6 Questions to Ask to Know Whether a Product is Really Sustainable

*Collaborative Post

These days, consumers are more mindful than ever when it comes to sustainability,  including when it comes to the products they buy. Sustainability can be a major determining factor when it comes to purchasing decisions for some people, and less do for others. If you’re trying to live an eco-friendly lifestyle and reduce your footprint on the earth, you probably already keep sustainability in mind every time you go to the store or shop online.

But how do you know if the products you buy are truly sustainable? With so much green-washing around these days and terms like “natural”, “green”, and “eco” thrown around casually, it can be hard to tell. Here are the 6 most important questions you should ask to know if a product really is sustainable.

1. What materials have been used to make this product?

When it comes to manufacturing, things go to a microscopic level. For example, organic cotton is produced using methods that require fewer pesticides and water than regular cotton. This means organic cotton is significantly less damaging to the environment.

Before you buy anything, go through the list of materials shown on the label. Materials that come from renewable sources are more sustainable than those made from petroleum-based products. For instance, fabrics made of quick-growing plants like hemp and bamboo are more sustainable than polyester or nylon which ultimately come from fossil fuels.

2. Can I recycle or repurpose it?

No product lasts forever. Sooner or later, we have to dispose of it. It’s important to consider whether you’ll need to throw it in the trash when this happens or if you’ll be able to recycle or repurpose it.

Certain materials, including some (but not all) types of plastic and glass can be easily recycled. Better still, certain materials are compostable, and some products come in reusable containers, from shampoo to toothpaste.

3. How easy is it to maintain?

Easy maintenance translates into long-term durability. For example, if the product is easy to clean, you can keep it in good condition and use  it much longer than something that is difficult or impossible to keep clean. On the other hand, if the item requires a high level of maintenance that you honestly won’t do, you can expect to throwing it away before too long.

4. How durable is it?

Durable products have a longer life expectancy, meaning you don’t need to replace them as often, which in turn is good news for the environment. This saves raw materials and production sources, ultimately reducing your carbon footprint. For example, real leather is much more durable than cheap vinyl and leather shoes will last three or four times as long as poor-quality vinyl ones. Equally  high-quality sheepskin slippers will last much longer than their synthetic counterparts.

5. Does it have a timeless design?

Short-lived charm is the biggest flaw of trendy designs. A timeless design which is  evergreen and aesthetically appealing will mean that your purchase won’t date or age over time. This question is extremely important for highly durable products such as metallic cutlery. Spoons and forks serve you as long as you’d like, as long as you don’t grow sick of the outdated design.

6. How committed is the manufacturer to sustainability?

The answer to this question will give you an idea of whether or not the brand itself is committed to environmentally-friendly practices. Do some research into the brand and look for social responsibility and eco-friendly practices along with participation in green initiatives. These are all good signs. Some online research will help you shortlist the most sustainable brands you should seek out.

The Key Aspects of a Sustainable Product:
  • Carbon Footprint – In the context of climate change, it’s crucial to consider the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced as part of the product’s manufacture and transport. The carbon footprint of any product also includes any emissions that are generated as part of extracting or producing the raw materials. The production process begins with the preparation and sourcing of the raw materials, and the carbon footprint starts here. Think about the greenhouse gases that are produced from the very start of the process until it arrives at your door.
  • Life Expectancy or Durability – The life expectancy of the product is also a big part of its sustainability. The longer it lasts, the more sustainable it is, as overall this means less drain on resources, less emissions during production, and less waste generated once you throw it away.
  • Sourcing – Natural or organic raw materials is ideal for sustainability. These materials are not only environmentally friendly, but also generally better for your health.
  • Repurposing or Recyclability – Sustainable products must be either easily recyclable, compostable, or able to be repurposed. This means that when it comes to the end of its useful life it won’t end up as harmful waste in landfill or polluting the environment.
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