Considerations for conscious consumers - 11 things to bear in mind when shopping
There are many things to consider when shopping with the environment in mind, from how the product is made to how it is shipped, and whether or not you really need it in the first place...
⬤ Consider needs over wants: Is it just an impulse purchase or something of real value to your life? How many of us own too much stuff that we don't actually need or value?
⬤ If you decide that you or your family need the product then choose carefully and slowly.
⬤ On big ticket items such as transport, white goods, homes, etc, consider carefully the cost of ownership over the whole life of the product. That is: how much for purchase, running costs, service, maintenance costs and end-of-life value/refurbishment vs disposal costs, and also the cost to the environment.
⬤ Do you need to own it or would you be better leasing, renting or sharing it?
⬤ Think about the provenance of the product (that is, where it was made, who made it, how it was shipped to you, what it is made from and where it will go after you are finished using it).
⬤ In design terms we talk about designing for the circular economy. This means keeping materials in closed loop cycles so we get maximum value from high-tech materials.
Renewable materials are great as long as we don't mix them with the valuable, technical ones, and that we grow at least as much as we use while minimising the impact on the planet's biodiversity.
⬤ The 'use' phase of most products and services often has the highest impact on the natural environment, but also on the built environment and on human and animal health. Think about emissions (not only CO2), off-gassing, use of dangerous consumables and where the power/heat is coming from.
⬤ Build up a knowledge of trusted brands and their sustainability credentials. No brand is perfect, but some are more transparent and trustworthy than others.
⬤ Beware of greenwashing - ie, brands that sell products and services based on limited or single feature sustainability credentials. The more environmentally/socially conscious brands tend to have a long history of effort and transparency when marketing their products and services. Ask and be curious if you aren't sure.
⬤ There are no 'good' and 'bad' products and services, just ones that impact more and ones that impact less on biodiversity, human health and the climate, so choose consciously.
⬤ There are no easy choices, but we have never had more choice. All 'greener' products and service use should facilitate conscious effort to change, limit consumption patterns and put the natural environment and society above individual gratification. It's not about feeling bad about living, many enjoy living a more examined simpler, slower life.