Melting icecaps, emptying water bodies, forest fires in Australia and the rapid depletion of natural resources are some of our major problems today. The Earth is dying. According to the U.S Center for Atmospheric Research, the Arctic will be free of ice by 2040 if the current global temperature rise continues. The Australian bushfires in 2019-2020 burnt 21% of the total area covered by forests.
Over the past decade, climate change and pollution have been at the heart of the current global dialogue. A dying and diseased world should not be something left to your descendants. The first lockdown proved to us that making changes in our lifestyles will have a positive worthwhile effect on nature. For example, in the city of Jalandhar in Punjab, the nearby Himalayan range was visible for the first time in decades due to a drop in air pollution levels.
I sincerely believe that it is the duty and responsibility of each and every one of us to make conscious decisions. As residents of our home, the Earth, it is up to us to save her or at the very least not kill her even further.
Making the humble change from home
Every small change is a step in the right direction and change is something that starts at home. Green shopping is something that everyone can take part in at their own pace- slowly and steadily. A green shopper is someone who shops with the intent not to harm the environment and people through child labour, unfair trade practices and exploitation to the extent possible. They consciously purchase products and/or services that support social issues and help conserve natural resources.
The idea of green shopping or being a conscious shopper is becoming increasingly necessary because of a recent drastic drop in natural resources and increasing climate change. In 2019, at the meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development, the United Nations mentioned that we have only 11 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Green shopping gives us a multitude of reasons as to why it is beneficial to us as most eco-friendly products are usually recyclable or reusable.
How can we be conscious buyers?
Here are some easy changes we can make to be more conscious buyers:
As we’re all are aware, plastic is extremely harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable. When burnt, they release toxins into the air adding to pollution. The world still has a long way to go regarding discontinuing the use of plastic.
South Korea is the world’s leader in plastic consumption per capita. As of 2019, the country consumed almost 469.2 thousand tons of single-use plastic bags. Alarming, isn’t it? It just goes to show that a simple act of bringing our own reusable cloth or jute bag will pave the way to reducing the use of plastic.
Another widely known easy change for us is to buy a reusable metal straw and use that over the plastic straws that are usually provided with drinks. The USA produces 8.5 million plastic straws every day. Just imagine how many plastic straws India produces annually? Thankfully, a positive change has already started in India, where organisations like Pappco India and Shunya are selling eco-friendly straws made of paper or bamboo straws.
A less well-known fact is that toothbrushes are not recyclable, since small parts get stuck in the machinery and end up in landfills. In the landfills, they release harmful chemicals into the ground and the air while decomposing. Plastic toothbrushes actually take more than 400 years to decompose. Did you know that we discard 4.7 billion toothbrushes annually? A better alternative to that is to convert to using bamboo toothbrushes instead.
Simple acts of conscious shopping in India
My mother and grandmother would often tell me about how people were environmentally conscious in the past. Chennai had the concept of ‘button milk’ wherein milk would be dispensed from a vending machine at the push of a button into bottles that customers would bring in. In earlier practices, the milkman would leave milk in glass bottles at the doorstep and pick them up empty the next day and deliver another pack of milk in glass bottles.
This has sadly died out in cities in India as it is much easier for people to buy milk in plastic packets and discard them. However, I think that with a little change to the original plan to accommodate the lifestyle changes, this idea could come back into circulation.
How brands are embracing conscious shopping
The recent trend has been towards where environmentally conscious shoppers are aware of the message that companies send out. The Body Shop, a popular brand, has an extremely eco-friendly approach to its products compared to other brands. One of their main projects has been to reuse, reduce and recycle their products whenever possible from the inception of the company. They encourage their customers to drop off used packaging which they further reuse.
As the manufacturing processes are becoming transparent, it is becoming easier for customers to find companies whose ideals they agree with when it comes to sustainability, fair trade and cruelty-free. Companies like Unilever has made sustainability a part of their corporate identity. In fact, Unilever celebrated 10 years of Sustainable Living Plan in 2020 to tackle social inequality and the climate crisis focusing on energy, communities and water use. Since then, the company has made great strides over the last decade, it has been awarded the Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations.
With an increased demand for transparency behind manufacturing, businesses are becoming more openly environmentally conscious. The cosmetics company L’Oréal decided to outsource ethical mica from India and make the process transparent in 2016.
It is heartening to see that customers are willing to pay a little more for a product if it is green, safe and sustainable to our environment. So, you see, even if it is a small step, green shopping is certainly the way forward!
Contributor: Ananya Sampath
About our Writing Program Student
Ananya Sampath is a 11th Grade student studying at Legacy School, Bangalore. She enjoys reading, playing badminton and dancing in her free time. She is passionate about history and enjoys learning about new cultures and mythologies.