Environmental awareness is on the rise: three quarters of German consumers pay attention to the sustainability of products when shopping. This was the conclusion of a study published in May 2021. Study by McKinsey & Company. Since the Corona pandemic, half of consumers are willing to spend up to 20% more on sustainable products. But how can you recognise sustainable products?
What is a sustainable product?
In principle, any product that does not need to be produced is better than any sustainable one. A product is understood to be a material good that is the result of a production process or an (immaterial) service. The definition of a product already refers to the production process as an essential component. It is therefore essential to include it in the sustainability assessment. A product is sustainable if its environmental impacts can be managed while it brings economic and social benefits - along its entire life cycle. This means that a product is responsible if it does not harm the environment and at the same time has a positive impact on the economy and society. It is important that in addition to product use, production and disposal are also considered.
Sustainability "From Cradle to Cradle
In its life cycle, every product passes through the path from its "cradle" (cradle) to its "grave" (grave). The "cradle to cradle" principle describes the case where the basis for something new is created at the end of a product's life cycle. You can find out more about "Cradle to Cradle" at the Website of the C2C NGO association.
In order to analyse a product in terms of its sustainability aspect, it must be considered in its individual stages. These stages are raw material extraction, pre-production, production, trade and service, use, end-of-life. In each of these stages, the product should meet the requirements of the three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. If you would like to learn more about the three pillars, please take a look at our Blog post for more information.
1. raw material production/extraction
In particular, products that contain rare raw materials are usually not sustainable on an ecological level. Not to be neglected are also working conditions during cultivation.
Renewable raw materials that do not cause an environmental problem in their growing areas would be a sustainable option, for example. Where possible, recycled, reusable raw materials offer a good choice.
We use the natural ingredients wood and PLA for our wooden coffee capsules. The wood comes from forests in the south of Germany and is even PEFC certified.
2. pre-production and production
Both pre-production and production can be problematic in terms of high energy input and the generation of harmful substances.
If attention is paid to low power consumption, little scrap and waste and good working conditions during (pre-)production, a product can be more sustainable than competitors.
For the production of our capsules, we rely on the injection moulding process. By producing with this process, almost none of the wood-PLA granulate is lost. We also use only green electricity in our production and office.
3. trade and service
In trade and service, the social aspect in the form of working conditions must be kept in mind above all.
Here, fair wages and working hours as well as the most direct and shortest possible delivery routes are indicators for a more socially and ecologically sustainable choice.
We ship our capsule climate neutrally with GOGREEN.
High electricity consumption during use or harmful, leaking substances are risky on an ecological level. The social aspect, that products can be harmful to health or addictive, must also not be forgotten.
Products that have a positive impact and do not harm the environment can be considered socially and environmentally sustainable.
For example, no harmful emissions are produced at the coffee machine when we brew our coffee (the best way to do this is, of course, to use green electricity).
And enjoying a cup of coffee alone or together even has great social added value, in our opinion.
An obvious environmental problem is waste that remains in nature and endangers animals and plants. Litter becomes a social problem, for example, when mountains of litter pollute people's homes.
A product that is reused or recycled in another form is a sustainable alternative here. In the best case, a product consists only of natural materials. These can be returned to nature and decompose.
Because our coffee capsules are made entirely from natural ingredients, they do not contribute to the creation of mountains of waste. More information about the disposal of coffee capsules can be found at here in our blog post.
From stinginess is cool to green is trumps
Sustainability is more than a trend and now permeates all areas of daily life. Companies are taking advantage of this development. Green labels, various seals and supposedly sustainable actions suggest the image of a change in thinking, but this is not always the case. It is worth looking twice and questioning. Here is a small guideline on which aspects should be analysed particularly closely:
Are supply chains transparent?
Fundamental to the assessment of a product is whether the origin of its components or ingredients can be traced. Only through transparency can conclusions be drawn about potentially socially and ecologically questionable lifecycle components. Seals can be helpful in this regard. To get an overview, the Federal Environment Agency has compiled a Selection of recommended labels compilation. Apps such as codecheck can also help to get an overview of potentially harmful ingredients. Supply chains are often not easy to find out or incomplete. The more regionally products are produced, the greater the chance of making a socially and ecologically responsible choice.
How is the packaging designed?
Of course, no packaging is the best packaging. But if it is essential, it should be as reduced as possible and made of recycled or biodegradable materials. In the course of the ban on single-use plastic, which has been in force since July 2021, bioplastics have also been banned. What this means, can be found here.
Is the company's sustainability stance credible?
It is not always easy to recognise an honest commitment to the environment, including plants, animals and people. For this, the company must be considered as a whole. Are the measures used related to the product? Can measures be transparently traced? Are the deeds and actions consistent with the communicated values?
Blanket actionism has nothing to do with implemented sustainability. Individual measures taken indiscriminately and without reference are usually of little use and tend to lead to greenwashing. Actions that ultimately call for even more consumption are even counterproductive. A concrete example of this is: "Return your old garment and get a discount on your next one ".
The most sustainable choice in practice
As mentioned at the beginning, the fewer products produced, the better for the environment. Moreover, it is almost impossible to gather all the information on all products. What we can do, however, is make consumption decisions according to our best knowledge and conscience and choose the most responsible option within our means.