One of the greatest powers we have as individuals is our power as consumers. By supporting products and services from businesses which are committed to environmental improvement – and which measure their performance – we can really change the way goods and services are provided in the world.
The best general rule is to look for a credible form of environmental certification on products that you wish to buy. These include the ‘BioGro’ (www.biogro.co.nz) organics certification, the ‘Agriquality’ (www.agriquality.co.nz) organics label, the 'Environmental Choice New Zealand’ (www.ianz.govt.nz/echoice) label, and the ‘EnergySavers’ label on electrical appliances.
Look out for manufacturers that make environmental claims for their products, such as that they are ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘biodegradable’, but which are not part of any accredited certification scheme. Ecologic encourages people to question such claims and, if necessary, to report them to the Commerce Commission for a breach of the Fair Trading Act.
- Organics certification is not comprehensive as it is mainly focused on avoidance of artificial chemicals in food production, and does not require sustainable land management practices, avoidance of water pollution or protection of on-farm biodiversity. However, organic producers do tend to be more enlightened in a range of their practices. In the absence of a comprehensive sustainability certification in New Zealand or Australia, certified organics remains the best assurance available for consumers concerned about environmental sustainability.
- If you can’t afford to get everything organic, at least focus on those products where your organic purchase decision that make the biggest difference to the environment. These include cotton, dairy products, and onions.
- When buying fruit and vegetables think about whether it is necessary to buy them in pre-packaged containers - remember they don’t always have to go in a bag!
Wood and wood products:
- When buying timber, go for exotics like radiata pine, Douglas fir or macrocarpa.
- In New Zealand, only buy native timber that has been recycled or which comes from an area with a management plan certified under the Forests Act.
- Avoid buying any imported wood, especially from tropical countries, unless it is certified by a recognised authority such as the Forest Stewardship Council (www.fscoax.org).
- Put off buying any imported garden furniture if you can. In New Zealand, none of it is presently sourced from sustainably-managed forests.
- When choosing between two similar products choose the one with the least packaging or with recyclable packaging
- Check options for buying in bulk or for products that are in concentrated form to reduce packaging
- Buy products that are designed to be used more than once; a china mug or cup or cloth napkins
- Buy high-quality products which can be repaired, rather than disposable ones
- Buy products that are recyclable or made from a recycled material