Tips for shopping ethically & sustainably in a greenwashed world
It can be entirely frustrating to find out a product you thought was environmentally friendly or ethically made is in fact not. The truth is that many brands' marketing missions are to convince you their product is the greenest and/or most ethical option out there. They will make bold claims that most of us don’t have time or the knowledge to substantiate. So how do we shop mindfully when so many brands are positioning their products as green or ethical?
- Look for specifics on how, where, and by whom items were manufactured and with what materials. Greenwashing brands typically make bold claims with little tangible information to back up those claims. If there is a lack of information readily available, reach out to the brand for details. If their reply reads like a website boilerplate, that’s possibly a red flag. Most brands who are working hard to bring you ethical and sustainable products are more than happy to share specific details!
- Look for brands prioritizing both environmental sustainability AND ethical manufacturing. These two go hand in hand. We cannot have a sustainable product that is made by persons living below a living wage in unsafe conditions. Similarly, a product cannot be considered ethical if the environmental impacts of its manufacturing and use are not considered. We need both.
- Look for brands who are accountable for both their successes and their failures. Ethical manufacturing is a journey, not a destination. This mindset is key to continue to push forward into new and innovative ways of reducing our impacts and making the world a better place. Most brands (especially small ones) will have projects or processes that they would like to improve over time or with additional resources. The brands who are sticking to their 3-5 marketing talking points may not be thinking critically enough about their operations.
- Consider the cost of the item. Does the cost seem too good to be true for the claims being made? Typically environmentally friendly and ethical products cost a bit more because of the increased cost of ethically sourced materials, paying staff a living wage and utilizing eco-friendly materials and processes in production. Bonus points if a brand provides details on how they price their products and what goes into pricing.
- Finally, consider the cost per use of the item you’re considering. A great part of sustainability is consuming less, not just consuming eco-friendly products. Quality should be woven into sustainable and ethical products so they will last longer and you will ultimately get more use from them and have to replace them less often.
Ultimately we believe that product transparency is the future of consumer goods. The more we know, the better we can do for each other and the planet. Choose the world you wish to live in, one product at a time.