But this isn’t necessarily easy to do. Though thousands of green products are being introduced these days, many of them are not really as eco-friendly as they claim. I founded Big Green Purse to make it easier for people to use their clout as consumers to get the green lives they want. Plus, using your consumer influence to favor companies whose goods sustain wildlife, protect the climate, eliminate toxins, keep the air and water clean, and safeguard forests and other natural places creates a powerful incentive for all companies to do likewise. And isn’t that the point? The challenge is in knowing which companies to choose when you shop. Here are the principles I follow to help me identify an eco “hero” from a con artist. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
This should be a “no brainer.” Consumerism – buying what we don’t need, over and over again – drives unnecessary manufacturing that fuels climate change, pollutes the air and water, and destroys the places in nature we love. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
Read the label.
We read food labels to avoid trans fats, sugar, salt and excessive carbohydrates. We can read product labels to avoid greenwashing words like “natural” that aren’t backed up by standards or third-party verification (see below).
Support sustainable standards.
An increasing number of companies are proving they’re green by manufacturing according to sustainable standards that govern the product’s “life cycle,” beginning with the raw materials and ending with its disposal or re-use. The organic standard for example, covers the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals to produce food and fiber (like cotton and flax). The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch ® Program makes unbiased recommendations according to a consumer-friendly ranking system:
- GREEN: a best choice for sustainability
- YELLOW: a good alternative
- RED: fish to be avoided
Wild Planet Foods use the rankings as a guide in selecting its product sources. The vast majority of Wild Planet’s products are rated GREEN and the company does not source any RED listed products.
Look for third-party verification or traceability.
Reliable eco claims are backed up by an independent institution or nonprofit organization that has investigated the manufacturer’s claim so you don’t have to. Alternatively, the company’s products can be traced back to their source so consumers can know where they actually came from. For example, Wild Planet’s products are 100% traceable back to their eco-superior fisheries. All lot codes are recorded into an online data platform and the data is available for third party audit to assure that all Wild Planet products are sourced exactly as stated on the company’s packaging and its website. All purchases made of tuna products are documented by dolphin safe and certificates of origin.
Choose fewer ingredients.
A long list of ingredients often indicates the presence of questionable chemicals that may be harmful to you or the environment. This is especially true for personal care products, food, and cleansers. Shop to protect yourself and the planet and simplify what you buy.
Pick less packaging and skip the plastic.
Regardless of the marketing claims a product makes, you can have an immediate positive impact by buying goods that come wrapped as simply as possible. For starters, buy in bulk, choose concentrates, and pick products in containers you can easily recycle (hint: glass and cans are more easily recycled than plastic). Carting home your packages in your own reusable cloth bags helps reduce plastic and packaging, too.
Supporting local farmers and businesses increases the likelihood that U.S. environmental and health laws and regulations will be followed.
Here’s the Bottom Line.
Consumer dollars are a corporation’s lifeblood. When you shift your spending, it’s like offering a company a bright green incentive to pollute less, use fewer toxic chemicals, help protect our air, water, wildlife, and fight climate change. By sticking to the principles above, you can live the green life you want, make your money matter, and maybe even change the world.