CSRHub Blog Research on ESG metrics and comments on sustainability best practice

An Inconvenient Truth about our Shopping Habits

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 21, 2013 10:55:59 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

By Guest blogger, Gia Machlin
If you have ever watched Seinfeld or any other comedy based on Jewish humor, you knowshopping habits that we Jews are not generally the most optimistic people.  Remember the Nanny’s mother and her constant criticism of her daughter, or Don Rickles’ insulting humor?  I recently saw a video parody of a Mad Men ad campaign, where the ad execs think the slogan “It gets better” would never work with a Jewish audience.  Instead, they came up with a campaign slogan: “It could be worse!”

A lot has been written about how to get a message of environmental stewardship and conscious consumption across without relaying doom and gloom.  We are told to inspire people to change their habits, instead of scaring them or instilling feelings of guilt.  Terror and guilt can make people feel overwhelmed, helpless, and ultimately hopeless and defeated.  So there is a lot of merit to keeping the message positive, inspiring, and empowering.  That is what I and so many other environmental bloggers have been trying to do over the years.  But being optimistic and inspirational is not mutually exclusive with being realistic, informed, and completely honest about some really unpleasant facts.  And just as “It Gets Better” may not work with all audiences, we mustn’t feel that we can’t use a little sobering reality to encourage people to change their purchasing habits.

The movie “An Inconvenient Truth” made people uncomfortable enough to start installing solar panels, drive Priuses, and rethink their indiscriminate use of fossil fuels.  It’s time to get people thinking hard about their addiction to cheap consumer goods, and to understand the true cost of the products they purchase.  Not to be a bummer, but that cheap but chic clothing, that wildly popular cosmetic, or that great smelling air freshener all have some pretty ugly side effects.  Let’s make sure we talk about these issues openly without the fear of being called “Debbie Downer.”

Let’s break this down into a few simple questions to ask yourself when shopping:

  • Do I really need this?  Is there something I already have that can be repurposed or reused to perform the same function?  If the answer is yes, or if the answer is no but you still feel like treating yourself to something new (it’s important to allow indulgences unless you want to and commit to changing your life radically), then move on to question 2.
  • How long will this product last?  Is it made of something that is durable or will it fall apart after a few uses?  If the answer is more than a year (or whatever standard you select), then move on to question 3.
  • What material/ingredients make up this product?  Does it contain toxins that can be harmful to people and the environment?  If the answer is no, move on to question 4.
  • How/where was this product made?  Did the workers get paid fairly?  Are they working in safe conditions?  If the answer to this is yes, move on to question 5. (Note – this is a hard criteria to meet, unfortunately, so until more companies take this on at the corporate level, you may have to settle for moving on to question 5 even if the answer is no).
  • How will I ultimately dispose of this product?  Can it be recycled, or better yet, composted?  If not, can I give it away for reuse or repurposing?  Even if you don’t know, this is important to think about when you make a purchase decision.

 

There are many other things to consider, like how much packaging is involved, how energy efficient the product is (for electronics), how far the product needed to travel before it got to the store, and the list goes on and on.  But if everyone took the time to at least ask themselves these 5 simple questions every time they shopped, we would see a big change in where and how people spend their money.

You may be wondering how this ties back to being a downer.  I believe these questions are not asked because it takes some pleasure out of the shopping experience.  How can I enjoy that beautiful coat when I have to think about the conditions of the workers who made it in some far away country?

However, if we talk about these issues more openly and make them a part of our daily discussions, people will become informed and (heaven forbid) maybe feel bad about the consequences of their indiscriminate shopping, and make some real changes that will ripple across the shopping world.


Gia Machlin EcoPlumGia Machlin, president and CEO of EcoPlum, an online green shopping rewards site. Watch for her contributions to the CSRHub blog on eco-friendly products and green living ideas. For more on EcoPlum, or to follow the EcoPlum blog, visit www.ecoplum.com.

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Fast Fashion has to Slow Down

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 19, 2013 9:36:20 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

By Gia Machlin

fast fashionA few years ago, those checking labels for chemical ingredients in their food, buying organic produce, or looking at the sustainability ratings of seafood were in the vast minority. Organic and natural foods were only available in “health food” and specialty stores and organic restaurants were practically unheard of. People were also buying their clothing at Target, H&M, Gap, and from designers without thinking about where and how it was manufactured. And while the food industry has undergone a slow but steady revolution, fast fashion has yet to slow down.

Thanks to slow food pioneers like Michael Pollen, Michele Obama, and Jamie Oliver, there’s been a wave of change around food. We’ve seen organic food sections of supermarkets and restaurants specializing in sustainable cuisine pop up everywhere, and we’ve even seen more sustainable choices in our children’s school food programs. But, for the most part, we still buy our clothing without thinking about the workers and the materials behind their production. Unfortunately, until the tragic collapse of a factory killed over 1000 women workers in Bangladesh this past April, few people were tuned in to the sustainability issues around fashion. That is beginning to change. I can only hope this is the start of a fashion revolution.

When thinking about the “sustainability” of any product, in this case clothing, it is helpful to consider three important elements:
1) The effect on the earth, nature and the environment
2) The personal health and safety impact on the consumer
3) The impact on the workers who make the product

The environmental component is probably the most well known aspect of the three elements I listed above. What materials were used in making the product? How much water and energy were consumed during the production process? How many miles did the product have to travel to get to the consumer? Is the product reusable, recyclable, or compostable, or does it leave behind a large footprint upon disposal? These are all critically important questions to be asking, and luckily we have reputable eco-labels and Life Cycle Analysis experts to guide us through the decision making process. But how much have you heard about the personal health impact of a cotton t-shirt or dress?

According to the Organic Trade Association, “Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop.” Really? And I put that shirt on my child? They go on to say that “during the conversion of cotton into conventional clothing, many hazardous materials are used and added to the product, including silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde-just to name a few.” Wow! That should make you think twice next time you shop for camp clothing for your kids. Luckily there are companies that use GOTS certified organic cotton and other non toxic materials in their clothing. We sell many of those organic cotton clothing products at EcoPlum. And many manufacturers are starting to shift to less toxic production processes, which is great for those of us who don’t want to leach chemicals into our skin just from wearing clothing. But the part that, until this year, got the least attention was the third aspect of sustainability: how are the workers who made the article of clothing treated?

After the tragedy at the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, H&M and other European companies signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, but US companies refused to sign it. As it turns out, just an hour ago (while I was writing this post), the NY Times reported that 17 major US retailers, including Walmart, Gap, Target and Macy’s, announced their plan to improve factory safety in Bangladesh: The Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative. I haven’t read it yet, but critics are saying it is much less stringent than the European plan. Still, this is great news. But as long as there are workers in developing countries making our clothing, it is important that we find out more about the conditions of those workers before making a purchase. One good way is to purchase clothing from companies that are members of the Fair Trade Federation, Green America Certified, or otherwise transparent about the fair treatment of the people who make their products.

I know this is a lot to think about when making a clothing purchase, but if we make these mindful decisions and evolve as consumers, the fashion industry will have to follow suit.

See the companies, and their sustainability ratings, who have joined the Clean Clothes Accord on CSRHub! New source just added!

A few years ago, those checking labels for chemical ingredients in their food, buying organic produce, or looking at the sustainability ratings of seafood were in the vast minority. Organic and natural foods were only available in “health food” and specialty stores and organic restaurants were practically unheard of. People were also buying their clothing at Target, H&M, Gap, and from designers without thinking about where and how it was manufactured. And while the food industry has undergone a slow but steady revolution, fast fashion has yet to slow down.

Thanks to slow food pioneers like Michael Pollen, Michele Obama, and Jamie Oliver, there’s been a wave of change around food. We’ve seen organic food sections of supermarkets and restaurants specializing in sustainable cuisine pop up everywhere, and we’ve even seen more sustainable choices in our children’s school food programs. But, for the most part, we still buy our clothing without thinking about the workers and the materials behind their production. Unfortunately, until the tragic collapse of a factory killed over 1000 women workers in Bangladesh this past April, few people were tuned in to the sustainability issues around fashion. That is beginning to change. I can only hope this is the start of a fashion revolution.

When thinking about the “sustainability” of any product, in this case clothing, it is helpful to consider three important elements:
1) The effect on the earth, nature and the environment
2) The personal health and safety impact on the consumer
3) The impact on the workers who make the product

The environmental component is probably the most well known aspect of the three elements I listed above. What materials were used in making the product? How much water and energy were consumed during the production process? How many miles did the product have to travel to get to the consumer? Is the product reusable, recyclable, or compostable, or does it leave behind a large footprint upon disposal? These are all critically important questions to be asking, and luckily we have reputable eco-labels and Life Cycle Analysis experts to guide us through the decision making process. But how much have you heard about the personal health impact of a cotton t-shirt or dress?

According to the Organic Trade Association, “Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop.” Really? And I put that shirt on my child? They go on to say that “during the conversion of cotton into conventional clothing, many hazardous materials are used and added to the product, including silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde-just to name a few.” Wow! That should make you think twice next time you shop for camp clothing for your kids. Luckily there are companies that use GOTS certified organic cotton and other non toxic materials in their clothing. We sell many of those organic cotton clothing products at EcoPlum. And many manufacturers are starting to shift to less toxic production processes, which is great for those of us who don’t want to leach chemicals into our skin just from wearing clothing. But the part that, until this year, got the least attention was the third aspect of sustainability: how are the workers who made the article of clothing treated?

After the tragedy at the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, H&M and other European companies signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, but US companies refused to sign it. As it turns out, just an hour ago (while I was writing this post), the NY Times reported that 17 major US retailers, including Walmart, Gap, Target and Macy’s, announced their plan to improve factory safety in Bangladesh: The Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative. I haven’t read it yet, but critics are saying it is much less stringent than the European plan. Still, this is great news. But as long as there are workers in developing countries making our clothing, it is important that we find out more about the conditions of those workers before making a purchase. One good way is to purchase clothing from companies that are members of the Fair Trade Federation, Green America Certified, or otherwise transparent about the fair treatment of the people who make their products.

I know this is a lot to think about when making a clothing purchase, but if we make these mindful decisions and evolve as consumers, the fashion industry will have to follow suit.

- See more at: http://www.ecoplum.com/blog/fast-fashion-has-to-slow-down/#sthash.HDPTadwd.dpuf


Gia Machlin,  president and CEO of EcoPlum, an online green shopping rewards site. Watch for her contributions to the CSRHub blog on eco-friendly products and green living ideas. For more on EcoPlum, or to follow the EcoPlum blog, visit www.ecoplum.com.

 

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in fast fasion, Gia Machlin, Uncategorized, organic cotton, Organic Food, Safer Chemicals, changing habits, eco friendly products

Gift Giving Returns with the Spring – Make it Eco Friendly!

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 29, 2013 3:21:59 PM / by CSRHub Blogging

By Gia Machlin

Just when you think you are out of the woods with gift giving, the spring season returns eco friendly shoppingwith all kinds of consumer driven holidays: Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Graduations, and all those spring birthdays!

For us treehuggers, it would be nice if we could just give the gift of love or a hug and pretend that it will make our families and others happy during this time. But while I’m sure they wouldn’t mind the gesture, they would probably prefer to also receive a new video game, an iTunes® gift card or a designer bag.

If you want to stick to your green roots (and can’t afford a Prada bag anyway), here are a few eco-friendly options that will put a smile on your gift-receivers’ faces.

For the wine or whiskey enthusiast, give one of these BottleHood branded tumblers. You can choose anything from a Corona juice glass to a Grey Goose recycled bottle vase or a Belvedere Vodka cheese tray from this beautiful line of reclaimed glassware.

If you’ve got a fashionista on your shopping list, she might like something from the ellecante eco friendly clothing line, which features pieces like a 100% organic cotton cardigan, a silk blend blouse, or a tailored tailored jacket. Whether your gift-receiver is a trend-setter or a laid-back, hobo-style chick, ellecante has something for you to give.

Don’t forget the music lovers. These Handmade Eco Friendly Journals and notebooks from Vintage Vinyl are sure to satisfy the classic-rocker or maybe even… grandma? The record cover selection is extensive, ranging from Bruce Springsteen and Elton John, to Grease and even Barbara Streisand.

What if you’re looking for an eco-friendly skin product for the natural-seeking beauty queen? Try the All Good Goop moisturizer and soothing salve. Free of petroleum and made with organic ingredients such as lavender, beeswax and extra virgin olive oil, this multi-tasker can help heal cuts, blisters, sunburn, chapped lips, insect bites, dry skin and more.

If makeup is what you’re seeking, I like the 8:30 Mineral Eye Liner & Eye Shadow in dark brown, by Ferro Cosmetics. This mineral shadow will last all day, whether you’re going for subtle color or dramatic Cleopatra eyes. For more shades, try one of the other Ferro Cosmetics’ eye shadows – they’re light and super shimmery – great for the spring season!

Last, but never least, don’t forget the eco-kids! Children are the ones who cherish gift-giving the most, so why not surprise them with an Earth Day Winter White ‘TREE’ Organic tee by Dhana EcoKids, one of these adorableGlobal Green Pals dolls, or a pack of non-toxic natural crayons by Clementine Art for those creative kinds. They’ll have fun drawing self portraits, without the worry of exposure to toxic chemicals.

If you want to give the greenest gift of all, try a e-gift card from EcoPlum!  Avoid the waste associated with returned and unwanted gifts, with the added benefit of introducing your loved one to all the beautiful and stylish eco friendly products available online at EcoPlum!


Gia Machlin,  president and CEO of EcoPlum, an online green shopping rewards site. Watch for her contributions to the CSRHub blog on eco-friendly products and green living ideas. For more on EcoPlum, or to follow the EcoPlum blog, visit www.ecoplum.com.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 7,000+ companies from 135 industries in 91 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

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[fa icon="comment"] 7 Comments posted in CSR, Ecoplum, Gia Machlin, Uncategorized, sustainability, CSRHub, eco friendly gifts, eco friendly options, eco friendly products, green products

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