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A Guide on How to Be a Conscious Consumer in a Sea of Greenwashing

Have you ever wondered how your spending choices impact the earth? 

As Anna Lappe so brilliantly said, “Every time we make a purchase, we are casting a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.” 

By supporting sustainable and ethical companies, we can encourage more responsible practices that benefit both people and the planet.

On the other hand, when we support companies with poor track records on issues like human rights, environmental stewardship, and animal welfare, we’re playing a role in supporting those practices.

As consumers, we have much more power than we realise, but with the rise of the sustainability movement, unfortunately, greenwashing has become more prevalent than ever before.

It can be tough to navigate through all the buzzwords and deceptive marketing tactics! Knowing which certifications, terms and logos to look out for makes shopping green much easier, which is why we’ve put together this list of ‘eco-friendly green flags’ to help you find brands you can trust that have a positive impact on the planet and people.

What is Greenwashing?

Before we dive into a few ways to spot an ethical, environmentally friendly brand, it’s important to know what to avoid! 

Greenwashing describes the deceptive marketing practice of companies that present themselves as environmentally friendly when in reality, their actions are detrimental to the environment.

While many companies have made genuine efforts to reduce their environmental impact, others use greenwashing to attract conscious consumers without actually committing to sustainability.

How To Find Ethical, Environmentally Friendly Brands

Rather than focus too much on the companies doing things the wrong way, let’s explore a few sustainable green flags, to highlight all the things to look out for to support brands doing good things for our planet and people!

Transparency

Look for brands that are transparent about their practices and values. These types of brands openly communicate their sustainability initiatives, including their sourcing methods, manufacturing processes, and environmental impact.

Transparent brands are more likely to provide detailed information on their website or packaging. These types of brands will also answer any questions you have about their process and practices without any hesitation.

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Certifications

Pay attention to recognised certifications, such as Fair Trade, B Corp, or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. These certifications indicate that the brand has met specific environmental and social responsibility standards.

Be wary of certifications that are irrelevant and seem too good to be true, as those are often a sign of greenwashing. 

Here are a few good certifications to keep an eye out for:

Organic: When a product is labelled as organic, it means that it has been produced without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic farming practices prioritise environmental sustainability, biodiversity, and animal welfare, making it a conscious choice for those concerned about the impact of agriculture on the planet.

Carbon Neutral: Carbon neutrality refers to the process of balancing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted with an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. 

Products that are carbon neutral have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint and offset the remaining emissions through initiatives like investing in renewable energy projects or reforestation efforts. Choosing carbon-neutral products is a great way to help combat climate change and promote sustainability.

B-Corp: B-Corp certification is awarded to companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. 

These companies are committed to using business as a force for good, considering the impact of their decisions on their employees, communities, and the environment. Supporting B-Corp-certified brands ensures that your purchases contribute to positive social and environmental change.

Fairtrade: Fairtrade certification ensures that products are sourced from producers who are paid fair prices for their work and operate under safe and humane working conditions. 

By purchasing Fairtrade products, you are supporting equitable trade relationships, empowering farmers and workers in developing countries, and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

Palm Oil Free: Palm oil production is associated with deforestation, habitat destruction, and the loss of biodiversity.

Choosing products labelled as palm oil free indicates a commitment to avoiding this controversial ingredient and supporting alternatives that have a lesser impact on the environment. 

Opting for palm oil-free products plays a vital role in protecting endangered species, such as orangutans, and their habitats.

Cruelty-Free: Cruelty-free certification demonstrates that the product has not been tested on animals during its development or production. 

By selecting cruelty-free products, you actively support the movement against animal testing and promote ethical and compassionate practices within the cosmetics and personal care industry.

These certification terms serve as valuable guides for conscious consumers, allowing you to make informed choices that align with their values and contribute to a more sustainable and ethical world.

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Sustainable Materials

When it comes to ethical brands, one of the key aspects they focus on is the use of sustainable materials. These materials not only reduce the demand for non-renewable resources, but also minimise the environmental impact associated with production and disposal. 

So, what should you look for when shopping for ethical products? 

Keep an eye out for labels such as organic cotton, which ensures that the cotton used in the product is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or genetically modified seeds, promoting soil health and biodiversity.

Recycled materials are another important indicator of sustainability, as they divert waste from landfills and reduce the need for raw material extraction. 

Additionally, responsibly sourced wood, certified by organisations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), guarantees that the wood used in the product comes from well-managed forests where biodiversity, local communities, and workers’ rights are respected.

Sustainably sourced bamboo, cork, and hemp are also great materials to keep an eye out for! 

By choosing products made with these sustainable materials, you can make a positive impact and support brands that prioritise both environmental conservation and social responsibility.

Supply Chain Ethics

Ethical brands often focus on fair labour practices and have transparent supply chains. They may conduct regular audits of their suppliers to ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and the absence of child labour. 

Look for brands that are members of organisations like the Fair Wear Foundation or adhere to the Ethical Trading Initiative.

Low Carbon Footprint

Environmentally friendly brands aim to reduce their carbon footprint by implementing energy-efficient practices, using renewable energy sources, or offsetting their emissions. 

They may disclose their carbon footprint reduction goals or initiatives, or indicate the steps they’ve taken to be carbon neutral, demonstrating their commitment to combat climate change. 

Supporting brands that are transparent about their carbon emissions and reduction policies is an excellent way to help mitigate the climate crisis.

Packaging and Waste Reduction

One of the key focuses of sustainable brands is minimising packaging waste and embracing eco-friendly alternatives. 

Packaging plays a crucial role in the sustainability of a product, as excessive or non-recyclable packaging can contribute significantly to environmental pollution. 

When shopping for sustainable products, it’s essential to look for brands that prioritise packaging solutions that are recyclable or compostable. 

These materials can be reprocessed or naturally decomposed, reducing the burden on landfills and minimising environmental harm. 

Additionally, sustainable brands often promote refillable options, allowing customers to reuse product containers and reduce the need for single-use packaging. This approach helps conserve resources and decreases the amount of waste generated. 

Moreover, forward-thinking brands actively encourage recycling programs for their products, providing convenient and accessible recycling options for consumers. 

By supporting brands that prioritise sustainable packaging practices, you contribute to the reduction of plastic waste and support the shift towards a more circular and environmentally responsible economy.

Social and Environmental Initiatives

Ethical brands often engage in social and environmental initiatives beyond their products. They may support local communities, contribute to conservation efforts, or donate a portion of their profits to relevant causes. Look for brands that actively engage in these initiatives and share their progress.

Research is Key!

Research is a huge part of being a conscious consumer to ensure the authenticity and credibility of sustainable brands. 

While labels and certifications provide helpful guidance, digging deeper into a brand’s practices, transparency, and commitment to sustainability is crucial. 

By taking the time to educate ourselves, we become empowered to make well-informed choices and support brands that align with our values. 

Once you find a brand that ticks all of the sustainability boxes, one powerful way to show your support is by leaving reviews. Share your positive experiences, highlight the brand’s eco-friendly initiatives, and applaud their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. 

Don’t underestimate the influence you have within your social circle. Sharing your favourite sustainable brands with friends, family, and colleagues can spark meaningful conversations and inspire others to make conscious choices.

The Ethical Alley

At Leaving a Legacy, we strongly believe in the power of supporting small sustainable businesses, which is why we created the Ethical Alley (https://leavingalegacy.co/ethical-alley/) 

The Ethical Alley is a marketplace with a curated selection of ethical and sustainable items at your fingertips!

Say goodbye to spending hours searching for ethical alternatives to everyday items! Our Ethical Alley is a platform that you can access on our website or by signing up for our new app, where you can shop green and choose earth-conscious products.

We only work with brands that value ethical and sustainable practices at their core, and have a track record to prove it, so you can rest assured that with every purchase you are casting a vote for a better world. 

Not only will you be supporting ethical brands that are doing good for people and the planet, but you will also be planting a tree with every purchase and leaving a lasting impact on our planet! With every purchase, your impact will grow, and you’ll be able to track how many trees you’ve planted and which ecosystems they are helping to restore.

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The Power of Being a Conscious Consumer

Being a conscious consumer in today’s world is essential. As we navigate through a sea of greenwashing and deceptive marketing tactics, it becomes increasingly important to educate ourselves on how to spot ethical and sustainable products.

By understanding the concept of greenwashing and being aware of the certifications and labels that truly indicate a brand’s commitment to sustainability, we can make informed choices that align with our values.

Transparency, certifications, sustainable materials, supply chain ethics, low carbon footprint, packaging and waste reduction, and social and environmental initiatives are all factors to consider when identifying ethical brands. 

Each choice we make as consumers has the power to shape the kind of world we want to live in. 

By supporting brands that prioritise sustainability, we can contribute to positive change and promote responsible practices that benefit both people and the planet.

Together, we can leave a lasting impact on our planet and create a better world for future generations.

Download our App. One tree is planted for every download.

When you download the Leaving a Legacy App, you get the latest sustainability news, advice from experts, and information on cool things to do like growing your own food and sustainable living workshops. And best of all, it makes regenerating biodiversity feel more like fun social networking with people who enjoy nature just as much as you do.