Sustainability is a growing concern for individuals and businesses worldwide. The impact of human activity on the environment means that consumers are making conscious choices and searching for sustainable products that protect our planet, people and animals or do less harm.
Recycling, understanding what we buy and how it is made, and supporting sustainable brands that prioritize the environment are all steps towards environmental responsibility and awareness of our consumer choice and their impact on our future.
Embracing sustainability and circularity
Recycling goes beyond simply throwing items into blue bins for someone else to sort and dispose. It is a crucial process that helps to reduce greenhouse gas emission, landfill, water pollutants and generates less solid waste. Both plastic and cardboard or paper can be recycled to make new products, which is circularity. Recycling reduces overconsumption and our reliance on fossil fuels like oil which is used to make petrochemicals and plastics, energy, manufacturing, construction and transport, textiles and more, but allowing us to make new from old.
The three R's—reduce, reuse, and recycle—form the basis of a circular economy. Using resources efficiently, minimizing waste, recycling, and promoting continuous product lifecycles will decrease our ecological impact and create a healthier environment.
Let’s dive into some ways on how we can develop sustainable and circular habits:
- Recycle: Separating trash into different bins for paper, plastic, and general waste is easy at home with separate bins. However, the Philippines faces waste management challenges, unlike countries with centralized systems. Although garbage trucks in the Philippines don't collect recyclables, there are alternative solutions like waste drop-off centers. These centers allow direct deposits of your recyclables, promoting recycling culture and easing waste collection. Some apartments will require you to separate paper and bottles from your garbage so that it doesn't go down the general garbage chute. Waste management services redefine how we handle recyclables through drop-off points, segregation, and community initiatives. By understanding the composition of different waste categories and actively taking part in recycling efforts, we can all play a role in ensuring a sustainable future. Look up a waste drop of center near you and make it a regular trip.
- Reduce: Buy only what you need and opt for reusable products in your everyday life. Many Europeans live by the mantra of "Buy Once buy Well" in order to buy quality and keep items for longer, or adapt them. How do you think those fashionistas keep their clothes in those tiny Paris apartments? Buy quality, not fast fashion which is only designed to be worn less than 15 times. You can also do this in your kitchen or office: It’s estimated that 250 billion plastic bottles are not recycled and around 9 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. Use a BPA-free water bottle and fill up on filtered water at home or work instead of buying water in plastic bottles. Use keep-cups or your own clean coffee mug instead of buying coffee in takeaway coffee cups. Opt for cloth and mesh shopping bags, and re-usable food safe containers. Ditch your takeaway habit and save money cooking while reducing single-use plastics. Look for retailers that offer paper-based takeaway containers and use wax-based food wraps or a plate cover instead of cling wrap at home. Recycle to ensure that materials can be repurposed instead of being sent to landfill. Even small acts like encouraging children and workmates to make informed choices and adopt eco-friendly practices can make a huge difference.
- Reuse: Looking for a way to make use of old or discarded items like clothes or furniture? Consider upcycling! This creative process involves transforming or 'hacking' old items into new products that have more value or function. Check out DIY projects and repurpose old items instead of throwing them away. Clothing can be modernised, shortened, added to or transformed into something totally different like make up bags, hats or tea towels. Drawers can be sanded and given a new lease of life with updated handles, or a sofa can be re-covered for less than the price of a new one. You can even learn upholstery with videos and a few tools. Before you know it, you might have your own Etsy side hustle just from re-using your old stuff. Repair appliances whenever possible rather than throwing them out.
Shop green and add sustainability to your cart
Let’s learn how to shop sustainably through these tips:
- Choose sustainable brands
Look for brands that prioritize sustainability and environmental protection. Research which brands use eco-friendly materials or production methods for clothes and look for certifications like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the Bluesign certification. When buying appliances, look for the Energy Star label. Energy-efficient appliances not only save you money but also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The less energy and water that brands use, the lower their carbon footprint.
- Consider packaging
Look for products with minimal or recyclable packaging. For instance, choose produce that's not pre-packaged in plastic. When buying personal care products, select those with sustainable packaging and free from harmful chemicals. This helps reduce pollution and environmental degradation.
- Carry your reusable items
Instead of using single-use items like plastic water bottles or shopping bags, carry your reusable bags or containers to the store. Refill stations are also available in some stores for items like detergent, cleaning supplies, and personal care products that reduce excessive packaging and minimize waste.
- Choose quality over quantity
Buy high-quality items that are designed to last instead of cheap, disposable items. This reduces waste and saves money in the long run.
- Reducing food waste
Create a shopping list to avoid impulse purchases and reduce food waste. Plan meals, use leftovers creatively, and compost organic waste to reduce landfill waste. Choose locally sourced, organic, and seasonal produce to support sustainable farming practices and reduce transportation energy.
Ready to shop smarter? Here's a sample of what's in our sustainable shopping list:
Spotting sustainable products in supermarket aisles
How do I spot green gems?
- Research the brand's environmental initiatives: Look for companies that prioritize renewable energy, ethical sourcing, waste reduction, sustainable production, and environmentally friendly processes. Support brands that show a genuine commitment to sustainability and read the labels!
- Transparency and ethical sourcing: When looking for sustainable brands, it's important to prioritize transparency and ethical sourcing. These brands make sure their supply chain meets eco-friendly and ethical standards, and they may also support local communities and offer fair wages to workers. By choosing high-quality and durable products designed to last, we can minimize the need for frequent replacements and reduce overall waste.
- Certifications and labels: Look for certifications such as "Fair Trade", "USDA Organic", "Energy Star", and "Forest Stewardship Council" (FSC) to ensure that the brand meets specific sustainability standards and ethical practices. Check for eco-friendly packaging made from recyclable or biodegradable materials. Look for labels showing recyclability or compostability to ensure that the packaging is sustainable.
Explore the world of eco-friendly certifications and labeling with the help of this handy guide:
The power of consumer choice
Let’s change the way we buy
Buying smarter is a big step towards sustainability. As consumers, we have the power to influence industries and bring positive change. Know the brand or the product’s commitment to sustainability before making a purchase., and exercise your choice. Most importantly, making small changes in our shopping habits such as switching to reusable products, supporting local businesses, and avoiding single-use plastics, helps create a big environmental impact. Together, we can shape a world where sustainability isn't just a choice—it's a way of life.