About a month ago, the Vancouver Sun featured some of the more eco-friendly toy and gift options we carry, resulting in new customers and several other media outlets contacting us.
A radio station in the valley arranged an interview with us about greener gift giving. Notes in hand, my partner Meg called in for the on-air interview. After some brief introductions, the interviewer popped the question out “So, isn’t green so over by now? We’ve been hearing about going green for some time now, so isn’t the trend done now?” I suspect if it had been me on the phone, I would have responded a bit cheekily “Yep, same as that suffragette movement…surely a woman gaining the right to vote was just a passing interest, the trend must be over”. But Meg simply commented on the need for ongoing diligence to ensure we make product and lifestyle decisions that are just as good for the planet as they are for ourselves. The interview was a good conversation about sustainable living and green gift ideas.
It’s now a month later, and his question about green being a trend has been mulling around at the back of my mind since then. I’m about as mainstream as they come; I’m a Costco-card-wielding, mini-SUV-driving, cross-border-shopping kind of gal. I’ve never been a tree-hugger…I’m not even sure if I have a green thumb. I like my comforts, I like to consume things, and I like life to be convenient. And while I am aware of “trends”, it’s not that at the age of 40, I suddenly became a trend-follower. So, how did I end up starting an online business selling eco-friendly products? Was I just hopping on a green trend bandwagon?
Before we started Every Little Bit, we conducted significant market research, and came across numerous studies about market segments called “the eco-conscious consumer”, “green consumers”, “ethical buyers” and my personal favourite – “earthy environmentalists.” Of course this made me wonder if everyone else is segmented into the “let’s destroy the earth” or “I worship plastic” or “green is just another color” segment? Isn’t it a bit odd that we actually segment markets into those who are concerned about the environment, and those who aren’t? Does anyone really admit to being in the latter?
Even odder is the fact that we actually focus on selling green products, simply because there are so many products out there that aren’t. Shouldn’t it be a given that most products are designed and manufactured responsibly, with as little chemicals as possible, and don’t damage ourselves or the planet? Apparently not. How did responsible products become something that can be referred to as a “green trend?” Why is there even a need to refer to something as “eco-friendly?” Shouldn’t virtually everything we consume (okay, there are a few obvious exceptions) be eco-friendly? Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t even need the terms “green” or “eco-friendly” because everything already was? I suspect that’s years, if not decades, away, but it’s always good to think positive.
Still mulling over the question of the green trend, I examined my own behaviour to see if I was just behaving according to a trend. And I’d like to think I’m not. Like many people, once I had my kids I became much more concerned with my overall actions in life – from modelling good (or at least adequate) behaviour, to what we consume, to the people we surround ourselves with, and to what chemicals we have in or home (yes, the topic of hyper-parenting will be covered in another post). The more I read and learned, the more I realized I could improve in a lot of easy areas. We still have 2 cars, but we recently sold the gas guzzler (despite how wonderfully it drove…sniff..sniff), and I try to go days without using any car at all. We walk to school most days (unfortunately, it’s not the norm nowadays in society) and I really try to plan my outings so it’s only one trip. In good weather, my 6 year old and I have been known to hop on our bikes to deliver local orders.
I really try not to purchase or use one-time or single-use products. Why buy bottled water, when the filtered tap water in my home tastes just as good in a reusable bottle? Why buy tiny yoghurt containers at triple the price and triple the material to dispose of when I can spend an extra 40 seconds putting it into a reusable container? I carry a variety of reusable bags around with me everywhere we go and no longer use single-use plastic bags. If I have any plastic bags in the house, they are biodegradable or compostable.
I try not to purchase much plastic at all anymore, due to the extensive energy consumed in the production (and possible toxicity in the manufacturing process as well). I don’t like my food touching plastic, and I don’t really want to put the plastic in the dishwasher. Glass, ceramic, stoneware and stainless steel are all more sustainable choices. (Yep, we still a bit too many plastic toys, but we’re even making improvements there).
I try to support local businesses even if it costs a tiny bit more. We do try to buy more local and organic food, but there are certainly times in the winter, my kids (and I) just want some berries, so I break down and buy some. I look for companies that have sustainable business practices. Organic cotton and sustainably harvested bamboo certainly make the cut now for fashion choices. I’m quite happy to buy the kids’ clothes from swap meets or get them from friends as I know this probably won’t last forever.
Cleaning products and personal care items were a super easy switch to make and I don’t even notice that we’ve changed to much healthier choices.
I love that our cities have gone to garbage pickup every 2 weeks and now green waste (which they take for composting) is weekly. I did have a disastrous foray into composting, so now I don’t feel so bad about that.
I’m not anti-chemical when they should be present. Modern medicine exists for a reason, and I trust my doctor to listen to my concerns and make appropriate recommendations. But is there really the need for chemicals in so much everyday stuff? Is there really a need for butane and propane in a cooking spray? Why are parabens in so many personal care products? Why do marshmallows bought in December 2010 not expire until May 2018?
For my family, it is a bit more expensive to purchase “green” products, but overall it costs less to live a greener lifestyle. I know there are a lot more things I can do to be kinder to the environment and healthier in our home. For me, being green is not a trend; it is a lifestyle choice and a process requiring education and commitment. Hopefully one day, we won’t be considering it a green trend or even think about making green living choices; it’ll just be automatic. Hopefully all of our choices will be “green.”