In the last few years, we’ve all become conscious of the impact that our consumerism has on the environment and our health.
Research shows that consumer habits contribute towards more than 60% of all global emissions. Today, more people can buy imported food, purchase more fast fashion, and frequently replace their tech with newer, trendy models.
Consumerism on this scale can’t continue. Luckily, many of us are starting to make meaningful changes to the way we live to combat climate change, reduce our carbon footprints, and improve our health.
However, savvy marketers and business owners have been jumping on this trend, which makes it hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Here are a few ways you can ensure to keep you safe, healthy, and eco-friendly while shopping.
Before starting your journey towards a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle, you need to set yourself goals that will give you a target to aim for.
For example, if you feel as though your fashion waste is running out of control, you can set a goal to throw away less than 5 items of clothing per year. Or, if you’re trying to get your diet in check, you can start reading labels and aim to create healthier grocery lists to get yourself back on track.
These goals will set your targets and will motivate you when you feel close to falling off the wagon, giving you a rewarding indication of the changes you’ve made.
Small things like the kind of dental products you use in a family can have a major impact on the environment. Imagine that you are a family of four and opt for zero waste dental care products. You will be reducing so much environmental waste every single year. If you are able to encourage friends and family members in your circle, you will be contributing a lot towards reversing the impact of Global Warming and Climate Change.
Learning to Read Labels
We all know that we should read labels before we make a purchase. But, very few of us take the time to see what, exactly, is in that tub of mayonnaise or where our new cardigan was manufactured.
Reading the labels is particularly important because marketers who design branding and external labels are savvy. They will find ways to foreground “healthy” or “eco-friendly” facts like a product being “vegan” or “gluten-free” and are adept at hiding the more unsightly reality of their product.
However, there’s one place where marketers can’t hide: the fine print.
Before you buy your next jar of “natural” honey or a new “homespun” sweatshirt, take the time to read the information that companies are legally obliged to provide in the fine print. You might discover that the “sustainable” and “healthy” brands you are following are greenwashing or inflating their claims.
Learning to read labels also helps you stay safe. Regulations require that companies clearly label hazardous products like pesticides, paints, polishes, glues, and cosmetics. As a consumer, you need to watch out for these hazardous products and should take care to look for “extended content labels” which may fold-out or be embedded within a product.
Greenwashing is a disturbing trend that has emerged as a result of our desire to lead eco-friendly lives. Greenwashing occurs when dishonest marketers use their labels, packaging, or branding to market a product or service as “green” when, in reality, it isn’t.
You can avoid greenwashing by researching a business further and reading the small print when businesses make environmental claims. You should also be extremely wary of any branding that leans heavily on nature imagery but doesn’t include any clear evidence of combating climate change.
Research Eco-Friendly Brands
Knowing that greenwashing exists is one thing — avoiding it is another. You can start by researching online and should look for brands that put their commitment to sustainability upfront in their web presence.
When looking to find eco-friendly fashion brands, you should seek key bits of info like shipping practices and the materials used in production. For example, brands like Reformation use deadstock fabrics and repurposed vintage materials to create their clothing. Likewise, Everlane is committed to “radical transparency,” which gives consumers all the info they need to know about materials, CO2 use, and shipping.
Once you find a few truly eco-friendly brands, it becomes easier to spot the fakes. Companies that are authentically committed to fighting climate change will almost always back up their claims with meaningful statistics. Whereas deceptive brands will hide plenty of information in the small print. The eco-friendly brands may charge a little more for their goods, but they will likely last longer.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of our global emissions — that equates to 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.
Unfortunately, fast fashion campaigns are extremely tempting, as no one wants to look outdated, and buying new clothes is simply fun.
However, instead of heading down to the mall at the start of every season, you should first try to sew, stitch, or swap your clothes.
By taking a hands-on approach to your wardrobe, you’ll cut down on the amount of waste your clothing creates and will likely find a lot of joy in stylizing your wardrobe or reinvigorating those clothes that haven’t seen the light of day for months.
You should take the same approach to tech and household goods in your home. Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream, as more of us can purchase phones, tablets, white goods, and wearable tech. When these goods outlive their usefulness, they often end up in landfills — in 2019 alone, we produced 53.9 million tonnes of e-waste.
Combatting e-waste is tricky — you can’t exactly fix your iPhone with a screwdriver and some nails. But, you should consider enrolling in warranty schemes that will repair your goods if they are damaged and should try to find e-waste recycling programs near you.
Keeping yourself safe, healthy, and eco-friendly while shopping is all about putting in the time to research brands and products. A quick google search will usually expose a brand that has been found guilty of greenwashing labels, and carefully reading labels may help you spot hazardous products before they make it onto your next shopping list.