Every time you go out shopping, how much thought goes into your tasks? Do you write a list of the products you need, or are you more of a window shopper who finds everything by wandering aimlessly around a store? Everyone has a different technique for taking care of their shopping, but when it comes to shopping sustainably, plenty of people aren’t sure where to even begin.
It’s not that people aren’t concerned about the environment or that nobody wants to buy sustainable products; people care about sustainability more than ever before! Instead, the problem is that finding genuine, 100% sustainable products is way more complicated than it needs to be! There are eco-friendly companies and products that exist, but thanks to the ever-turning wheel of our economy, and a marketing technique called greenwashing, finding these specific brands and products takes some serious legwork.
Luckily for you (and all of your friends after you fill them in), we have some great methods that can separate truly sustainable products from fake ones. Of course, this will still take a little bit of effort on your part, so don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the easy track to sustainability! That being said, by the end of this article, you should have a much better idea of how to approach eco-conscious shopping, and what makes earth-friendly products genuine in the first place.
The Two-Part System
When shopping sustainably, it can help to utilize a “two-part” system to maximize your efforts. The first part, or step in the process, is planning and research. This entails several factors (which we’ll get to in a second), but the more effort you put into the planning stage, the less effort you’ll have to exert when you’re actually out shopping.
If you feel confident about the research and planning you’ve done, you can move on to the actual shopping! We have a few extra tips for this part of the system, but as we said, most of the work happens in the research stage. It might sound like a lot of work just to go shopping, but if it can reduce our environmental impact, then we think it’s 100% worth the time.
What To Look For (Research)
This is often the stage that most people get stuck on because everything that goes into making a product sustainable can seem overwhelming at first! However, with a little bit of practice and repetition, this shopping stage will get faster and faster. With that in mind, there are a few things to look for in environmentally friendly products.
Arguably, large companies and corporations are the biggest obstacles to solving our climate emergency. In the pursuit of profit without regard for the consequences, corporations are the most significant contributors to carbon emissions and climate change in general. We could discuss that topic all day long, but in regards to shopping sustainably, starting with the company is a great way to learn about their products quickly.
So, what makes a company sustainable?
By now, companies know that sustainability is a big factor in the market, so most of them will be advertising their “sustainability” as well as they can. This means that even if a company has green-seeming claims, it may just be greenwashing or falsely advertising something as eco-friendly. Because of that, finding a company that is open and transparent about its sustainability efforts is a great place to start.
Companies that are genuinely making efforts to be environmentally friendly will have the data and evidence to back it up. For example, if you see a claim like “made from recycled content” but can’t find information on what the content is or what percentage of the product is recycled, then that company may be greenwashing.
As a general rule of thumb, we’d recommend searching for:
- Third-Party Certifications - These certifications are independently investigated and assigned, meaning that a company can only use these certifications on their product if it’s the real deal. However, there are tons of different certifications available, so if you’re looking for a particular product, check their certifications to see if they’re legit.
- Methods, Packaging, and Marketing - If you’ve determined that a product is legitimately certified as sustainable, you’re definitely on the right track, but you’re not done yet! Next, it’s a great idea to look up the product’s website or blog to see what else you can learn about the company and its practices. Even if a product itself is deemed organic, sustainable, or eco-friendly, the business can still participate in some pretty environmentally questionable actions.
Examples might include; a lack of sustainable packaging, significant carbon emissions, or even the release of harmful chemicals as a manufacturing byproduct!
- Check “The Other” Environment - Finally, when you’re researching a company, do a little digging into how they treat their employees, clients, or anyone else they might interact with. If you search for a company and the first article that pops up is titled “Company is under investigation for…” or “workers at company are on strike…” then that will tell you all you need to know about the company. Not only should these companies be avoided, but you should check to see if there are active boycotts of their products!
Though most conservation efforts focus on protecting the physical environment, fair wages and the ethical treatment of laborers should also be a consideration before you purchase!
Putting It Into Action
As we mentioned before, this part of the shopping will be a breeze after all your research! Hopefully, you’ll have put together a list of products and companies that you feel comfortable with and are ready to go do some shopping. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you go:
- Avoid Plastic Bags - By now, this is probably commonplace for most people, but it’s always good to remember that you should avoid plastic bags! As one of the worst examples of single-use plastics, plastic bags should be avoided at all costs. Instead, bring your reusable bags!
- Think Critically - If you’re out to do your shopping, and you find yourself thinking, “Do I really need this?” then you might just want to cross that product off your list. Shopping sustainably isn’t just about buying green alternative products; it’s also about reducing waste and promoting environmental protection! If you don’t need to make a purchase, then choosing not to buy the product also contributes slightly to conservation efforts.
- Go Easy On Yourself - Sustainability can be hard to adjust to, and there are very few (if any) people who exist without some sort of carbon footprint. Basically, nobody is perfect! Try to make the best choices you can, and check in with yourself if you’re concerned about your environmental footprint, but don’t lose sleep over buying a less than 100% sustainable product.
Remember, the true culprit behind the majority of climate change is large corporations and governments! We should all make personal changes to help out, but corporations want you to feel guilty so that they don’t have to take accountability.
Changing the Supply Chain
Here at Manifest Commerce, we’re trying to do our part by tackling the problem of eCommerce emissions! We work with companies to make supply chains, warehouses, packaging, and delivery systems eco-friendly, all so our world can breathe a little bit easier. Check out our efforts on our blog, or reach out today to see how you and your company can get started with Manifest Commerce!