When it comes to buying stuff, I think it’s important to ‘put your money where your principles are.’ One of my considerations when I choose who to buy from is how they deal with waste (surprise, surprise).
There are two types of corporate behaviour that I look to reward – the first is dealing with waste in a responsible way (i.e. minimizing it, proper recycling, finding new markets for it). A good example of a consumer company that has minimized their packaging is Richmond-based Nature’s Path Foods. In a world of over-packaged cereal products, they have made great strides in offering foods in bulk sizes, and minimal packaging that is recyclable.
London Drugs is a another favorite retailer. They take back and recycle packaging from any item they sell (even Styrofoam!) as well as household appliances and electronics. This is far above and beyond most other stores - even the ones that do a good job of recycling their own stuff.
The other behaviour I use my dollars to encourage is an effort to use what would otherwise be waste (for example using maximum post consumer reused or recycled content in products). A good Canadian example of this is Cascades. A Quebec-based company which produces paper products from 50-100% post-consumer fiber content. They openly share the life cycle analyses done on their products, and even run their facility on bio-gas!
So, the first question you have is... how do you find what you want, at a good price, AND take waste management into account? Well here’s my personal theory. I buy for my family what fits our principles and we can afford - that doesn’t necessarily mean what’s cheapest. It’s not as self sacrificial as it sounds since competition usually keeps prices pretty close.
Next question you’re asking... all right Miss Principles, how do you even find out who is doing a good job in the first place, and not just ‘green washing’?
Well, here are some ideas:
1) Keep an eye on our newsletter, we’re always publishing tidbits about waste conscious corporations and industry.
2) Take a look at the environmental responsibility section of your favorite company’s website.
3) Check for industry standard eco-ratings, like Green Key for hotels.
I think it would be great if there were a ‘waste-guide’ for consumer products. Similar to Energuide, it would tell you where on the spectrum of wastefulness a particular product fits. Walmart has made noises about doing something of that nature in providing life cycle assessments for all their products. While their website says the process in on-going, it also hopes that ‘one day’ it will actually be available and mean something to consumers.
In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my own research and putting my dollars where they count.