What to Watch For as You Become an Informed Consumer

By Amanda Williams

Today is the age of polls, questionnaires, and online reputations. People of this age, especially those in the group classes as Millennials, consistently say that they have an interest in investing in sustainable products. However, this isn’t shown by their pocketbooks. In fact, the Harvard Business Review states that 65% said they want to buy from brands that advocate for sustainability, with only 26% of them following through with their claim.

The issue is not that they don’t want to; it is that they are not interested in taking the time and putting in the effort to find these genuinely green-minded companies. Change doesn’t happen by only a shift in perspective in a shift towards self-sufficiency and sustainability, but rather in a change of actions.

Here are some things to watch out for as you strive to become an informed consumer whose buying options end up being in line with their desires to support sustainability.

Examine Certifications

Don’t allow yourself to see a specific certification and take that to mean that it has been sourced sustainably or ethically. Research it to discover more about its history and the requirements a business has to go through to secure the certification.

For example, although many people take organic certifications as gold, farmers are starting to opt for others that actually stick to being chemical-free. The legislation concerning organic labels has changed over the years, and it no longer means entirely chemical-free.

Labels are not only just meant to deceive, but also to direct. Find certifications, such as the Rainforest Alliance, to help guide your shopping instead of needing to look into every product individually.

Consider the Make

Every purchase you make is one that helps to fund the business or businesses that played a part in the creation of the product. Where your money goes and what kinds of practices you are giving it to should be considered carefully.

Nowadays, this is harder since the gap between the producer and consumer has grown so much more significant. The product passes through dozens of hands, so to speak before it reaches your own. Look into how they go about making and producing their products, especially for more expensive purchases.

An example of this involves shopping for clothes. When you go out, check out the labels on each of the items. Each type of fabric is produced differently. Synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester, involve an energy-intensive production process that requires petroleum, coal, air, and water. Cotton and other natural fabrics facilitate sustainable production means and open up many good jobs for people worldwide.

Ask Yourself, “Can It Be Recycled?”

Although this question is not always applicable, it can be asked of almost everything. If you don’t know how to recycle it yet, look it up and see if there is a means. Many things, such as bottles, boxes, and other canisters, are commonly recycled. There are options, though, for just about everything down to printer ink canisters.

The Product is Partially the Packaging

Looking into the product, at its origination and production, isn’t the only piece of the puzzle since each product comes with its packaging. Don’t forget about the waste that throwing away unnecessary wrapping and plastic can create.

Think about this: since the Industrial Revolution, many things have changed in our society to become less self-sufficient. Part of this has been moving from bars of soap and hair products to liquid form bottled in plastic.

Every year, more than 552 million shampoo bottles end up in landfills since most people don’t even consider recycling them. Instead, opt for bars of a quality product. These can be wrapped in paper packaging and easily recycled instead of contributing to plastic waste dangerous to the planet.

Pay Attention to the Process

Supporting ethical brands might not seem like an essential step in becoming self-sufficient. However, these choices don’t only impact you and reduce your carbon footprint, but also affect other people.

Around the world, people work for pennies each day for companies that don’t value creating livelihoods. They need your help to be self-sufficient as well. Look into where companies source their materials from and how they treat and pay the artisans that produce it.

Buy Less Stuff

Finally, one of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste accumulation and become more self-sufficient is to buy less stuff. Obviously, this is high among the goals when moving towards this lifestyle. It might seem unachievable, or perhaps even undesirable, to altogether quit as a consumer. However, take bite-sized chunks and figure out some of the materials that you can go without ten of each. Think about the hobbies you are interested in and those your family members have an interest in to involve everyone in the movement. Each product that you can provide for you and your family is one more that is taken out of the consumer cycle we have gotten ourselves stuck in.

Choosing to move towards a self-sufficient lifestyle involves many different aspects you might not have considered before, but that is where we come in. You don’t have to think about everything at once, and it is good to remember that even the smallest steps matter.

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