Green Purchasing

Environmentally preferable purchasing
Over the past few years, innovation in various materials has given rise to a variety of attractive consumer products. However, the repercussion of this tremendous increase in products has been substantial. Examples include global warming, energy consumption, resource depletion and toxic chemical usage; all of which are considerably affecting the environment and impacting on human health. Many progressive initiatives have been undertaken to produce sustainable products in the recent past, yet they do not surpass the increase in products that are a burden to our health and the environment.

Buying products that are less taxing to our earth, the environment and health is one small step that can be implemented by the people towards sustainability. Such products also known as ‘green’ products or environmentally (eco) friendly products are those which are less demanding on energy and resources. These products are also less harmful to the environment and human health allowing sustainable living.

There are many aspects which identify a product to be environmentally preferable or ‘green’. The various aspects and criteria include:
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
• Using recyclable materials
• Reducing water usage
• Reducing toxic chemicals and hence health impacts including allergies
• Packaging effects
• Reducing impacts on eco-system and biodiversity

Several standards, specifications and criteria guidelines have been framed. The product ‘greenness’ increases if all these criteria and standards are diligently met. However, many product suppliers claim to be ‘green’ yet do not comply with appropriate guidelines or standards. This is called as ‘green wash’ and one needs to be wary of this while purchasing environmentally preferable products.
Many environmentally conscious organisations, companies, and workplaces have adopted to environmentally preferable purchasing keeping in view the above criteria, thereby increasing their corporate sustainability credentials. To be an effective ‘green’ purchaser, product considerations include raw material source and harmful chemicals usage, production, operation and transportation processes, distribution, packaging, reuse and recycling, maintenance/disposal of the product, besides ‘green’ awareness on the part of the supply chain.

The situation is different at the household front. Environmentally preferable products are still to be green purchasingincorporated into day to day life. There is no dearth of commercial products in our daily life, but a very few are eco-friendly products in a true sense. Consumer products like organic food, clothing, stationary, furniture, cosmetics, cleaning chemicals, carpets and electrical appliances are some of our daily usage products. According to one study consumer household purchases were responsible for 40% of the environmental damage and market share of green products remains confined to just 1-3% of the entire market. The factors identified for consumer behaviour with regards to purchasing environmentally friendly products related to high price, inconvenience in purchasing the product and lack of awareness of ‘green’ credentials. These barriers need to overcome keeping in view the larger goals of attaining better health and the environmental.

It is the end user of the consumer product who is required to make a choice. The decision to purchase environmentally preferable products can be based on:
• Organically certified and or uses sustainable forest products (for example: wood and paper)
• Manufacture from recyclable materials
• Those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or consume less energy such as some types of light bulbs or energy labelled products such as electrical appliances
• Contains non-toxic chemicals (including not causing allergies)
• Does not pollute the air, water and land
• Biodegradable
• Locally grown
• Has an environmentally credible standard logo and/or recognised eco label on the product

Incorporating ‘green’ criteria while purchasing consumer products will make a considerable contribution to preserving earth resources, the environment and human health which in turn will result in a sustainable future for younger generations.

Subbalakshmi Yerramilli