All of us produce some footprint on the world; it’s impossible to exist without impacting the environment and economy in some way. In our modern world, many of us buy and dispose of an incredible amount of plastic and other non-degradable materials every year. As awareness of the fragility of our natural world has spread, a number of conscious brands have sprung up to try to help reduce or eliminate the negative aspects of our material needs. Whether it’s fair-trade coffee, made-in-Australia clothing or a toothbrush made from recycled plastic, there are plenty of ways to “vote” for more sustainable products with your wallet. Taking your money away from large, irresponsible companies is also a great way to send a message that you won’t participate in wholesale exploitation of resources and people.
When you first start researching smarter choices for your clothing, food and household products, you’ll find that many of the issues conscious brands are addressing are interwoven. For example, transitioning to organic skin products not only lessens your exposure to artificial and potentially toxic ingredients, but it also supports responsible farming and helps make your wastewater less harmful for the aquatic creatures living downstream.
A word of warning, however! As you begin to change to support environmentally- and socially-conscious organisations, it’s important to beware of “greenwashing.” Unfortunately, some large corporations have caught onto the ‘sustainable’ trend and may present a product as being healthier or more environmentally-friendly than it actually is. For example, the word “natural” is very vague and there is no existing legal definition. A “natural” dish soap without dye or perfume could still contain harmful ingredients like phosphates. Always read labels carefully and look for 3rd-party certification seals for organic, fair trade or vegan products.
If you feel overwhelmed by the number of options out there or can’t always afford to buy the most eco-friendly version, start small! Pick an issue that matters most to you and start there. Even changing a few buying habits can support organisations that are working to create big changes. One easy way to prioritise your money is to shop locally-produced products and brands whenever possible; this simple rule will bring a whole set of benefits. For example, going to your local farmers market instead of the chain grocery store not only gets you the freshest (and lowest-carbon) produce, but you’re supporting the local economy with small businesses who actually care about long-term issues like stewardship of the land.
To accommodate the sometimes higher prices of organic or responsibly-produced brands, there are other ways to live a more environmentally-friendly life while saving money. For example, adapting a “zero waste” approach to food and packaging is another way to help the earth while saving you money in the meantime. The important thing is to do what you can, when you can and take heart in making even small changes. The more you can do to support conscious brands, the greater the healing impact for our world will be.