Human beings are running out of time to take meaningful action on climate change. Sure, you can switch to more plant-based eating and carry reusable bags to the grocers. However, what you add to your cart matters as much as how you transport those goods home. As a result of the push for sustainability, many companies claim to support eco-friendly measures to lure today’s customers. While you may fall into the majority of shoppers who will pay more for sustainable goods, how do you know the businesses you patronize live up to their claims? Here are some clues.
1. Seek Specific Certifications
You can make informed purchasing decisions by looking for products labeled with specific certifications. For example, when booking your next hotel stay, look for a place possessing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) certification. LEED offers three levels of participation — silver, gold and platinum. Such facilities contain features like automatic light and climate control for vacant rooms and low-flow faucets and showerheads in restrooms.
When it’s time to buy produce, shop for certified organic goods. This benefits the planet and your health. Such crops use no artificial pesticides or fertilizers. They’re also typically transported over shorter distances due to the lack of preservatives.
Seek companies that are members of the Green Business Bureau to reduce your carbon footprint. Like LEED certification, this organization offers various membership levels based upon an organization’s eco-friendliness.
2. Inspect the Packaging
Walk into nearly any food store and you’ll see how wasteful packaging is. Instead of buying raisins in individual cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic, you can dispense only the amount you desire from a bulk container. The bigger the dispenser, the less packaging waste you create. For example, single 5-pound bulk bags can hold up to 4,000 pounds of goods safely.
Just say no to products that use excessive packaging. As a bonus, you’ll spare your fingers those nasty cuts that often accompany opening sealed plastic monstrosities that require a steady hand with a knife.
3. Talk To Other People
Are you looking to hire a new housecleaner for your home or business? Chances are, you seek recommendations to give you greater peace of mind that the person dusting your computer desk won’t walk off with your antique pocket watch. Ask your neighbor about the supplies their recommended provider uses — are they natural or laden with chemicals?
Try to shop locally as often as possible. This not only reduces shipping, which lowers carbon emissions, but also lets you know the reputation of the vendor. You might not know what growers sprayed on radishes at a big-name grocery store — but you can ask the farmer at the local market what fertilizer and pesticides, if any, they use.
4. Do Your Research Online
Before making a major purchase such as a new appliance, research the manufacturers you’re considering online. Read their company mission statement — does it include a mention of environmental stewardship? Review their blog entries. Do they mention specific measures the company has taken to reduce its carbon footprint?
Look at third-party review sites such as Yelp as well. While not all reviewers will mention eco-friendliness specifically, you may gain insight into company practices. Check out former employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor. The majority of workers indicate a business’s environmental policies impact their employment decisions. Think twice about patronizing a vendor who boasts about green practices in their advertising efforts but whose former hires indicate wastefulness.
5. Watch For Misleading Terminology
Many products include labels reading “all-natural.” However, this phrase means nothing. Technically, plastic is all-natural — it comes from petroleum, which itself stems from the decomposed skeletons of past life compressed into liquid form over millions of years.
Build your awareness of greenwashing — the process companies use to bamboozle you with vague or downright fraudulent environmental claims. Remember, if a statement seems too good to be true, it probably is.
To Save The Planet, Be An Informed Consumer
Companies care about one thing above all — where you choose to spend your money. Make good decisions by insisting every business you engage with shares your passion for protecting the planet.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.