It is the season to buy things that you do not need and that destroy the planet. It was always like this. At least since Queen Victoria decided that Christmas was about having a giant tree in the house adorned with decorations and gifts. Or the elites of New York decided to bring the festive street parties of the season indoors and formalize the fun with trinkets that signify status.
In 2017, the environmental charity Hubbub took the trouble to estimate the amount spent annually on Christmas jumpers in the UK: 220 million pounds (AU $ 392 million) and surveying people on how they used them. One in four threw their sweater in the trash and 35% admitted to using only one use.
No figures are available for the number of Santa print swimsuits and BBQ tit aprons given away in Australia. But when the news comes that The weight of things created by humans is now equal to that of all life on Earth.Taking an environmentally conscious look at our purchasing options seems more urgent than ever. We must green our gifts.
If only it were that simple.
There are millions of “green” products that can be made reusable, compostable or biodegradable, recyclable, vegan, natural, green and save the planet. Sustainability sells. Look into Lyst and you’ll probably find that “handcrafted from organic hemp” apron – the global search platform reports a 37% increase in searches for sustainability-related keywords since the beginning of the year.
Many of us are concerned about the health of the planet. We want to learn to live sustainably; we are worried about climate change and loss of species. Our children are anxious about plastic pollution. A supermajority (85%) of respondents this 2019 survey by Southern Cross University He said they would make a conscious effort to buy from green brands in the future.
The problem is that marketers know that we are prepared and waiting with our wallets open, and the rise of the conscious consumer is reflected in an increase in greenwashing of brands. In fact, things have gotten so bad that the UK competition authority is investigating. Competition and Markets Authority is looking for examples of brands “that exaggerate the positive environmental impact of a product or service; use complex or jargon-rich language; and insinuate that the articles are ecological through packaging and logos when this is not true ”.
Here the Australian consumer law prohibits companies from misleading consumers, including through greenwashing, and environmental claims in the advertising and marketing code warn that claims must be true, substantiated, and verifiable; relevant to the product or service and its real environmental impacts, and not be misleading, vague, ambiguous, or unbalanced.
We should add distraction to that list. One of the most common ways that large companies greenwash is making a big fuss about their bright and happy green initiatives, while most of what they do is just unsustainable business as usual.
The large scale of green claims means that watchdogs cannot keep up. Green washing is such a big problem in fashion, for example, that forward-thinking brands like Ganni and Noah they go in the opposite direction, distancing themselves from the term “sustainable fashion”. Patagonia says that “‘green ‘and’ sustainable ‘are on our internal list of dirty and forbidden buzzwords ”.
How often are these words used to describe a product accompanied by a life cycle analysis or takeback program? Or for details about the company’s carbon footprint or some objective to reduce it? How often is good water management or protocols for keeping hazardous chemicals out of the environment mentioned in the wet finishing stage?
I googled “green gifts” and the first thing that came up was some sort of blanket and poncho hybrid, covered in cartoon smiling avocados and marketed as “so soft it feels like you’re hugging a sheep.” Don’t worry, no sheep were harmed to do so. “It is also 100% cruelty free.”
Vegan claims make sense when applied to meat, dairy, and leather alternatives. Or cosmetics that routinely use ingredients of animal origin or that are often tested on animals. But marketers are slapping the trend on things that never used animal products to begin with. Suddenly, every piece of cheap polyester is branded “vegan” or “cruelty-free.” Tell the sea creatures that swim in oceans polluted by the thousands of tiny microfibers that shed every time we wash our synthetic clothes.
According to Fashion Revolution, “A polyester shirt can have more than twice the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt, but synthetic fibers generally have less impact on water and land than cotton. Synthetic fibers made from recycled materials like shredded plastic bottles … have about 50% fewer emissions than using virgin fossil fuels, but the microfiber release is likely to be the same. “
Fashion Revolution is a global consumer campaign launched after the Rana Plaza clothing factory disaster. The big idea was to get buyers to ask more questions about brands ‘supply chains, but over the years it has moved toward advocating for workers’ rights, policy work, and broader consumer education. consumer. One of their solutions is to simply buy less. “Instead of buying new clothes, fall back in love with the clothes you already have,” he suggests.
Another is to do more DIY. Do Smthing Week It coincides with the holiday shopping season and “creates a mega moment for consumerism” by encouraging people to make, fix or recycle something. It has the support of Fashion Revolution and Greenpeace.
But what if the conscious consumer in your life really wants something store bought this year? Bring your inner cynic to those eco-affirmations. Do your homework. Does the brand reveal in-depth details about its sustainability strategy, goals, and progress?
Consider buying from companies that give back to those in need or that support underserved communities with good and fair jobs. Buy items accredited by trusted third-party organizations, such as Fair Trade, Australian certified organic, the World standard for organic textiles (GOTS) or Cradle to Cradle.
Buy from social enterprises, local recyclers, or small manufacturers that are transparent about their short and ethical supply chains. Look for something handmade with a story behind it, where you can (digitally) meet the creators and keep track of the impact the work has had on their lives. For household items and fashion, look for the Nest seal, or the UN Ethical Fashion Initiative. There are many more.
This research takes a little time, but is doable. Check out the Guardian Good Gift Guide for inspiration. But most of all, ask yourself: Does the intended recipient of your gift really want this? Will it delight them for more than a moment? Is it of real value to them? If so, go for it. No more novelty skateboards, please.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.