Welcome to Part II of my Journey to Zero Waste series. If you missed Part I head over there, it’s a great place to get your head in the game, and most importantly relieve you of any guilt or shame you might feel about your current consumption or product choices.
This week we’re going to dive a little deeper into product production. This is a very easy piece of the puzzle to ignore because it’s the part we don’t see. How many of us have toured a shoe factory? Or headed over to an almond grower to see how our almond milk made it to the shelves? I’m guessing not too many of us, myself included.
The truth is we’ve all become accustomed to some serious conveniences, which is great, but it also means we need to take some responsibility and find out a little more about the products and services we use. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to set off on some forensic accounting work here, I’m just asking you to take one product or service and start there. Anne-Marie Bonneau put it perfectly in the quote below.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
-Anne-Marie Bonneau @ZeroWasteChef
How to figure out who is producing responsibly.
Ok, now that you’ve let go of the anxiety around achieving this whole zero waste thing (which by the way nobody will ever fully achieve), let’s talk a little about things to consider when it comes to product production. One place that has taught me a whole lot on this subject is REI’s 2018 Stewardship Report. Inside you can see all the ways they are fighting for our planet, but for now, let’s focus on product production. One of the major takeaways I got from the report was the need to pay attention to one thing.
This seems simple, but we all make purchases without taking a second glance at the label. It takes a lot of work to produce products responsibly, companies that invest in sustainability are going to put that information on the label. Which is great for us, because it makes things a little easier for us in the beginning.
The list below outlines some of the things to look out for on product labels when it comes to responsible product production. It is by no means a complete list, but it’s a great place to start.
What to look for on product labels.
- Recycled Materials: When companies use recycled materials it means fewer raw materials have been extracted to make their product. Even if they only use a small percentage of recycled material it’s better than none.
- Fair Trade Certified: This means that the company has gone through a rigorous process to ensure equitable trade practices, provide safe working conditions, protect the environment, and help build up communities. Fair Trade starts at the beginning of the supply chain, protecting small growers and workers.
- Green Seal: This certification program makes sure companies follow a set of standards that produce products that protect human health, reduce environmental impact, and provide superior performance. Head over to their website to search for hotels, services, and plenty of products that have committed themselves to these standards.
- Forest Stewardship Council: They certify that forest owners are taking care of their forests while also providing a product to consumers in the form of paper products and wood. The FSC works to protect waterways, habitats, and communities while also utilizing this natural resource.
- bluesign®: BLUESIGN is a system that provides safer and more sustainable environments for people to work in and everyone to live in. Powered by a holistic approach, BLUESIGN traces each textile’s path along the manufacturing process, making improvements at every stage from factory floor to finished product. BLUESIGN changes the environmental impact of textiles for good.
As I said before, that is a very small list, but a great place to start. We’re aiming for progress NOT perfection here. Even taking the time to look at one label is a step in the right direction. Education is a huge piece of working toward sustainability. When you take the time to read product labels and make purchase choices that align with your values you are doing a big thing. You are voting with your wallet, and we all know that these days that is one of the most influential and empowering tools we have.
If you want to dive deeper into responsible production head over to Ethical Consumer. Their database has information on production, work environments, political standpoints and more for over 40,000 brands and products.
Summing Up: What we’ve learned so far on this journey to zero waste living.
- You need to start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Remind yourself that you have become accustomed to lots of conveniences. It takes time to reprogram your life in a way that brings you into closer alignment with zero-waste. Give yourself a break and remember that small incremental changes ARE progress.
- Look at one label. Just read it through and see if any of the logos above are on the label. If not maybe choose another similar product. Maybe you will want to do a Google search for another option. Start small, be brave, make one small change.
And if you want to make sure you don’t miss any posts on your journey to zero waste make sure to sign up for my email list. It’s where I get a little more personal, share my favorite things, and plenty of other nonsense. To join just click here (it’s always paperless).
Still looking for more sustainability information? Check out these posts:
- Journey to Zero Waste: Give Yourself a Break! (Part I)
- 10 Simple Swaps to Reduce Waste
- 20 Best Gifts from Sustainable Outdoor Brands