Definitions Debunked

Girl Sitting In Coffee Shop.
- Bethan U.
Have you ever asked yourself what being “sustainable” or “ethical” actually means? We hear these words a lot in our media, and we also use them in our everyday conversations, probably without even realising it! As much as all this talk about being a “conscious consumer” is good, it’s helpful we are also informed consumers who understand why this is more than just a trend, but a behavioural lifestyle change with long-term impact.

So, after much deliberation, here are our top picks of buzzwords to debunk for you. We would love to provide you with an entire dictionary (maybe a future project), but for now we will unpack those words we believe are most commonly used. We hope this is helpful next time you go shopping!

Sustainable

Now this word is probably the most widely used (over 5.4 million times on Instagram to be exact), but it’s also widely misused. There are multiple definitions, but in essence, sustainability is about preserving what resources we have. According to the United Nations, this is to ensure we do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability encompasses all aspects of life, not just the environment, but means acknowledging the social, cultural and economic impacts of our own actions. Yes, we are all very much responsible!

Ethical

Our concept of morality, what we deem to be right or wrong, is certainly an area of tension in today’s world. As Christians, we go to the Bible as our compass in discerning what is good and bad - thank you Jesus! The ethical trade movement refers to the principles that govern the working conditions of people who produce anything from clothes, toys, food, and other products, as well as if they are paid the appropriate living wage. The Ethical Trading Initiative is an internationally recognised code of labour practice and has some great resources worth perusing. 

Fair Trade

Fair trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent, and respectful. Marginalised producers and their communities are the primary concern, ensuring a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor and better prices for their labour. Overall, there is transparency with both customers and producers by sharing information about the entire supply chain through honest communication. For something to be fairtrade, it has to be certified - which brings us to our next point... 

Certified

While ‘ethical’ is an unregulated term that is primarily used in relation to the working conditions and pay of a products producers, Fair trade is an official certification awarded by governing bodies. If a product is certified, it has therefore gone through rigorous testing to meet certain standards and qualifications.

Essentially, you can trust these products are doing what they are claiming to do - protecting our people and our planet.

*SPOILER: We will have a blog post that explains different certification labels. This helps you know which labels are in fact legitimate and useful. 

Greenwashing

Natural.
Eco.
Green.

Do these sound familiar? I hate to say it, but we’ve all been “green-washed”, and by that I mean brainwashed. Greenwashing is the ever so sneaky practise of making a product appear way more beneficial for the environment and our health than they actually are. Unfortunately many brands who use this technique have made a misleading claim which is for some reason legal - yes, you heard me. When it comes to what you’re buying, it’s up to you as the consumer to do the research. Remember, informed consumer, not just conscious.

To avoid being “greenwashed” don’t be fooled by the packaging, read the labels and fine print, look for certification logos (blog on this coming soon) and always do your background research.

To end, we'll leave you with the words of American architect and design-thinker, Lance Hosey, from an article in the Huffington Post, “Sustainability isn’t a trend; it’s an ethic. It can never become unfashionable, even if its language does.”

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