While obviously the most sustainable type of consumer is the MINIMAL consumer… reality dictates that most of us need to make at least semi-regular shopping trips to the mall, grocery store, local Costco, you get the idea.
I try my best to practice conscious consumerism. I purchase organic cotton products and locally grown produce if I’m possibly able, I avoid foods that contain beef and lamb- the two worst-offending foods in terms of carbon production. Being a conscious consumer is NOT always easy, especially when you don’t have access to information about what exactly is sustainable and what isn’t.
I’ve collected a couple of popular brands and products that I consider to be part of the Sustainability Hall of Fame. Keep an eye out for these, and make a list of your own favourite sustainable companies and products.
Looking for a new bank with values? Consider Vancity, a company deeply committed to sustainability success and community engagement.
Vancity champions poverty and pollution reduction campaigns and strategies to build a strong local and global community.
Learn more about Vancity’s philosophy and culture here:
BlueShore (formerly known as North Shore Credit Union)
This smaller, community-focused bank based out of North Vancouver, British Columbia made a move towards more sustainable business practices by introducing sustainable technologies to their branches:
- By replacing monitors with LED backlit screens, BlueShore was able to reduce power consumption by 30%
- All branches use automatic lighting systems, low water-flow fixtures and products made from recyclable components.
LUSH is a fantastic brand for many reasons. Here’s a few:
- LUSH developed a soap base sans palm oil- a cosmetics ingredient notorious for the destruction of rainforests and orangutang habitat in Asia
-All Lush stores are furnished with sustainably forested wood, and all the electricity for its Canadian manufacturing and distribution facilities comes from green-energy provider Bullfrog Power.
-LUSH is committed to sustainability in all aspects of products and operations. ‘Naked’, packaging-free products is at the core of their philosophy. Of the packaging that IS used, they strive for 100% biodegradable, recyclable packaging.
-LUSH is water conscious. According to their website “By making our shampoo bars solid we save over 450,000 liters (118,800 gallons) of water each year.”
Check out their sustainability story here
Mountain Equipment Co-Op
MEC is a Canadian outdoor clothing and gear retailer that champions a triple bottom line- People, Planet, and Profit. They use innovative technologies to reduce natural resource consumption and overall impact through both their operations and products.
MEC’s sustainability commitment and initiatives are outlined on their website
People Tree is a UK-based clothing brand that champions ‘sustainable and fair trade fashion’. The brand is certified by the World Fair Trade Organization and is committed to a low carbon-footprint eco-policy goals including:
-To promote natural and organic farming
-To avoid polluting substances
-To protect water supplies
-To use biodegradable substances where possible
-To recycle materials where possible
H&M Conscious Line
This one is slightly controversial. Massive budget-friendly fashion houses like H&M and Forever 21 are somewhat notorious among conscious consumers for their position within the fashion industry- driving extremely low product prices at huge quantities and extremely fast-paced fashion trends. This combination of factors leads to dangerous social issues in third world counties like Cambodia where factory workers are forced to work in sweatshops in order to upkeep fast-moving, cheap fashion powerhouses.
H&M is worth mentioning in this post however because of their recent commitment to sustainability issues through their ‘Conscious’ line which boasts (from their website):
• We are the number one user of certified organic cotton in the world.
21.2% of our cotton is either certified organic, recycled or grown under the Better
Cotton Initiative. Our goal is 100% by 2020 at the latest.
• We use many other conscious materials, too – for example Tencel®, organic hemp
and recycled wool. These fibres represent 14% of our total material use.
• In 2014, 27% of all the electricity we used was renewable.
• From 2015, our goal is to use only renewable electricity wherever this is feasible.
We expect this to cover about 80% of our total electricity use.
• We have reduced carbon emissions by 14% per store square metre since 2013.
This brings us close to what climate science tells us we need to do to play our part
in limiting global warming to a maximum of 2ºC.
• 68% of our colleagues who are in regular contact with business partners have received
training to help them implement our ethical business standards in their daily work.
Our goal is to reach 100% by 2015.
It is brands like this that confront us with a bit of an internal struggle. While purchasing clothes from huge multinational budget brands like H&M are certainly far from ideal for many reasons, it’s useful for consumers to be aware of more sustainable alternatives to the traditional brand.
Check out H&M’s ‘conscious commitments’ here
For more information on the fashion industry’s social and environmental impacts, check out the documentary on Netflix: The True Cost
Numi Organic Tea
Numi is a tea company that celebrates ‘people, planet, and pure tea’. They have a range of admirable commitments that embrace sustainable products and business, poverty reduction and fair trade, as well as a campaign concerning the water crisis in third world countries called H2OPE.
Learn more about this company here
Frontier Natural Products
Frontier is a Co-Op that began in 1976 and is deeply rooted in the sustainable, organic, fair-trade food industry. They sell a variety of environmentally and socially conscious foods, spices, herbs, teas and body care.
Something to Consider
While there are some truly phenomenal brands out there in terms of commitment to sustainability success, there is also a LOT of 'greenwashing' to be wary of.
Greenwashing: misinformation propagated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image
Search for companies whose commitment to sustainability go beyond simple branding techniques on their products. HERE is a list of examples of greenwashed household products. These products may be marginally better than others in terms of ethics, but ultimately their company culture and business practices do NOT support a net reduction in natural resource consumption.
This is a TINY taste of what’s out there in terms of conscious products, I encourage you to do your own research to find some new favourite sustainable products!