My favorite ways to limit my environmental and social impact.
For the past 10 weeks I have been taking a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) class. We have been exploring the entire life cycle of many industries, including housing, automobiles, computers, food, and clothing. We look at all of the inputs that go into a single product (such as cotton, polyester, water, and energy) and examine the outputs (such as a t-shirt and carbon emissions). Needless to say, it has completely opened my eyes to my consumer consumption.
For over a year now I have been practicing a more minimalistic lifestyle. I limit my purchases to the bare minimum: rarely buying makeup, hair, and skin care products; opting for second-hand furniture; and purchasing food in amounts that I can actually eat. And while this more minimalistic lifestyle has become a habit over the past year, it is strongly linked to my current income. When I quit my job in October of 2015, I was forced to limit my spending. This still holds true today as I pursue my Master’s degree. But, like most people in this world, I enjoy shiny new things; and I know that as my purchasing power increases, likely so will my spending.
So, for this month’s favorites, I want to talk about a few of the companies that I have learned about over the course of my LCA class. These brands are my favorites, not only because of the amazing products they produce, but because of the importance they place on limiting their impacts.
- Patagonia – Ask any engaged and relatively educated consumer to name one sustainable brand and they will likely say, “Patagonia!” So, what is Patagonia? Easy, an industry leader in sustainable materials sourcing, focused on quality, durability, and performance in product manufacturing, that combines awesome design and brand reputation. In my mind, that brand promise makes for the perfect product and should convince anyone to purchase Patagonia. I bought their Quandary Pants this month (as I previously did not own any hiking pants), and couldn’t be happier.
- Apple – Apple is one of my favorite brands. I personally have owned two MacBooks, one iMac, three iPhones, two iPads, and one iHome. I know…#minimalism? But this is the world we live in, and technology changes so rapidly! In some ways, we are forced to keep up. At least by purchasing Apple I can feel a little better about it. In the plethora of environmental reports that Apple makes available, you can see the steps this company has taken to limit their carbon footprint, specifically through the use of renewable energy, reductions in packaging, and decreases in hazardous chemicals use. An Apple a day keeps the Earth doctor away?
- Nike – But wait – I thought Nike was one of the big guys in bad labor practices? Yes, that has definitely been the case, but the company has been taking steps to improve practices abroad. While things aren’t perfect, you can read here all about the closed loop ecosystem Nike employs to do more for our world. We all have a carbon footprint – I’m just glad that mine reads Nike.
- Audi – If you had asked me over the last five years what my ideal car would be, I would have named Audi easily. So much so, that when I went to purchase a car in 2014, I got the closest thing I could find in my price range: a VW Jetta (which owns Audi). After reading Audi’s Corporate Social Responsibility report, I feel even better about naming them as one of my most coveted brands.
- Levi’s – I don’t frequent this brand much, but I have been living in my 710 Jeans for about six months now. Levi’s LCA provides some fascinating information about cotton cultivation and water usage in washing. Considering nothing comes up when I search “Joe’s Jeans CSR” or “Joe’s Jeans sustainability”, I might have to make a permanent switch with future purchases (which will make my wallet and the earth happy).
Another brand of note is prAna. Since I don’t own any prAna products, it didn’t feel authentic to list it as a May favorite. That being said, I have been heavily eyeing their Tess short for obvious reasons.
These brands aren’t perfect, but they are aware and are invested in their impact, both socially and environmentally – and that is better than most. Yes, you likely will pay more for these brands, but you are investing in our future by protecting the planet and are providing a living wage for people around the world. If you shop fast fashion (like Forever 21 and H+M), you are supporting horrible labor practices (read: sweatshops), where humans are paid a wage under $2 a day. The True Cost is a documentary on Netflix that dives into the fast fashion industry and is a must-watch.
You vote with your dollars, and those are the five that I vote for with mine.
What are some of your favorite sustainable brands? Let us know below.