How To Identify Sustainable Products?

How To Identify Sustainable Products?

In a world filled with product labels like “eco-friendly,” “green,” and “natural”, it’s a challenge to identify which one is truly sustainable. At the same time, not all claims are genuine, and this practice is known as “greenwashing”.

So, what exactly is a genuinely sustainable product?  

Let’s start with the big truth – there’s no such thing as a completely or fully sustainable product. With the exception of some food items, the idea of 100% sustainability only becomes a reality when no purchasing occurs. 

Really, then what about the growing advocacy for adopting sustainable products? 

Well, there are products out there that utilize raw materials or utilities like electricity with a significantly lower environmental footprint compared to their counterparts. This reduces their overall negative impact. So advocacy is towards adopting the products that leave a smaller environmental footprint. 

Does that mean that we should choose only plant-based products as they are said to be most sustainable?  

The answer is both yes and no, depending on the nature of the item. The bottom line here is durability over the usage period. 

  • Take for example metal cutlery. It involves non-renewable resources, but it can last for decades, making it more sustainable than its plant-based counterpart.
  • On the other hand, toothbrushes need to be changed every three months, as recommended by dental associations, making plant-based, like bamboo toothbrushes, a sustainable choice. 

So, how should you decide what to buy? 

The most sustainable option is often what you already have. However, when new purchases are necessary, look for the following four pointers:

1. Ingredients: Pay close attention to what goes into the product you are buying.  The best choices are those made from recycled or reused materials. This ensures that waste has been transformed into a resource through recycling or reusing. Pro tip: Look for the percentage of recycled or reused materials in the product; higher percentages are more sustainable. Additionally, consider whether the item uses raw materials that deplete natural or nonrenewable resources. Wooden products, for instance, are better than their plastic counterparts when it comes to post-disposal effects, but if they involve excessive tree-cutting, it’s time to reconsider. Pro tip: Ask about the sourcing of the material- whether it is recycled reclaimed wood or new wood.  Be cautious of branded clothing that doesn’t clearly mention the fabric mix; it’s a sign that it might not be sustainable.

2. Location: Opt for items that are locally produced or sourced compared to those that travel long distances. Locally sourced products are often fresher, making them tastier and healthier for food items. For non-food items, this reduces transportation-related emissions.

3. Product Life: Products that can be reused or built to last a long time have a lower environmental impact. Bonus points if they can be composted or recycled when they’re no longer useful. Avoid products that wear out quickly and need frequent replacement. Pro tip: Embrace slow fashion with cotton, bamboo, or other natural fabrics or blends, as opposed to entirely man-made fibers.

4. Packaging reusability:  Getting a product that is eco-positive but wrapped all in plastic packaging doesn’t make sense if it’s a product like a bamboo brush. But at the same time, this may be needed for a glass container. Look for packaging that creates less waste and safeguards your main product.

Want to dig even deeper?

Consider the energy source used by the company producing the product, especially in the case of larger sustainable claims. One other interesting aspect is understanding how the product can be disposed of – whether it’s recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, and so on. However, don’t get bogged down by these terms; their practicality and impact are still being realized.  

So what’s the final word?

Our favorite is point number one – “The Ingredient”. Focus on what’s in the product you’re buying. The most critical step you can take is to ensure that the ingredients are sourced and used in an efficient way with a long-term focus. This not only conserves resources but also reduces what would otherwise become waste – and it’s something within your control.

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