As rising waste and global carbon emissions from the fashion and footwear industries continue, it is just as much the consumer’s responsibility to shop more sustainably as it is for brands to continue on their journeys to becoming eco-conscious.
Since COVID-19 began consumer sentiment has indeed shifted. According to Kearney Consumer Institute 2020 survey, 48 percent of respondents said the pandemic had made them more concerned about the environment. That concern can be measured in dollars, with 55% saying they would be more likely to purchase environmentally friendly products.
On Thursday, Blowfish Malibu hosted a virtual panel with sustainability experts Becky Mendoza, executive director and co-founder of Changing Tides Foundation; Alex Gamboa Grand, co-founder of Good Intent; sustainability influencer Shelbi Orme; and Chanelle Sladics, co-founder of Simply Straws; to discuss eco-friendly habits to adopt as a consumer.
Here’s how you can start.
Consider a Brand’s Ethos
The first thing Orme — also widely known as Shelbizleee on social media — does when shopping for new product is simply check the brand’s “About Us” page.
“If there’s not a foundation [listed] that explains they are moving toward sustainability, that’s a red flag,” she said. Orme, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and vlogs on YouTube to her 300,000 followers, said those initial values are key when sussing out a sustainable brand, and if it’s not included there’s a reason for concern.
According to the Footwear Distributors & Retailers Of America, 31% of companies have sustainability in its mission statements.
Look for Certifications
Another tell to see if a brand is credible or not, includes certifications that balances purposes and profit. B Corps is one example.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. B Corp brands include: Allbirds, Athleta, Toms, Bombas, Eileen Fisher, among others.
Sladics said challenging companies to look closely at their businesses and expecting more from them will in turn force big brands to change. It starts with shifting consumers habits, she added, and making an impact via your dollar. Refusing to shop for non-sustainable brands can make all the difference.
Another example is finding companies, such as Patagonia, that are part of One Percent for the Planet organization. Its members contribute at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes.
For smaller brands, however, certifications are costly. Gamboa Grand suggests going straight to the source. “Just ask questions,” she said. “If you are unsure about their processes — ask what they mean. This gives smaller [eco-conscious] brands opportunities [to reach consumers].”
Materials are a key component in building a sustainable label as the footwear industry contributes upwards of 700 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, as estimated by the FDRA. Shop with that in mind, says Orme, who personally looks for brands that are utilizing recyclable materials.
Overall, the most sustainable thing you can do is consume less, said Gamboa Grand. “Use what you already have. Buy fewer new things, and overtime, living more less-wasteful should save you money.”