My go-to word to use for anything and everything on my blog is sustainability. Why? Well, it’s a great blanket term that is a buzz word in almost every industry. People can understand and relate to the word when I use it. The definition that I follow basically states that sustainability means taking care of people, animals, and the planet. This term ensures workers have safe working conditions and fair wages, animals are not harmed in the creation of products and the planet is not damaged from sourcing the raw materials to the process of making the products and distributing them. That’s a lot. The vagueness of the definition can sometimes create problems because the word can be used loosely in other industries. There are also so many words that are synonymous with sustainability but means entirely different things. You can consider them different branches in this sustainable tree.
The different branches
- Conscious consumer
- Fair Trade
All of these terms I technically consider under the same umbrella of sustainability in terms of cohesiveness but in an effort to be more precise in my language in 2019 I plan to use more accurate terminology in my posts. Thus, I gotta break down a lot of these terms because they are in fact VERY different from one another
The Green Dictionary
- These words are primarily focusing on how a product affects nature. Often it relates to reducing their negative environmental impact. These products often are made with a smaller carbon footprint and/or are made without toxic chemicals and pesticides. A lot of major brands take advantage of these terms because sometimes there production is not always “green” even if the product’s ingredients are.
- Conscious consumer
- Someone who is mindful of how they shop. They using purchases to express their dollar votes and are mindful of social and environmental impacts. This person doesn’t necessarily make perfect purchases but they try their best given their circumstances.
- Social Empowerment
- This is just the give back model. Typically, when something is referred to as ethical it most likely they are giving back through their products. This could include a company that donates a pair of glasses to someone in need every time you purchase a pair or a company that donates a portion of their profits to a cause. While the company is doing good, ironically, the products might not be made from materials that are good for the planet or don’t instill fair wages for workers.
- This term relates to allowing consumers into the supply chain. It means the company chooses to show the consumer exactly how much everything cost to make the product and thus explaining why the product is priced a certain way. While auditing required in transparency often means that the products are made ethically that is not always the case.
- Buy only what you need. Reducing your waste and impact on the world is really important in 2019. While minimalist typically buys clothes of good quality, that doesn’t always mean it is made from materials that don’t damage the earth or that protect workers.
- Fairtrade is a third party accreditation. It is a costly process of auditing a specific product. It is easier for food to be fairtrade than for clothes. A fair trade banana simply means that fruit was produced from trees that are protected and that the workers were paid fairly in safe working conditions. This is proven through intense auditing and screening. But for clothes, in order for a t-shirt to be fair trade, the raw materials to the finished product have to be all certified fair trade. Thus, a lot of the time a company will use fair trade cotton, but not necessarily fair trade t-shirt. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the t-shirt was produced unethically it just means that it is just too difficult sometimes to audit every stage of the t-shirt making process because the t-shirt company hardly ever owns the factories where the t-shirt is made.
- Small trade men and women will have a small business making bracelets, bags etc. by hand but often can’t afford the accreditation of fairtrade. They might sheer their own alpaca to create a sweater but don’t have the means to pay to certify their product. Because this term is not accredited, it can sometimes be taken advantage of because anyone can use it. Typically though it just means the product from start to finish was made by a single person or small group of workers. It’s important not to be discouraged by artisan made because through this we are able to support skilled craftspeople keep techniques and skills alive in their cultures.