Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius famously once said “what we do now echoes in eternity”, which is another way of saying our actions today have consequences long into the future.
When it comes to climate change, our activities over the last two centuries have led to an increase in global temperatures that will be felt by generations long into the future.
Time is running out to save the planet for our children and grandchildren.
But, it’s not too late yet. Every positive action, no matter how small it may seem, buys us a little more time. Consuming less and only buying sustainable products is an easy and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and help in the fight against climate change.
The short answer is a lot. When you consider all the different products that you use over your lifetime, and that each product has an environmental footprint, then what we buy is a major contributor to our personal environmental accounts. In fact, the things we buy make up 26% of our personal carbon emissions.
To be considered sustainable, a product or service should exhibit a reduced environmental impact considered over its entire life-cycle.
Everything has to be meticulously thought out—from the materials used through to production, shipping, and disposal.
A crucial aspect of a product's sustainability is the material it's made from. It’s a deep topic, but generally this means a material that is made from renewable recycled materials, is manufactured cleanly and can be easily reused, recycled or composted.
Some examples of sustainable materials are:
There seems little point in finding a great material and then making it into a product in a ‘dirty’ manner.
Look for products that are made in factories that run on renewable energy and processes that use minimal energy, water and chemicals.
One of our favourite examples is Tencel, an innovative company making fabric from sustainably sourced wood chippings. Their process uses 100% of the raw material, runs on renewable energy and reuses 99% of water and organic solvents in a ‘closed loop’ system. Nice.
Then of course there’s the environmental cost of shipping and delivery. Buying local to reduce travel time is preferable, but some companies (including us) offset emissions from their shipping using carbon offset programmes such as tree planting.
Similar to production, it makes little sense to produce a great sustainable product and then ruin it by delivering it in loads of unnecessary packaging. The best packaging solutions are sustainable too, avoiding plastic.
The best products will last a lifetime or longer. It’s cool to be able to inherit something from previous generations, like an old backpack or shirt from your dad. If this isn’t possible for whatever reason, then the best products can be disposed of or recycled easily to save them ending up in landfills.
The ultimate aim is to create a circular economy in which waste is eliminated and resources are reused.