It’s easy to remain oblivious to the ways in which our everyday choices affect the planet. While products we consume may seem fairly harmless at first glance, often their origin, production history, and toxicity are less obvious. It’s time to take responsibility for not only what we buy, but how we shop.
A recent study by MIT (that you can download here) showed that the carbon footprint of an online shopper will be lower than that of somebody shopping traditionally – the efficiency of a delivery vehicle’s route, less resources wasted in a physical store, and petrol saved in travel contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. While this is good news, the importance of shopping ethically and sustainably applies to online and physical stores just the same.
From recycled, zero-waste products to natural and charitable ones that give back to society, online stores like QBamboo specialise in eco-friendly gifts and household items. ‘Our ethos is to provide products that meet one of our core values, which are shaped around protecting our environment, protecting our families, and protecting our communities,’ says Emma Colclough, creator of QBamboo. Her vision, however, is to operate as a resource, providing guidance and direction for those looking to make positive changes in their lifestyle.
So, what should a shopper look for when searching for eco-friendly products online? ‘The best way to reduce our waste is to only buy the things that we know we need and will use,’ Emma advises. She goes on to explain that checking the credentials of the product – especially regarding its quality – can help establish how long it will last, therefore helping you control your waste production. QBamboo, for example, highlights the reviews focused on eco-friendly factors of their products, helping customers make an informed choice.
At times, however, the sustainability of an item itself seems to be cancelled out by its delivery. ‘Even the most eco-friendly of products can be ruined by the massive carbon footprint of being shipped halfway across the world to get to your house,’ Emma says. While not much can be done about a company’s location, opting for slower delivery dates, buying in bulk, and avoiding placing multiple orders from different websites can limit the environmental impact of conveniently having an item left on your doorstep.
With the market growing on a daily basis, consumers are becoming more and more interested in ways in which they can tweak their shopping habits and act ethically. ‘We are great believers in making changes that we can sustain. So just making small adjustments to the way in which we shop, the products we buy and the waste we create can have a huge cumulative effect on the environment,’ Emma says.
It’s often said that the biggest barrier to shopping ethically is cost. This isn’t necessarily true. While a cheaper, less sustainable product (perhaps of lower quality) might be tempting, eco-friendly items are often cost-effective, saving you money over time. Competing with large monopolies in the world of e-commerce may be tough for smaller businesses focused on sustainability of their products, but consumers’ priorities and shopping habits have the power to change this.
‘We believe that it is important to make changes not just at home, but at work and in our social lives,’ Emma explains. She hopes to help people understand that all aspects of their lives will have an environmental impact; actions must be accounted for. To help with this, QBamboo is working to develop an ‘event’ section, helping with hosting parties, weddings, and other special events with ‘a more sustainable approach’.
In the mean time, it’s okay to start small. Emma recommends choosing one room in the house to begin your eco journey in. Pick a range of items and fill your (digital) basket, perhaps for the kitchen, like a reusable sandwich wrap and stainless steel straws, or cotton ‘un-paper’ towels, or for the bathroom – maybe a shampoo bar and a bamboo toothbrush? Or an Ecover All Purpose Cleaner, to save resources (and money!) on buying piles of cleaning products.
Whether the convenience of online shopping remains a luxury at the hands of the consumer will depend on how seriously one takes their environmental concerns. Drastic changes are welcome, but even baby steps can contribute to the positive influence that the Earth is hoping for.