Green D is an online directory giving consumers access to sustainable businesses. Otter spoke with Jenny from Green D about how and why to find sustainable businesses, how to change our buying habits and what we can look out for to avoid the greenwash.
1. GreenD is about letting consumers know about sustainable businesses. Why is it important for people to pick sustainable businesses?
Every single thing a consumer purchases supports the business they are buying from and so, naturally, the environment is affected for better or worse by each purchase.
Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.
(Anna Lappe, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, author and educator.)
2. What types of businesses have the biggest impact on the environment?
Mining, agribusiness and manufacturers of household goods and consumables. Businesses selling everyday items – food, clothing, cleaning products and personal care products also have a big impact. And, of course, the businesses we choose when building or renovating a house as well as when we purchase vehicles. These are the big-spend items which can have a substantial impact.
Choosing a designer for your home, for example, is an important choice, both for the environment and for your pocket. Sustainably designed dwellings and commercial premises run more cheaply than energy-hungry badly designed buildings. Although the initial expense can be greater, this is ultimately recouped and the environmental cost is less.
3. How can we spot greenwashing by businesses?
Some green washing is very obvious. For instance, some skin care product manufacturers will claim that they contain a particular organic ingredient. You need to check what the rest of the ingredients are. Often, skin care products are full of nasty chemicals but will emphasise the one or two “good” ingredients they contain.
A lot of companies bandy words around like “organic” and “natural”, which can be quite meaningless. Packaging can use images that misleadingly suggest something “eco”, like an image of fresh flowers on a hand lotion filled with petrochemicals and parabens. The consumer really needs to question ingredients, methods of manufacture, and the source of ingredients in products.
It does sound like a lot of work but it is actually quite fun learning about what tricks businesses use to suggest environmental sustainability where there is none. Once you get to know the questions to ask and things to look for when choosing products, it becomes a habit and can inform all of your choices.
The GreenD site is a useful resource, but no one site has all the information you need. There are also websites with information on ingredients in products. For example, for skin care and cosmetics. Another useful site is for the conscious consumer is Shop Ethical.
4. What sustainable consumption tip do you have for our readers?
It can seem like a huge job to change to eco friendly products, but gradually changing the everyday products you use (food, clothing, cleaning and personal care products and so on) to environmentally better choices is the easiest way to go about it. Each time you have to replace a cleaning product, a food item, makeup or a skin care product, find an environmentally preferable replacement for what you currently use. This way it doesn’t take long to have a kitchen, laundry and bathroom free of toxic products, for example. Your body will thank you!
5. How do you personally make sustainable decisions in your day-to-day life?
I like to know the source of the raw materials for products I buy, as well as ingredients and, in some cases, the business practices of suppliers I purchase from. For instance, I like to know that my food is organic, preferably local and is supplied (where possible) by small businesses where I know the owner and can ask questions about their products. When buying appliances, which I keep to a minimum, I look for energy efficiency and/or water saving features. Clothing is actually the biggest challenge and I am gradually changing clothing items to organic and vintage, also keeping in mind the country of origin and the conditions of workers.