Sustainability, ethics, eco-friendliness and being green is the future. It must be for the sake our planet, the wildlife and the human race as a whole. Yet unfortunately we aren’t all eco-friendly individuals or nearly as good as we can be. Yet as a community we are growing. On this blog I explore everything green from the environment to products that stop the harmful waste and help mitigate our daily negative impact on earth. Recently, I have thought about what are the barrier to stop us as a planet (or at least in my country) from fully adopting a ‘green’ life. Therefore, I have pulled together what I consider to be the big barriers to going ‘Green’. Although this list could easily be very long trying to highlight all the issues with us going eco-conscious I have tried to highlight the mains ones I believe have the greatest impact. Here are my top reasons that prevent the majority adopting a green, sustainable and eco-friendly future.
Unfortunately, anything new will have a higher cost, this is mainly because it is new to the market, so might not have an instant ‘demand’ for the product. This often means they are produced in smaller quantities, which again will not be as efficient, increasing their costs. ‘Green’ products are also of a higher quality and use raw materials that are generally more expensive. They also have better ethics and have a lower negative environmental impact, which is why I believe we need to expect and accept a higher cost. To make products right, without harming the planet, paying its workers and supply chain fairly and for innovation for future green products it will cost more. Unfortunately, for years we have been buying products without knowing fully where they are from and this includes from sweat factories, child labour and more horrendous abuse of workers and the environment, we cannot have this wilful ignorance going forward into a ‘green’ future. To summarise ‘green’ products tend to cost more because they use raw materials that are usually more expensive, produced in smaller quantities, often of better quality and can have a small premium to ensure it is ethical, less harmful to the planet and even potentially having a positive benefit. Unfortunately, this can all greatly increase the price.
What can we do?
Where you can keep buying 'green'. The more that we do they will be mass produced making them cheaper. It will also lead to new technologies and innovation that are green and cheaper. Take it slow but over time you can obtain a collection of jars and bottles to use at your local zero waste store. Further to this, although many ‘green’ products have a higher cost they are often built to last and is reusable, which can make them cheaper in the long run. Finally, we also need to understand ‘green’ will cost more. To pay people fairly, have the additional measures so they do not harm the environment and to be made of a higher quality and to last this will always be the case. Perhaps think it as not paying more but paying fair.
Lack of Time
Another big impact is our lack of time. Unfortunately, when I grew up we are not taught what to look out for, how we harm our planet or much about sustainability and being ‘green’. Although, I believe this is changing now there are still millions who do not know where to begin or what is actually ‘green’. However, I understand that many of us do not have time to research and get educated on these subjects. It takes a lot of time to learn what it means to be ‘green’, what products or way of life is truly ‘green’ or to find the eco alternatives to fit into our life. As well as all the actions we need to do to negate the negative or increase the positive impacts on our planet. This all takes a tremendous amount of time, which I understand not everyone has.
What can we do?
Start slow, it is not a race. Any step, no matter how small toward a ‘greener’ world is great. So spending any time to achieve this is beneficial. Over time you can grow your knowledge and implement systems that make a change and help our planet. Just keep trying.
I know this is a bit of a self-promotion but follow on your socials or go to the blogs of eco, ethical and environmental bloggers. They spend a lot of time looking for ‘green’ products, summarising what to look out for and how you can help our planet, so by following them you can slowly learn more and make changes.
Greenwashing is when companies make unsubstantiated claims to deceive consumer into believing their products are environmentally friendly when in fact they are hiding the negative impacts of their products from our sights. Unfortunately, people and companies lie or misdirect and this is done a lot with ‘green’ products. A product or service that is ‘green’ is more likely to sell, as it is what most people want. Therefore, if companies can make you believe that their products are green it is better for them. Most companies stick phrases like eco, environmental and the like onto their products without there being any true basis for it. At the moment these terms are not protect, so can be used by anyone without justification. Therefore, we need to remain vigilant to look out for unfounded claims or hidden negative parts of a product or service before we purchase them. If you want to know more on this, please read my article on greenwashing ‘Greenwashing: An Evil Mask!’
What can we do?
Get Educated! Learn to look out for how companies greenwash and what real sustainable, eco-friendly products are, so you can make an educated decision. This will take time to learn but once you have learnt the principles they can be applied everywhere. When making a purchase ask more, ask about the product, ask what makes it green, is it truly recyclable or meets the cradle-to-cradle principles. Once you have learnt what harms the planet and its inhabitants you can make choices to not contribute to that. Do not just take the word of a company but look at the companies actions and the impact of its products and service and together we can beat greenwashing.
In the large societies we are living in today and with the controlling systems our governments have forced us into we are incredibly dependant on the infrastructure they put in place. This includes a wide variety of things including transport, energy, food, packaging and the very way we live our lives in our countries. The reason this can be a problem is because unfortunately the solutions to these issues are not always ‘green’ and can even be harmful to the planet. For example so much food comes in plastic, which is practically unavoidable if you want to live some what of a normal life. Also, the energy systems in place that we are reliant on for our survival might be reliant on oil and gas, which I do not have to explain how this impacts our planet. We are part of the system and the system forms our lives, so this can often control how ‘green’ our lives can be.
What can we do?
To solve this problem, we need to go to the source. This is the government and large corporation that produce our daily products and control so much of our lives. We must put pressure on them and demand they do better. You can do this in a variety of ways such as emailing them, signing petitions, protesting and joining groups that fight for our planet (peacfully of course). I always think we should try to start at work, this might not be easy but push for little changes there and over time the improvements will mount up everywhere. Keep making changes and demanding them and eventually we will have a 'green' way of life.
At the moment I believe there are a number of barriers that are preventing a ‘green’ future being fully adopted. Above are some of the largest barriers that need to be solved for the sake of our future. I wanted to raise these points, so we can better understand them, begin to discuss them and to help us reach a solution. To me I believe the biggest barrier to most is the cost, even if you want to be the perfect ‘green’ individual it can be almost impossible making you bankrupt. However, I do believe it is slowly getting better and more affordable. I also believe if more of us keep pushing and keep trying to be ‘green’ it will become the new norm and easier for all. I would be interested to know what you think is preventing a greener future and what we can do about it?
Technology has been integrated into our society over the last 20 years and is now a vital part of our life. It helps with everyday tasks, connects us with people around the world and has changed the way the world is run. It also allows information, stories, ideas and suggestions to be shared. For those reasons I love technology. On top of this, it can increase your productivity and ease of life, whilst being fun to use and a massive point of entertainment in the twenty-first century. However, technology and electrical products are often very poor at caring for the environment, which is something I hope they change and I am here to advocate for. I believe most people do not realise the impact they have on the world and this is more so in technology and getting the “latest” phone, laptop, camera or home tech. Therefore, for those that are considerate for our future but still wants to pick up some technology to help them connect with the world here are some key aspects to look for when making your next tech purchase:
Transparency is key to a green and sustainable future. The first step to being green is understanding your impact and to do this you need to understand the product and the company. Before you look at a specific product, look at the company, are they clear with their goals, aims and impact as a whole? In regards to a product, can you find out what parts are in it and where they come from, were it is put together. Even right down to the source of the base materials? This will all help with understanding the full impact the item will have. Look out for open and honest companies that give as much information about the product as possible. Just be careful of greenwashing, as the company might highlight certain credentials to hide or overshadow others or altogether have unfounded claims.
A clear and obvious one is to check how much carbon does the product produce in its creation and even its life (the power consumption). Carbon counting is and will hopefully continue to become a must have figure to all products and if a company offers this it is a good indication on a product's sustainability. The lower the carbon footprint the better. However, if the company does not tell you it can be very hard to find out. When looking at carbon footprint if it is possible you should look at the whole life carbon, as a higher initial carbon footprint might result in a lower one over the life of a product or even the carbon to recycle the item at the end of the products life. I believe this will become a huge part of our future, so look out for it and ask these companies to provide it.
Power is unfortunately not always sustainable and certainly not green or clean. It is also not infinite (yet) and with an ever growing population the demand for it is constantly increasing. Due to this, we need to get more power efficient items of tech going forward to reduce what we use. The more efficient and less we use the less is needed to be produced. This reduces any negative impact from fossil fuel power stations but also allows power to be used for more critical functions such as at hospitals.
Many materials in tech harm the planet. This can be from materials that are mined, which can scar the earth or can be from materials we create like Plastic that also pollute the planet. Therefore, it is good to look for sustainably sourced and natural materials that are used. When looking at the materials in a product look for those that have a higher recycled content, use natural & sustainable materials (if safe to do so) and that minimises the amount they use compared to others. Also, look at the packaging used and make sure this is recyclable. Look for sustainable, no-toxic and ethically sourced materials to be eco-friendly. It is also important to begin to think of the products end of life (see below) and how the materials used will affect this.
Ethical supply chain
This one might be a little tricky to track and check but a company may note it or have a certification with the product detailing it. An ethical supply chain looks at the social responsibility of the corporation. The aim of which is to ensure the product is created in a way that treats workers and the environment ethically. If you know where some of the parts of the product come from then you can check if they are ethical too. It is not just the company itself but the entire supply chain leading to the product being in your hands. Some obvious things to think about is making sure they pay their staff a living wage, do not use sweat factories or child labour or actively pollute our earth.
Repairable and Upgradable?
Moving away from our wasteful culture we need to look at keeping our items including tech in use for as long as possible. To do this we want products that are repairable, so we can continue to use them or upgrade them to keep up with the rest of the world without completely replacing the whole item. Upgradability is an important factor in technology in order to keep up with new software, games and the hardware needs to meet this demand. Therefore, we need to make products upgradable without having to waste the entire device. Look out for companies that design their device to have key components replace increasing the longevity of the product. This all leads to less waste, better use of resources and less carbon emissions, which is obviously better for the environment.
End of life
The world has grown a throw away culture, which is literally killing our planet. We need to get away from this and adopt a circular economy (cradle-to-cradle) approach that allows a product to be reused, remade, or recycled in some way. A lot of companies do buy back or offer discounts for your old trade in, which is a good start. However, the product needs to be made with materials that can be reused and recycled. When purchasing a new item consider its end of life, as this will be something that has to be dealt with in the future.
As an additional bonus a company may back positive initiatives such as charities, planting trees, carbon off-setting, recycling programmes and the like that help them get closer to a truly eco-friendly company. Although this is a great addition your first consideration should be the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the product itself but if the company supports charities you do it is a great addition to your purchase.
At the moment it might be quite hard to find out all this information, as many companies do not disclose it at all (especially when it is not very good for the environment). However, the more we understand about the product and company the better we can view how sustainable, eco-friendly or green it is for us to buy it. I understand you probably do not have the time to fully check a product , nor do I but a quick google search and a run through of the criteria above will help you make the right choice. Always think of the life of a product, as the longer we use something the less waste is produced and the less carbon is used. We also need to push for companies to fully disclose their products information and supply chain, as well as making their products repairable and upgradable. This will put sustainability and our planet's future as a priority when making new products. I hope the above will give you a few items to consider when making your next tech purchase and hopefully in time we will be able to find eco-friendly tech that meets our needs without jeopardising our future.
Updated: Feb 5
Greenwashing is the disinformation of an organisation so that it presents itself in an environmentally responsible public image. Essentially, companies recognise the climate emergency or at least recognise the incredibly large growing mass of people who do and therefore, listening and ensuring their products are eco-friendly sustainable and have a minimal impact. This is a great marketing point, as it allows people to know they share our ethics and will then buy or use their products or services without jeopardising your own ethics and goals. Then here comes Evil Corp. They don’t want to put money in to actually achieve a green, sustainable and eco-friendly business but want to make you believe they are and willing to spend your money with them. This is where greenwashing appears.
Greenwashing can appear in many aspects and it can be hard to tell the signs. Companies will use a number of tricks to paint a product or service as green, eco or ethical from its image, its words used to the “certification” it acclaims to hold. Though there are many ways greenwashing appears, there are still some companies that are good, you just have to do some research or just think about what they are doing and if this meets a green ethic. Some key ways to do this is just by understanding the company and what they deal in, for example it is quite obvious huge fossil fuel companies aren’t really environmentally friendly, yet there can also be quite niche examples. Here are 8 cases of greenwashing you should be aware off:
Volkswagen and Audi used emission cheating software to deceptively advertise diesel vehicle as clean and environmentally friendly, when the were not.
Kauai coffee pods were advertised as 100% compostable with a fine print detailing this had only been certified at “industrial facilities”. The company agreed that this was misleading, as the coffee pods are not certified for backyard compositing.
Ikea noted as a major sustainable corporation have been linked to illegal logging in Ukraine, which is supposedly linked to the wood certification scheme ‘Forest Stewardship Council’ that has been described as greenwashing the timber industry.
Tide purclean detailed their laundry detergent is 100% plant based when it was only 75%, due to this the company agreed to change their packaging to not be so deceptive.
Starbucks released a “straw-less lid” that actually contained more plastic than the old lid and straw combination. Starbucks didn’t even deny this but pressed that it was made from a polypropylene, a commonly-accepted recyclable plastic. However, as only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, it is still creating a greater amount of plastic waste.
H&M have used displays and even slogans that are strikingly similar to those used by climate activist, things like “climate crusader”, as well as pictures of eco-activists, which they use as brand ambassadors. This is all to follow the growing sustainability trend. Yet they don’t really practice what they preach. Even their conscious collection, which is marketed as sustainable has higher damaging synthetic material than their main line. Many clothing brands like this also contribute a great amount to textile waste, which often ends in landfill.
BP changed their name to Beyond Petroleum and added solar panels to their gas station, then focused their advertisement on their low-carbon energy products, yet more than 96% of its annual spend is on oil and gas.
Coca-Cola has been ranked the number 1 plastic polluter and with this title they are still currently stating they are not going to abandon their plastic bottles. Yet still advertise that they are sustainable and eco-friendly.
This is just a handful of the greenwashing that goes on every day, there are many more cases of greenwashing, some that are pending, have been settled or dismissed and many more still ongoing. One story I heard detailed a company who produced eco-paint when the only thing eco-friendly about it was that the pot was recyclable. It angers me companies do this, to pray on people good ethics to further line their pockets. It is also annoying that some companies have for years defiled the environment and then switched to eco-friendly alternative or start to and make out like they were green to begin with, again this is misleading and unfair to the companies starting out with the world in mind.
There are many things to look for to find out if a company is guilty of greenwashing and you should be aware of these. Start with a mindset, where you can look at things in the broader sense by questioning a company’s motive, as well as its primary service/product. Also be aware of niche elements of greenwashing for example I am aware how plant based is the future due to often using drastically lest resources and being less harmful to the environment but can actually still contain products that are harmful such as palm oil. Not all palm oil is harmful but it is if done in an unsustainable way. It is also important that greenwashing can appear in all aspects not just when buying something, banks often brand the money you store with them as life changing and help to fund revolutionary (& green) businesses but neglect to mention the life crippling effect they have when invested in fossil fuel conglomerates. Here are some key things to look out for when buying a product or service:
Vague: Often in a companies catchphrase, motto or slogan they will use eco-friendly terminology but that don’t have an actual meaning to how they are green. For example using a broad term like eco-friendly but without noting how.
Imagery: This is used on product labels such as wildlife, trees, nature and the colour green to associate with a green message. Even though this gives the feeling of an eco-friendly products or service this is just a form of green marketing and does not mean anything.
False Certification: Companies use keen catchphrases that make you want to buy their products such as ‘organic, recycled, recyclable, etc. but unfortunately are not. They are just put onto a product or service to get you to buy them. This is often through some self-declaration or certification that has not be vetted. Make sure to check these claims and if it is actually possible for you to achieve e.g. recyclable locally or has to be sent away to the manufacture.
Swindle: Company’s might have a sustainable/eco-friendly product to wave and attract you but then once at their store show numerous other products that don’t meet the environmentally friendly disclaimer of the one that brought you there.
Simply put greenwashing is disgusting and a deceptive act for the rich to get richer with no care for the environment. It is used to trick people who are actually trying to make an active change through conscious decisions with their money, which is plainly upsetting. Therefore, I have tried to shed some light on greenwashing, some cases of it and what to look for, so you do not fall for it. One more part of inspiration that has always stuck with me on greenwashing comes from one of my favourite spoken word artist who gave the following lyrics:
“our revolution is quickly becoming a catchphrase, a colour to paint the walls of our castles, shell corporation the worlds second largest private sector oil company has now marketed itself as a leader in green technology, there new motto ‘we can pass as green if we just put green dye in the gasoline’”