Three sustainable fashion tops hang on a wooden clothing rod; photo via Alena Shekhovtsova/Canva.
Climate Action

How To Make Sure Our Consumerism Is Sustainable

As the world evolves and technology advances, the way in which we approach consumerism is constantly changing. From online shopping and mobile banking/payments to faster and more accessible delivery options; our ability to obtain goods and services with more ease and frequency is often at odds with the urgent need for ethical and sustainable products.

Bringing awareness to this and the many other issues our planet currently faces is why I joined the Climate Change Collective; a group of environmentally-minded bloggers who want to share climate action news that motivates and informs — keeping the subject at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Created by Michelle from Eco Boomer Crusader and Jamie of Jamie Ad Stories; each month a different member of the collective takes turns to write a lead/focus post that shares key details, concerns and/or unique perspectives about climate change. Once the post is published, the rest of the group will link to it in a response-style blog on their own sites; discussing any thoughts and ideas about the information/issues raised.

The collective is currently open to any other bloggers who want to join; if you’re interested, get in touch.

A title graphic for a post available on Transatlantic Notes called, ‘How To Make Sure Our Consumerism Is Sustainable’. The background image shows three sustainable fashion tops hanging on a wooden clothing rod.

Collective Climate Action

The fifth installment and most recent lead/focus post for the collective was written by Alison from A Sustainably Simple Life (an informative blog run with her friend Krista); where she thoughtfully examines how our shopping habits contribute to climate change. Delving into how capitalistic economic systems around the world are designed to sustain and continually build profit — thus driving consumerism — Alison explores how companies are increasingly using sustainability as a bottom line trend.

Our desire as consumers to become more environmentally responsible is capable of triggering industry level change. Brands working towards eco-friendly practices are a necessary part of worldwide climate action goals; but progress can be slow. Embracing sustainable living is stymied, for example, when some companies use greenwashing to overstate their environmental credentials and mislead consumers about their products.

Saying that money is the root of all evil is for another conversation, but saying it is a root of our environmental problems is a reality. Am I saying we need to abolish all of our current systems? Not necessarily. But we do need to change the conscious consumer catchphrase from being a marketing target to an actual practice. | How Our Need To Shop Is Ruining Our Planet – A Sustainably Simple Life

As we become more aware of the environmental and social impact that shopping has on the health of our planet; checking to see if the products we use are ecologically sound is now more important than ever. Supporting companies committed to accountable practices is one way to drive climate action — we can significantly influence market trends, for example, through the choices we make as consumers. Focusing on sustainable living has purchasing power; it gets noticed by the corporations and organizations who want us to buy their merchandise. 

But how do we check the reliability of products and brands that claim to be environmentally friendly?

Conscious Consumerism

Striving to be informed and as ethical as possible with our approach to shopping is where day-to-day climate action can begin to thrive. The eco-friendly lifestyle choices we make as individuals convey a consistent message to governments, policymakers and consumer industry leaders alike: that environmental, social and economic impact is taken into consideration when we purchase something.

There’s a growing shift towards using sustainable products and services that come from brands with environmentally responsible manufacturing. It doesn’t matter how green, carbon neutral, repurposed or recyclable something is if it’s made in a way that harms people and/or the planet. Shopping consciously means being aware of what we’re financially supporting; if sustainability is key, we need to pay attention. While our own actions remain meaningful, the most significant change requires reinvention at the source — the consumer industry itself has to boldly embrace genuine, accountable environmentalism.

Finding Reliable Eco-Friendly Brands

There’s no shortcut to finding out whether claims of sustainability are legitimate or not; we have to be prepared to do a little bit of research. Thankfully, authentic eco-friendly brands will typically be transparent about their production processes and standards; they want to be set apart from their competitors and become known for their environmental ethos.

Checking a company’s website or social media is a great place to start gathering relevant information; we can even read customer reviews or contact the company directly to ask them our most pressing questions.

A collection of recyclable and reusable bathroom and kitchen supplies in a eco-friendly mesh bag.
photo via Olesia Bekh/Canva

Here are five things to be aware of that will help determine if a brand is genuinely sustainable:

  • Transparency and Traceability — buy from companies and stores that provide explicit information about their supply chain, manufacturing processes, environmental impact and sustainable practices/policies. They should have a mission statement (complete with actionable goals) that doesn’t shy away from sharing any shortcomings they are currently addressing.
  • Minimizing Waste — look for brands that use packaging made out of biodegradable, recyclable and/or reusable material that contains little to no plastic.
  • Product Information — clear and specific labels should include what materials or ingredients have been used and whether or not they are biodegradable, recyclable and/or reusable.
  • Higher Price Points — sustainable products often cost more because they are usually made with higher quality, more durable materials that require additional resources, labour and extra care to produce. The manufacturing process itself typically involves navigating more expensive and stringent regulations that are designed to reduce environmental impact on the planet (all of which adds to the overall price the consumer pays).
  • Accreditation — as climate-conscious consumerism continues to grow, the number of brands and products being marketed as ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ has also increased. While this is supposed to make shopping according to our values much easier; sadly, products with little to no substantial environmental or ethical benefit are being labeled in this way. To counter this, look for certification from official regulatory bodies such as:
    • B Corporation — designation that a brand/product has met high standards of environmental and social justice, accountability, transparency and performance.
    • Cradle to Cradle — a global standard for products that have been designed and manufactured responsibly and fit into a circular economy.
    • Rainforest Alliance Certified — an international non-profit that works with businesses, farmers and foresters to certify and promote human rights and environmentally conscious practices throughout the supply chain.
    • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) — verifying that wood products come from forests that are responsibly managed and are in compliance with laws relating to environmental management, social responsibility and economic good practice.
    • Fairtrade International — this certification is awarded to producers, farmers, traders and importers/exporters with fair wage practices and safe/ethical working conditions.
    • Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) — certifying organic textiles that are prohibited from containing toxic solvents, heavy metals and chemicals and must have at least 95% natural, organic fibers.

For further information about other sustainable certifications, click here.

Safeguarding The Future

If we’re serious about reducing our negative impact on the environment, we have to adapt our shopping and lifestyle practices to be more sustainable and ethical. Through our purchasing behaviour, we can highlight that protecting delicate ecosystems, species and habitats is a priority.

Environmentally responsible consumer choices often involve an element of privilege; we don’t all have equitable access to organic or sustainably certified items — logistics and finances will factor into and influence our habits. However, we can remain committed to making small changes whenever possible, such as embracing the ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ movement. Staying well-informed about sustainable consumerism and climate action is a powerful step to take, even if it’s all we can manage for now. It means we can begin to transform how we interact with the world around us — making a difference starts with a changed mindset.

Do you shop sustainably? What eco-friendly brands and products have you switched to?


Further Info:

15 Best Eco-Friendly Clothing Brands In 2023 – The Good Trade

Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

54 thoughts on “How To Make Sure Our Consumerism Is Sustainable”

  1. This is such a practical guide to becoming a more conscious consumer! I appreciate the breakdown of all those certifications. It can be so difficult to sort out what all of the claims companies make actually mean, so that is really helpful!

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  2. This is such a great post and so important! I have a great book called “Junkyard Planet” and the Reporter shows how garbage around the world is being recycled only as much as it is being monetized – sadly, the good of the planet isn’t important for some – the almighty dollar is – whatever it takes as long as we can reverse the centuries of abuse we’ve put on our planet!

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  3. Thanks for the information on the certifications. It’s very helpful. I do try to shop sustainably but it isn’t easy. I buy all my cleaning supplies and soap from a local small business that refills my containers. I also shop a a bulk food store for dry goods. Honestly, the biggest change I have made is simply buying less.

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    1. Buying less is a brilliant strategy; I am making this a priority in 2023. Shopping sustainably can be hard (I struggle) so I aim for small, incremental changes (like the brand of coffee I buy, etc). I love that you focus on small, local businesses — I wish I had easier access to those in my area as that is a great way to know more about where the stuff we buy comes from!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This blog post made me think of donating clothes to Goodwill as a form of sustainability practice. Thank you for providing us with practical tips on how to be responsible consumers in making a positive impact on the environment.

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  5. This is great information. I actually didn’t really know about these brands. I do recycle but have not thought this while shopping. Its good to learn about new ways to help our planet.

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  6. This is a great guide with some really helpful information for anyone who wants to start shopping more sustainably. I’ve found a few sustainable clothing brands – I like the clothes but the price point was just to much for what I needed sadly.

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  7. Wow! Great, informative post Molly. There’s so much to learn. Once you open yourself to awareness, it can be a little overwhelming. I think it helps to start small and make small changes with your habits. I shop resale (thrift stores) before retail, for example. Hopefully, that will automatically invite more into your life. There’s a quote I heard on Oprah, “When you know better, you do better.” I think that applies here. Thank you for giving us more resources to help us “know better.”

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    1. Thrifting is a great resource to use when going eco-friendly; and it’s usually readily available and at a good price too. Thanks for sharing that quote; I think it definitely applies here as we can certainly make small changes. Thanks for reading!

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  8. Thank you for this post! There are so many links I’m going to have a look at now, I didn’t know about the regulatory bodies. You’ve given me a good checklist to have a look at when looking for sustainable products!
    Em x

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  9. Great post – very informative. This helps raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. I’ll be looking out for those certified brands too. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Most of my clothes are from thrifting or unfortunately fast fashion. One thing I always tell myself trends doesn’t last long so it is better to buy clothes that can last at least a year-long I make sure to pay attention to the textile quality and know I will be using them almost every day.
    But whenever I can treat myself I invest in clothes from smaller brands that are also ethical and transparent about their clothing.

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    1. I think going about it in this way is exactly right; whenever we are able we can invest in an item that will last a lot longer and is sustainably made. Small changes in the end all add up — this ends up being how we make the biggest differences.

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  11. This is a very thought-provoking and eye-opening post. It really made me think about how I shop, why I shop and how I go about retiring old articles of clothing, furniture, etc. Thank you for this.

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  12. This is such an important topic to talk about. I have switched to some eco friendly brands when it comes to my deodorant – I use wild. I have swapped to cruelty free vegan skincare. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren – bournemouthgirl

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  13. A really interesting post, Molly. You’re absolutely right about sustainable products often costing but then, when you look into the reasons why, it all makes much more sense. It’s good to check accreditation as well. Great tips, thank you for sharing!

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    1. The cost of sustainable products are understandable given the processes needed to make them, etc — so making small changes is a great first step (especially checking if the brand is legitimately eco-friendly). Thanks so much for reading!

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  14. Thank you for such enlightening and informative post about being responsible towards the planet.
    Small changes in every day life are essential to contribute towards sustainability.

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  15. Great post Molly! I’ve been more conscious of my purchases and will even take a few days or weeks to think about if I really need them. (98% of the time, I don’t!) I’m happy that there are so many resources available for us to identify reliable brands. For those who can’t afford to spend the extra money, I’m glad there are other alternatives like thrifting. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. This was such a great guide Molly and so so helpful to anyone who is a beginner or someone who has been trying to eco friendly for a long time. I had never heard of Cradle to Cradle, so it was interesting to read about it! I think greenwashing is so common now we need to use these tips to see through it!

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  17. Great read! I have never been a materialistic person so I very rarely shop but thrifting has been something I’ve been getting more and more into when I do need pieces. I absolutely hate watching “hauls” of anything but groceries haha Thank you for sharing all these tips!

    Lynn |

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