longer in a vase or bouquet.
Buy organic to the extent that your budget allows. Not only are organic food and skincare ingredients likely to be healthier, their production is gentler on the environment. If you have a tight budget, prioritize buying organic versions of foods listed under the “dirty dozen.” These foods tend to contain the highest amounts of pesticides.
Finally, keep the big picture in mind. It can take months—even years—to dramatically change one’s shopping patterns. (I still have a ways to go!) If necessary, start small. Gradual change may feel ineffective, but it’s often the best way to create change that lasts.
Learn more about our sustainable jewelry and ethical practices here.
Photos: trombone65 via Flickr, HGTV, Miaomiao Wang via Flickr, Wendell via Flickr