Environmentally conscious

Environmentally conscious is a concept that has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few decades. It has expanded to include every area of our modern lives. It affects all of us, brands and consumers, but we hardly ever think about what it actually means. 

Table of contents

What does environmentally conscious mean?

Environmentally conscious means being aware of our surroundings and our natural world. It is a wide scope that encompasses both the people who care about our natural planet, animals, oceans and forests and the person who is paying attention to their individual surroundings at home or work. Both of these are environments.

Environmentally conscious used to pertain to the conservationists who worked so hard to ensure the sustainability of our natural world. They work across the globe with organizations to protect areas of natural beauty, national parks and forests and the flora and fauna they contain. 

Today, ‘environmentally conscious’ is ubiquitous. It includes everything surrounding sustainability and everything eco-friendly. In part that stems from its definition. Environmentally (of your surroundings) and conscious (aware). It has leaked into every area of our lives from the clothes we choose to the homewares we buy. Green living has become normal.

Environmentally conscious consumers

When you purchase a new product or service, do you think about what you are buying?  Do you research the company you are dealing with and find out what the provenance of the materials is? 

What we buy and how much we buy of it affects the planet we live on (our ultimate environment). One example of this is polyester fabrics. We know that using materials like polyester for clothing is detrimental to the environment. 

We make polyester from plastic and plastic from petroleum products (CDFA). Petroleum is a finite resource that is due to run out. In addition, the manufacture of polyester is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

Washing plastic based fabrics like polyester also sheds microplastics into the water system. We find microplastics all over the world, including in our oceans. Scientists find them inside birds & animals (and even humans!) that eat them or ingest them in drinking water.

Once you start looking at the products and services you buy with your environmentally conscious research hat on, it is like diving down a rabbit hole. Many of our household goods and services have a heavy impact on the environment. 

As environmentally conscious consumers, we can make a difference to our world. We can choose to buy products that have a low impact. We can also choose services from companies that are transparent and tell us: 

  • where their materials come from, 
  • how they pay their workers, 
  • what working conditions are like, 
  • what their emissions are, 
  • what toxins are produced in their manufacturing processes, 
  • how much energy they consume, etc. 

Environmentally conscious brands

Brands are taking notice of what we as consumers are looking for. Environmentally conscious brands are making sure that we know what they are doing to help the environment so that we choose them when we buy. 

New brands are born out of the ethical and eco-friendly requirements of the environmentally conscious consumer.  Ingenious sustainable swaps are being developed all the time to meet the needs of consumers who want ethical suppliers to make more eco friendly products.

Consumers are asking for products that are toxin free, plastic free, cruelty free, vegan, sustainable, ethical and that don’t contribute to carbon emissions. That’s a lot to ask of a brand, but the demand is there to make it worthwhile for brands to make changes. 

Environmentally conscious design

There are a plethora of amazing people who are producing products and services with an environmentally conscious focus. They often solve problems, like what can you use instead of leather on a sofa?  The answer is cork, of all things!  

Aside from animal cruelty concerns, leather production is a dirty process. It uses chromium compounds that are known to be harmful to humans and contain carcinogens (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).  It uses lots of water and energy to produce.

Did you know about cork leather? Manufacturers like Mahi Leather make upholstery and accessories like handbags from flexible sheets of cork. Yes, you read that right – flexible sheets of cork. The process is renewable, although cork trees take years to be ready to harvest. Cork leather is hard wearing and durable. It’s also cruelty free and vegan.

Environmentally conscious design has to combine functionality, beauty and sustainability. It needs to make best use of sustainable materials and be careful not to use toxic or unsustainable components like adhesives. 

The best production processes will use the least energy and emit the lowest carbon emissions. This is where ‘traditional’ craftsmanship can sometimes come into its own, as production is slow and of low energy consumption. 

The end result needs to function as well as, if not better than the alternative. There is no benefit to changing the material that something is made of, or the process by which it is made, if it doesn’t last and has to be thrown away. 

Become more environmentally conscious

There is a lot to think about in order to become more environmentally conscious. 

Every aspect of our consumption needs to be considered. We have to make choices about products and services that sit well with our ethics, while knowing that they might also impact our budgets. 

These same considerations play a part for brands and designers. They are also thinking about the ways they work; choosing particular materials and processes to make better products and services.  

All of us are making choices every day that affect the future of our planet every day. If every one of us makes a change, however small, we can influence bigger change.