A Homeowners Guide to Greener Living: How to Create a Sustainable Purchasing Program
This the second installment of our Homeowners Guide to Greener Living. To read the first installment click here.
First of all, you’re probably asking what is a sustainable purchasing program and why do I need one? A sustainable purchasing program will help you and your family clearly identify your sustainability goals, find products and brands that align with your values and put you on a path to achieving those goals.
To help you start on the journey, I have a few tips that may help you as you begin to create a sustainable purchasing program for your home:
- When creating a purchasing plan for any part of your life it is best to start with the end in mind. By knowing what you want to have at the end of the journey, especially regarding sustainability or a healthy home, you can create a budget and begin to save for the upgrades. For instance, you may want to improve your indoor air quality, reduce waste or green your energy supply. Solar roofing can be expensive upfront but if you look at the long range savings or current rebates, it might make sense to put it in your plan as a sooner than later item.
- Identify the product manufacturers who are in alignment with your family’s position on environment and personal health goals. Review sustainability information on their website to see what programs they are participating in. Do they publish a corporate sustainability report? Look for businesses that are being transparent. Companies that “walk the walk” with regard to sustainability publish documents such as Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that include what materials and chemicals are in their products and their impact over the life of the product. Don’t just take their word that a product is ‘green’.
- Look to purchase products which have reduced packaging. Anytime that you can reduce the amount of packaging when you shop, you also reduce waste. Consumer behavior is a strong motivator for manufacturers to do right in this area. Compare products from different companies. Reward manufacturers who clearly have less packaging than their competitors by purchasing their products and share that information with friends and family.
- Spend some time researching the emissions from the products you bring into your home. Ask your favorite manufacturers to report such information if they are not doing so already. Off-gasing of products can be a problem for people with respiratory issues. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be found in carpets, upholstery and even in cleaning products. That ‘new’ smell is not really a good thing, it’s often a sign your product is emitting gasses. Check the labels and also look at our blog about VOCs. Websites such as Greenguard list many products you probably already buy. The Living Building Challenge has a wealth of information about the built environment and products. But you have to remember, it is not just the building but everything that you bring into the building that can affect the indoor air quality. VOCs can linger inside a building for 99 years!
- Try to keep up on the emerging information regarding environmental impacts (i.e. synthetic micro-beads and microfibers in the water cycle) and react as a responsible consumer. Some excellent places to start are The Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization, and Health Canada
- Reward or acknowledge products and manufacturers that provide transparency documentation (EPDs and LCAs) by sharing your findings with friends, family and your networks in social media. Your endorsements carry weight so share your knowledge.
The sustainability movement has gone from a conversation about “we” to a conversation about “me”. Each one of us needs to evaluate and make decisions about how ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ we want our home to be. We spend most of our time indoors and that environment needs to be comfortable, safe and healthy based on what or how much that means to you.
Do your homework, develop your wish list and then start your purchasing plan. It could take some time to get to your desired end result but it will be worth it.
Share your findings with us so we can share with others!