As consumers we face a myriad of choices daily. Whether we are trying to figure out a major purchase such as an automobile versus something simple such as produce at the grocery store, choices are abound. We make these decisions by the dozens on a weekly and even daily basis so making green consumer choices really add up. The advent of the technology and information age has helped us gain incredible amounts of information about the products and services we consider for purchase. However, there are still many unknowns that exist and this especially rings true in the growing world of “green,” sustainable and eco-friendly.
These unknowns have created a verbal tussling match among those who don themselves as “experts.” On any given day we can find blog posts, tweets and Facebook updates that claim superiority around topics such as buying local, organic, mass transit, hybrid & electric vehicles, solar versus natural gas and the list goes on. Personally, the process of working towards a better future can seem exhausting. Do I really know if buying the organic apple grown in Washington State is better than the one locally grown 40 miles away in Wisconsin? Not to mention, what defines locally grown? 20 miles, 50 miles, 250 miles? This incredible list of details that resembles the fine print of a cell phone bill contract has lead me to believe that there are better ways we can assess this situation and make informed choices. Think about what action you took the last time you purchased a product or service and ask yourself, “Does this choice offer an obvious improvement from the last time I went through the exercise?”
Does this sound far too open to interpretation? Well, perhaps. This said, I’m going to ask anyone who wants to partake in this exercise to go out on a limb and inject a solid dose of common sense. I do offer the disclaimer that this isn’t a foolproof system but it has allowed some piece of mind for myself and will hopefully do the same for you.
When I’m in “ green consumer mode” I tend to create a mental checklist that I can quickly run down when considering something for purchase.
Criteria For Making Green Consumer Choices:
Personal Health – Is this product or service healthier for me or my family?
Environmental Health – Is this product or service better for the planet either at a local level or at a global level? (I truly think it all works together but you can distinguish between local and global if you like)
Local Economy / U.S. Economy – Is this product or service directly benefitting the U.S. or local economy and if so, does it include the entire manufacturing and distribution chain or just some of it.
Social Causes – Does the purchase of this product or service benefit any social cause(s)?
Now that we have defined these criteria for making green consumer choices, below are a couple scenarios that were personally experienced and the process I went through.
Plastic shopping bags: About 3 years ago I finally made the switch to using my own reusable shopping bags instead of taking home the plastic ones and recycling them back at the store. I certainly hit the environmental point on the list; one could argue that translates into personal health too. However, it didn’t meet the local economy or social cause attributes. There are many great companies popping up who are coming up with creative ways to recycle or “upcycle” items to keep them out of landfills and turn them into another useful product.
Drinking water: Most of us probably know that the vast majority of bottled water is just filtered tap water. So, by purchasing a Brita pitcher filter about 6 years ago I feel good about not supporting “water mining” and protecting local water sources as well as not supporting the creation of PETE plastic bottles. Also, filtering my water seems like a good idea for me and my daughter’s health. Brita is located in California but their products are manufactured overseas. This is somewhat good for the U.S. economy but I don’t like the long shipping distances for their products and the fossil fuels it consumes. However,Brita has a recycling program for the used filters and they support clean drinking water initiatives around the world. This example hits all 4 categories at some level but certainly leaves some room for improvement.
These scenarios can be discussed at length but you probably get the idea. The take away is even though my choices weren’t perfect they represented great improvement over my previous actions. The more we begin to change our thought process about how we approach the hundreds of choices we face daily, the better our decision making. It has taken me quite a bit of time to “train my brain” and scrutinize my choices over the years but I feel I take my time when making a purchase and ultimately feel better about the purchase. Becoming a savvier consumer when it comes to environmental, personal and economic health is something anyone can do and these choices create positive change. I hope this post was informative and look forward to any feedback people may have about their experiences, great products/companies and how making better green consumer choices has helped you in your day to day lives.
A Little Choice Goes a Long Way……
You may also like to read some Statistics that Remind You To Recycle Paper.