Eco-conscious consumers use their purchasing power to stimulate the economy and save the planet. As more and more shoppers make informed decisions about the types of products they buy, the market will shift to favor these sustainable, low-impact goods and services. But making informed decisions is not easy. It can take a lot of time and research if you try to go it alone. Fortunately there are a number of guides out there to help! Here are two—plus a tip—to help make your next trip to the store a green one. Be an eco-consumer!
Where is Your Fish From?
There has been enormous growth and interest in the eco-labeling movement during the last decade or so. While they seem to popping up for every industry, the gold standard for fisheries is now Seafood Watch. Operated through the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, Seafood Watch’s team of scientists, researchers, and industry experts comb through fish stock assessments, fish catch data, fishing gear, country of origin, and more to develop and update their ratings. Seafood Watch provides each species with a Best, Good Alternative, or Avoid label, which can actually vary greatly within a given fish family. For example, Alaskan or aquaculture cod are best choices, while New England cod should be avoided.*
There are three ways to access Seafood Watch’s recommendations: (1) their website, (2) their app (Apple or Android), or (3) printable pocket guides. And remember, when it doubt, just ask your chef or grocer, “Where is your fish from?”
Guides to Green Goods
These days a growing number of consumers are looking to shop sustainably. But until recently, it had been very difficult—if not impossible—to discover the corporate responsibility practices and supply chain impacts of your favorite brands and products. Aiming to fill this void, a professor and her team at the University of California at Berkeley developed the Good Guide. Designed to be a “comprehensive and authoritative resource,” the Good Guide rates a growing number of products on their environmental, health, and social impacts. Over 250,000 products have been reviewed—everything from dog food to eye makeup, diapers to candy. You can access the Good Guide through their website and their app (Apple or Android).
Retail giants Target and Wal-Mart have also created their own guides. Target’s Made to Matter Collection and Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Leaders Shop provide a wealth of information for the conscious consumer. Even if you are not a big box shopper, it might be worth clicking through these sites to see where your favorite brands stand, or find new products to look for or request at your local store.
Buy Local / Buy American
One of the biggest ways commerce impacts the environment is in the shipping and transporting of goods. It doesn’t matter how organic or sustainable a product is, if it gets to the store on a cargo ship or tracker trailer, it’s going to have a large carbon footprint. While trucking companies and port authorities are starting to address this problem (have you seen Wal-Mart’s spaceship truck?), the easiest and most effective solution for consumers is to buy local or buy American. Efficient supply chains coupled with locally-sourced goods and materials generally leave smaller carbon footprints. And you have the added bonus of supporting jobs right here in America, increasing opportunity and competitiveness. Many manufacturing companies have dedicated American-made sections, like LL Bean, and there are entire websites such as MadeInTheUSA.com. For growing lists of products and companies reducing their carbon footprint and bringing jobs back to America, visit Made in USA Challenge or The American List.
Every time we shop, we vote for the world we want to live in. Use your dollars to support products, services, and companies that make this world a better place. Being an eco-consumer takes a bit of effort, but hopefully these guides and tips will help you do just that.
Posted by Tyler Archer, fisheries program lead for CFE/Save the Sound
**Disclaimer: CFE/Save the Sound did not receive any donations or promotions to write this blog and/or feature products or companies, and does not endorse any featured product or company.**
*Recirculating Aquaculture Systems are land-based, closed-systems that do not discharge into the ocean and have limited harmful effects on the outside environment; unlike water-based systems. Alaska takes factors such as stock, bycatch, gear, and habitat into account, and recommending strict management protocols. Almost all Alaskan fish, including Pacific cod, are considered sustainable and a best choice! Closer to home, Atlantic cod is crumbling. Fishermen centuries ago once wrote of so much cod they practically jumped in their boats (that’s how Cape Cod got its name). These days however, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank Atlantic cod are overfished and have not recovered.