Updated: Oct 10
Collectively the things we buy influence the things that get sold to us, therefore if we avoid buying products that negatively impact us and our environment, these will gradually be phased of the market. This is community purchasing power.
Why is it important?
In 2020 the european commision created 'A new Circular Economy Action Plan. For a cleaner and more competitive Europe' a report which outlines the importance of purhasing power being a 'powerful driver of the demand for sustainable products' and working together to 'advance towards keeping its resource consumption within planetary boundaries.' This is especially important as 'there is only one planet Earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three'!
Trying to avoid being influenced by greenwashing when shopping is a little like navigating your way through a mine field (metaphorically of course).
Here are a few guidelines to help you siphen out the nonsense and inadvertently tell the big companies that telling fibs to consumers is not good enough:
Avoid plastics where you can - Although able to be recycled, the quality of the recycled material will eventually degrade and is not yet able to be recycled infinitely like glass or aluminium.
Avoid fast fashion brands- No matter how many recycled fibres are used in its creation, the sheer amount of resources used in the fashion industry to create new styles on demand can never be sustainable creating an insane amount of waste every year. 'Ultimately, by continuing to pump out the same product volumes, we are not addressing the root-causes of textile waste – overproduction and overconsumption' says Josephine Philips, CEO and founder of SOJO. Saying no to fast fashion can aid lasting change in the fashion industury for the creation of more sustainable business models to be the norm. Online plastform and App 'Good on you' rate brands assessing 'how well each brand avoids causing harm to workers, the environment and animals, and what they are doing to create positive change on the issues you care about'.
Expect transparency- Businesses who market menstrual products are not legally required to list the compostions of their products. The stigma around periods and lack of knowledge lead to harmful chemicals and artifical fragrances in our period products. As there is still currently no legislation to ensure the safety, sustainabiltiy, affordability and transparency in this industry, we recommend choosing reusable or going for natural disposable products such as those organic bamboo pad liners. WEN (womens environmental network) are campaigning for this transparency in their ongoing Environmenstrual campaign.
Consider durability- When buying consider how you might be using the item and the longevity of it's use. For example with clothing, consider whether the design of the clothes allows you to do the practicalities, looking specifically at durability and ease of movement because no matter how good it seems on the label, it has to work for you and your body.
What about the cost? Most of us will be familiar with a portion of zero waste culture which relys on those who can afford to spend a little extra. Therefore it comes as no shock that in our divided culture, sustainable consumerist practices seem reserved for the well off.
These ideas of a circular low-waste lifestyle become self-inficted barriers in our low waste journey when there are really many varied ways to live with less waste.
Here are some useful tips to circular living to impliment that dont cost the earth (figuratively and literally):
Buy products for the container (and its contence of course!)- when buying grocies think about the longer life potential of the container the goods come it. This can save you from spending money on extra tupperwares or containers in the long run.
Choose natural fibres in your clothing as opposed to synthetic. Natural fabrics biodegrade and often more durable whereas synthetic textiles have a shorter lifespan and are not biodegradable and break down into microplastics polluting our environment. When you shop, make sure to check the labels of the clothes you are purchasing and invest in good quality basics.
Shop loose. Local food markets who need your business will often sell loose produce just dont forget to bring your own bag before you end up taking home more plastic!
Look out for second hand bargains! Online platforms like vinted offer quality clothing at decent prices. Ultilising platforms such as second snuggle and worn in wardrobe for kids clothes, can save you heaps of money on quality items which can then be resold once grown out of.
Take classes in Repair and skill up. Look out for repair cafes, as a relaxed way to connect with experienced menders in your community. Refusing to buy new can divert the economy towards valuing repair, and lowering their product production to more sustainable levels.
Create a meal with your food waste - On average, each person in the UK wastes around 70 kg of food per year, which is equivalent to 140 meals, this shows how bad we are at using what we have in the fridge including what we have left over from meal prep. The overproduction of food and degradation of the soil due to overworking reflects and the addition of chemicals towards an industrial approach to our food reflects this. Have a look at the @zerowastecookingschool for inspiration or @lagomchef for some good 'food waste distruptor' recipes. Take a look at Food justice london campaign set up by the Women's environmental network, all about reclaiming 'our food system so that sustainable, healthy and culturally appropriate food is accessible to everyone in Tower Hamlets and beyond.'
We can often do without, do not give in to the tempting marketing!
Have a look to see if there are any other ways instead of buying, use this as an opportunity to connect with your neighbours. Share what you have together.
Creating coops or joing an existing one, is a good way to avoid unneccessary food packaging such as the small spice jars. Forming a coop just means buying things together, this means that your community can buy foodstuffs wholesale and portion it out once delivered, saving money and packaging. You can also form a coop to share one off items like lawn mowers or power tools.
Encouraging others to influence the economy in a positive way
Creating opportunities to do good can be infectious, whether gifting someone something homemade, offering a class or workshop over a cup of tea, coffee and a chat. Inviting someone to try your low waste meals. Starting a friendly conversation with your neighbour about the implementing a cooperative buying scheme, or simply by sharing this article.
All the best,
Becky and the Sunny Jar Team