Thomas Lawrence- March 3rd, 2023
What Makes a Product Sustainable? 🌿Examples Included.
People are becoming more conscious of the impact that their purchasing decisions have on the environment, and companies are beginning to recognize the need to create products that are more sustainable. But what exactly makes a product sustainable?
At its core, sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the context of product development, sustainability involves creating products that are environmentally, socially, and economically responsible throughout their entire lifecycle.
Here are some key factors that contribute to the sustainability of a product:
1. Smart, Sustainable Design from the Start ✅
One of the most important factors in creating a sustainable product is designing it with sustainability in mind from the outset. This means considering the entire lifecycle of the product, from the materials used to create it to the way it will be disposed of at the end of its useful life.
Designing for sustainability involves a number of considerations, such as choosing materials that are renewable and recyclable, minimising waste in the manufacturing process, and designing products that are easy to disassemble and recycle.
2. Use of Sustainable Materials 🏗
The materials used in a product have a significant impact on its sustainability. Sustainable materials are those that are renewable, non-toxic, and can be reused or recycled at the end of their useful life.
Examples of sustainable materials include organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp for textiles, recycled plastic and paper for packaging, and sustainably harvested wood for furniture and other products.
3. Energy Efficiency ⚡️
The energy used to manufacture and transport products is another important factor in their sustainability. Energy-efficient manufacturing processes and transportation methods can significantly reduce a product's environmental impact.For example, using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power can help reduce a product's carbon footprint. In addition, designing products to be more energy-efficient, such as using LED lighting or low-power electronics, can also help reduce energy consumption.
4. Waste Reduction ♻️
Another key factor in the sustainability of a product is its ability to reduce waste throughout its entire lifecycle. This includes designing products to be more durable and long-lasting, as well as using materials that can be recycled or composted at the end of their useful life.Product packaging is also an important consideration when it comes to waste reduction.
Using minimal packaging or packaging made from recycled materials can help reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of the product.
5. Social Responsibility ✊🏼
Sustainability isn't just about the environment—it's also about social responsibility. This means creating products that are ethically sourced and manufactured, and that promote fair labor practices.For example, using certified organic materials can help ensure that workers are not exposed to harmful chemicals in the production process.
Additionally, working with suppliers that provide fair wages and safe working conditions can help ensure that the entire supply chain is socially responsible.In conclusion, creating a sustainable product involves a range of considerations, from the materials used to the manufacturing and transportation processes, to the product's end-of-life disposal.
By designing products with sustainability in mind, using sustainable materials, reducing waste, promoting energy efficiency, and ensuring social responsibility throughout the supply chain, companies can create products that are not only environmentally responsible, but also socially and economically sustainable.
Examples of Sustainable Products:
Plastic Free Deodorant by PAPR- Bare Naked, Sensitive, Unscented
PAPR's Deodorant is Manufactured in Los Angeles
Daniel Roescheisen and Kim Eberle founded PAPR cosmetics in Los Angeles to bring high quality, funcitioning deodorant, free from typically harmful ingredients found in deodorants such as aluminium, silicone and parabens.
The plastic-free deodorants are produced in LA, vegan, and certified never tested on animals. The packaging is 99.8% paper and 0.02% cornstarch, both are biodegradeable.
When we apply our aforementioned checklist, we can easily see why this a great product. It's free from problematic ingredients, responsibly packaged and made in the United States where it is sold, which dramatically decreases emissions produced from transport miles, not to mention a more carbon efficient style of packaging.
Additionally, it's a necessary, widely used product that replaces a problematic, traditional version packaged in plastic and often using poorly sourced ingredients. PAPR uses natural ingredients packaged in paper and biodegradable cornstarch to reduce waste.
`Furthermore, most traditional deodorant brands are owned by large parent companies (Rexona aka, Sure, Shiel & Degree is owned by Unilever).
Fresh Mint Toothpaste Bits by Bite
Bite creates dental products designed to minimise waste.
Bite are an awesome brand, hands down. They're tackling an extremely wasteful industry (according to a Harvard paper), 23 billion plastic toothbrushes are discarded in the US every year.
Bite has created a range of dental products designed to reduce waste and made with sustainable ingredients. What is so impressive about Bite is their incredible transparency. They publish detailed documents of their ingredients, sourcing and shipping strategy to show how they're making an effort to act as sustainably as possible.
Interestingly, Bite quotes an MIT paper describing that online shopping is indeed more carbon efficient if shipping isn't rushed. Therefore, they use existing postal routes which limit delivery emissions.
The Leaf Razor- Refillable, Plastic Free and Money Saving Over Time
Leaf Shave was founded by two engineers who set out to produce a better razor and realised it meant producing a sustainable one too.
Leaf Shave are a small business solving the huge problem of plastic waste in the shaving industry with 3 million + plastic razors being disposed in the US each year.
Impressively, Leaf's razor isn't just more sustainable (thanks to it's plastic-free design and easily replaceable metal blades), it's genuinely a better razor than anything out there.
One of the founders explained- "our goal is to increase accessibility to plastic-free shaving by making available options that simply work better. Too often in the world of sustainable goods, users are asked to sacrifice efficacy in exchange for a lower footprint."
Leaf proved with their Razor study that you'd experience a safer, closer shave using their razor compared to alternatives including plastic razors and traditional steel razors. Meaning this product isn't just more sustainable, it's functions better too.
How Do I Tell if Something isn't Actually Sustainable?
The easy way to determine whether a product is actually sustainable is to follow the logic. If it doens't make sense i.e. it claims to be sustainable but the packaging is plastic, it probably isn't.
Marketers trick us with fancy packaging, emotional advertisements and some downright monstrous practices that manipulate our poor brains. However, their ploys usually reply on heuristic and emotional thinking, rather than rational thought. This is why informed consumers can spot the difference. When determining whether a product is truly sustainable, follow the logic and you'll rarely be wrong. In the next section we'll take a look at some examples, good and bad to hone our detective skills!
Greenwashing Case Study- LastObject
Last Object's Reusable Cotton Swabs, Made from Plastic
Last Object creates "zero waste versions of single-use products", but the brand has some problematic elements that create oxymoronic branding claims. Last Object products featured in an early version of the Good People Inc. marketplace, but were removed after we realised their existence wasn't a logical solution.
To start, the product's packaging and website repeatedly states "designed in Denmark", which leads the consumer to believe the product is manufactured in Denmark, which is great if you're selling Europe which we were at the time (currently we sell across the US and hope to expand to Europe again in early 2024.) However, the products are actually manufactured in China. Now, manufacturing in China and being sustainable can coexist if done correctly and the numbers support a carbon efficient supply chain. But, this misleading branding is the first warning signal that these products may not be sustainable.
A deeper dive in and we begin to question whether this product is necessary. The problem with single-use cotton swabs is the plastic stick on either end. But rather than producing huge amounts more of fossil fuel derived plastics (not all of Last Object's plastic use is recycled), why not replace the stick with a compostable material such as bamboo? Other brands including Mable's cotton swabs have done just this and we believe it's a far simpler solution that better serves our net zero targets.
You can use these three identifers to determine whether any product is sustainable. Take H&M clothing for example. They use polyester for many clothing lines (plastic), and even their 'eco friendly' lines are sourced from garment factories who underpay workers. Not to mention the incredible amounts of overproduction leading to tremendous waste. By following the logic, we can see through the greenwashed phrases and empty promises protrayed by marketing teams, and feel more in control of our purchasing choices
Looking for more examples of sustainable products? Let us do the hard work for you.
Everything listed on our marketplace is previously vetted to ensure it is truly a sustainable product. We are rigorous with our decision making to ensure the Good People marketplace is a safe haven from the attempts of marketers and unethical companies to sell you their goods.
Even seemingly great brands such as Last Object won't sneak through the net as we've shown so, you can be confident when searching for sustainable products on the platform.
If you want sustainable products, Good People Inc. is the place to get them.
-Thomas Lawrence, March 3rd 2023