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4 expert tips to shop sustainably

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy."

-Emma Watson

Emma Watson has got this spot on, but with all the greenwash and misinformation out there, this is often easier said than done. So, here are my top tips for things to consider before you spend your hard-earned cash, whether you’re a business or an individual consumer.

1. Consider the lifecycle of the products you’re buying.

We often only think about a product while it’s in our possession, but it’s worthwhile thinking about how it got to us and how it will be disposed of at the end of its life.

  • Was your product made in a factory that paid its workers fairly?

  • Is your product easily upcycled, reused or recycled (as a last resort)?

We should be working towards a Circular Economy, which strives to design out waste & pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems. There are many companies out there doing just that and supporting them will allow them to continue their good work.

2. Make sure you’re buying from companies whose values align with yours.

This one may sound a bit silly but:

“Every time we spend our money, we’re casting a vote for the kind of world we want”

-Anna Lappé, activist & writer

It’s fairly easy these days to Google a company to understand their values. Many companies will have a section on their website that outlines their social and environmental commitments and if they don’t, it’s worth understanding why. Check out their policies around energy use and waste and find out the types of projects & charities they support. This will give you a very good indication of what they stand for and how authentic they are.

3. How does this company manage their impacts?

Although many of us are working hard to reduce our impact on the environment, none of us is perfect and that’s ok. What is important is working towards getting better and businesses are no different. Again, looking at environmental and social policies can prove very useful. Making these public can support a company in being accountable and transparent. You can also look at any certifications the company might have obtained. Companies that have obtained certification like B Corporation have been assessed on how they balance purpose and profit, using their business as a force for good.

4. Ask questions!

This is so important in so many aspects of life but is often one we shy away from for fear of looking or sounding foolish. If you’re unclear on anything you’ve researched, get in touch with the company directly and ask them. If a product claims to be compostable, under what conditions? What exactly does sustainably sourced ingredients mean? Probe a little deeper and see what answers you get back before making your final decision.

Nancy is an environmental advisor and the founder of nlhEnvironmental.

As a qualified Structural Engineer, she began her career in London before travelling to Australia in 2007 where she worked for 7 years. It was during this time that Nancy worked on the environmentally conscious Darling Walk Development on Sydney’s Darling Harbour. It was during this 6 Star Green Star project which boasts a triple-generation system, simultaneously producing electricity, heating and cooling, a rainwater harvesting system and wastewater recycling facilities, where her passion for sustainability began.

A move from London to Hampshire in 2016 was the catalyst for setting up nlhEnvironmental. Nancy runs her business from Lymington in the New Forest serving clients across the UK.

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