Shopping We Can Live With

Ever since my youngest son married a lovely woman whose first tattoo is of the three-arrowed recycling symbol (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), I’ve been far more conscientious about the products I buy and the merchants who get my money.

This approach has turned the chore of shopping into a real joy as I research where to buy both gifts and everyday products we all use from companies who are committed to protecting our environment. With some merchants, it is in the raw materials they use: organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo, non-toxic dyes. With some merchants, it is in the production processes they employ that save water and energy. Some merchants show their ecological commitment in their minimal or recycled packaging. All merchants do not test on animals. Most give back to the world in philanthropy, education, or the protection of indigenous plants and wildlife.

The creation stories and business models of these companies is compelling. TenTree plants trees for every product you buy, help you track the number of trees you are responsible for having planted, and maintain a world map on their website showing where the trees are being planted. Visiting their site is educational and provocative, whether you buy their pajamas or not.

At first, choosing to shop this way may seem cost or time-prohibitive. But I have found that prices that initially seemed outrageous end up being more reasonable than the cost of continuing to buy products I’ve bought my whole life. For example, 100 Senses has a chunky Body Bar that is the width of a Swiss Army Knife. It is a body wash, a face wash, shampoo, and shaving cream. It does not dry your skin, and the more I use it, the more I love my hair. It lasts over a month, and eliminates 2-3 plastic bottles from my shower and our oceans.

In May, our puppy Nala, got skunked. In the week-long process of cleaning everything in our home, I got my wardrobe down to 30 items (not including my boots). I did this because I dislike spending a lot of time figuring out what I’m going to wear, and I dislike even more spending time doing laundry! The next step to this minimalist wardrobe approach is that as I replace those 30 items, I buy things that will last longer from companies whose ethics are admirable and whose mission is more aligned with my own in terms of the impact we make on the world.

If this seems daunting to you, consider that one company doing it right is Levi’s. That one is easy, right? We have literally hundreds of choices in blue jeans. It is like a massage to my brain to not have to decide which company to buy my jeans from this time. I buy my jeans from Levis for all the right reasons, every time.

If you’d like to join me in this quest to protect our world through the products we buy, I’ve listed below some of the merchants I recommend. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the news of how climate change is threatening our health and our very lives. Making everyday purchases from companies who are addressing this crisis in the choices they make in materials, processes, and ethical treatment of their employees, animals, and the world helps me find peace. Giving them my money feels hopeful. I am happy to reward them for doing so much right and I feel like I am increasingly part of the solution. It is one way I can habitually help address a problem that affects us all. If you’re not already shopping this way, I encourage you to check out these companies.

Levi’s: Take a look at what they are doing as leaders in a competitive field to care for the only planet we have:

Nothing New: Sneakers made from 100% recycled materials. Crazy-stylish. Impressive statistics. “We want to positively impact our community, our industry, and our planet. By helping develop best-in-class sustainable products and investing in programs to minimize our environmental footprint, we hope to raise the bar for what customers expect from brands and contribute to the change we want to see in the world.”

Ten Tree Apparel for people and pets — inspiring website “At tentree, we empower everyone to plant trees with their purchases, while offering sustainably made products for everyone to enjoy.”

100 Senses — Personal Care Products (toiletries) “Our philanthropic giving includes heroic animal rescue organizations, protecting the world’s critically endangered species, global habitat conservation, and supporting campaigns against illegal wildlife trade.”

Everlane — Basic, classic clothing. High commitment to the way their products are produced. “Each factory is given a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment. Our goal? A score of 90 or above for every factory.” Lots of sales all the time. Best White T-shirt I’ve ever owned.

Synergy — Clothing. This company also takes back their products to recycle when you’re done with them, and gives you a voucher for money off your next purchase every time. “We believe in creating high quality goods by supporting the well-being of those who make our business possible.”

Who Gives A Crap? Toilet Paper (Paper Towels & Tissues) — If I had my way, this company would put every competitor out of business. Not only are they highly ethical, and their products do not harm the environment, but their marketing and packaging is funny. “We make all of our products with environmentally friendly materials, and we donate 50% of our profits to help build toilets for those in need. To date we’ve donated over $2.5m Aussie dollars (that’s the equivalent of just under $1,900,000!) to charity and saved a heck of a lot of trees, water and energy. Not bad for a toilet paper company, eh?”

Truman’s — housecleaning. Just four products for the entire house. You buy a starter kit of 4 glass spray bottles, and after that, cartridges of product you mix with water to refill those bottles. Products works great. Never buy a plastic bottle of window, floor, shower, or kitchen cleaner again.