The Ultimate Sustainable Shopping Guide: How to Find Eco-Friendly Products
We all benefit from living on a healthy planet and doing whatever we can to ensure Mother Earth can sustain life indefinitely. If you’re a mom, you may be especially concerned about the environment, for the sake of your children, family, community and future generations. While there are many steps you can take to make the world a better place, one way to help is to use your purchasing power and buy eco-friendly products as often as you can.
But because there are a growing number of organizations, agencies and companies attempting to reduce landfill and be more eco-friendly, it can be confusing to decipher all the claims, labels, terminology and credentials out there. It can be especially confusing when you purchase items online and can’t inspect the merchandise carefully or ask a salesperson. Our guide to sustainable shopping on Zulily will help you make conscious, deliberate purchases. Whether you’re looking for reusable or recycled products, items that reduce waste or even products that have been recognized or certified by an agency for being environmentally friendly, we’ll help you sort through it all, and arm you with information to know what’s truly green.
Why Shopping Sustainably Matters
At the core of it, shopping more sustainably is about changing behavior. For example, you may already be taking reusable bags to the grocery store to avoid using paper bags. As a next step, instead of reaching for those single plastic bags to pack sandwiches, consider a reusable silicone bag.
And, if you’re like a lot of other parents, protecting the environment and modeling that behavior is probably top of mind. In a recent survey conducted for Zulily, 94% of parents say that being eco-friendly is important to them, and 78% say they think more about their impact on the environment since having children.
But there is clearly still a lot to sort through: 85% of parents feel they would benefit from having more guidance on how to reduce their environmental footprint as a family. By supporting brands, companies and organizations you respect (and that align with your values as a family) you’re essentially voting for sustainability with your dollars. In doing so, you also model how to shop – and live – in a more eco-friendly way for your children.
How to Spot Eco-Friendly Goods
When it comes to shopping for sustainable goods on Zulily, sustainable products fall under four basic classifications which align with FTC guidelines that regulate product labeling and help protect consumers.
The main four “Rs” are:
But what do those really mean?
We want to help empower you to create positive changes and improve the world when shopping for environmentally friendly finds. Look for the terms referenced below when seeking sustainable products on product details when you’re shopping online.
Reusable products are designed to be used over and over again and replace disposables. Reusable products must be:
- Designed with the intent to be reused/refilled
- Reusable/refillable for the intended original purpose
- Part of a consumer-accessible system set up for reuse, refill, collection and/or return
Switching to a refillable water bottle, for example, can help reduce the number of plastic water bottles that often end up in landfill or even in the ocean.
examples of Reusable Products
- Stainless steel flasks, bottles and straws, such as Hydro Flask
- Reusable bento lunchboxes
- Refillable dish soap dispensers
- Reusable totes such as Bagpodz
- Silicone food storage bags to replace single-use zipper seal plastic bags
- Reusable cotton swab replacers
- Refillable hand soap dispensers
- Period-friendly underwear
- Washable rugs
- Organic wool dryer balls
- Eco-friendly storage boxes made from sustainable wood sources
- Reusable cleaning cloths
Recycled items are made from at least partially recycled content, which may include one or more of the following components:
- Recycled raw materials
- Used parts
- Reconditioned/re-manufactured items
It’s important to note that recycled content only applies to materials that have been recovered or diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process or after consumer use. Products or packages that are partially made from recycled material must qualify the claim and what materials it contains, i.e., “Made from 30% recycled material.”
Recycled Products to Look For
- Cleaning products made with recycled packaging
- Cutting boards made from BPA-free plastic scraps
- Kitchen tools and pans that contain recycled plastic or metals
- Beauty tools and scrubbers made with organic cotton and recycled materials
- Razors made from recycled plastic
Bedroom and Wardrobe:
- Leggings and other clothing made with recycled fibers, such as Life is Good
- Purses and accessories made of post-consumer recycled water bottles
- Mattresses which include recycled steel springs
- Totes made of recycled materials
- Toys made from recycled plastic
- Pet toys made of recycled materials
Products that Reduce
Some products are made from renewable, recycled or upcycled materials that may help reduce your carbon footprint. Reduced products may help decrease pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by being:
- Compostable: Materials in the product or package break down into – or become part of – usable compost safely, and in about the same time frame as the other substances they’re composted with.
- Degradable: Products or packages that will completely break down and return to nature within a reasonably brief period of time after disposal (about one year).
- Made with renewable materials: Look for claims identifying the renewable material and why it is renewable.
- Non-toxic: Products labeled as such need competent and reliable proof that the product is safe for both people and the environment.
- Free of harmful substances: Products that are free of substances known to cause harm to the environment and consumers, such as parabens, phthalates or petrolatum (also applies to products claiming to be fragrance-free, chemical free, aluminum-free, hormone-free and/or all-natural).
Examples of Products that Reduce
- Compostable scrubbers that are also free of harmful substances, such as Grove Collaborative loofas
- Countertop compost bin containers
- Non-toxic castile soap
- Compostable cleaning wipes made with renewable materials
- Beauty products free of parabens, pesticides, phthalates, sulfates, or other harmful ingredients
- Easy-to-install bidets that save on water and toilet paper
- Furniture made of renewable materials, such as bamboo
- Eco-friendly paints that are non-toxic and Zero VOC (volatile organic compounds)
- Furniture made from sustainable wood and upholstery fabric made from reclaimed materials, with no chemical additives or treatment
- Repurposed clothing (e.g., repurposed denim, which saves water)
- Bedsheets made with renewable, 100% organic cotton that is free of toxins
- Non-toxic mattresses
- Candles made with renewable, non-toxic materials, such as 100% organic beeswax candles
- Toxin-free, natural latex foam dog beds
Only products that have been made by a company that meets the standards established by a third-party organization with respect to certain eco-benefits can be recognized or certified by that organization.
For example, if buying organic is important to you, you’ll want to make sure the products you purchase have a recognized “seal of approval” that indicates they are indeed organic, according to a reputable certifying agency. All third-party certifications must have all claims properly substantiated.
Sustainable Shopping Recognitions
The following are a sampling of some of the more common recognitions you’ll see on product labels. Keep an eye out for these logos as you shop.
Social and Environmental
B Corp Certification
B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency, with factors ranging from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.
Leaping Bunny, the certifying arm of Cruelty Free International, is the globally recognized gold standard for cruelty-free cosmetics, personal care and household products. Hundreds of brands are approved cruelty-free under the Leaping Bunny program.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and socially responsible criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
Better Cotton farmers follow the seven Better Cotton Principles: minimize the harmful impact of crop protection practices, promote water stewardship, enhance biodiversity, use land responsibly, care for and preserve fiber quality, promote decent work and operate an effective management system.
The USDA Organic label assures consumers that the products with this seal have gone through a rigorous review process by highly-skilled graders and auditors who follow the official grade standards and process standards developed, maintained and interpreted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Fair Trade Certified
When you see a product with the Fair Trade Certified seal, you can be sure it meets rigorous social, environmental and economic standards in the following areas:
- Safe working conditions
- Environmental protection
- Sustainable livelihoods
- Community development funds
How You Can Make a Change Today
Asking the right questions and understanding what eco-friendly labels really mean will empower, inform and prepare you for smart buying as you go about your daily and weekly shopping runs.
As you shop, be sure to ask yourself these guiding questions:
- “What goes into this product?”
- “Are these claims legitimate?”
- “Will buying this item really make a positive impact?”
There are also many other ways you can improve your environmental footprint as a family:
- Teach your kids, friends and others about sustainability
- Reuse and recycle existing items in your home
- Grow an outdoor or indoor vegetable garden
- Make natural, non-toxic home-made cleaning and toiletry products
- Go green with the busiest room in the house: your kitchen
- Try using fabric gift bags for “wrapping” presents
- Wash full loads of laundry and dishes, and air-dry if you can
- Explore solar-powered lighting for your landscaping
- Keep your car in good shape and be efficient when driving, to reduce pollution
- Consolidate purchases to reduce packaging and transportation
- Consider the pros and cons of cloth vs disposable diapers
- Upcycle! While not technically resulting in a formally “recycled” product, upcycling refers to refreshed or repurposed items that are elevated into something more exciting or valuable (e.g., a terrarium made from a used Mason jar, jewelry designed using typewriter keys or an old window that’s been transformed into a mirror).
Discover the Sustainability Shop
At Zulily, we believe that even small changes can make a big impact on our planet.
Our site is a place to discover the unexpected, with a wide assortment of prominent brands and unique labels for your family and your home. Our goal is to offer you great deals on everything, including sustainable items.
Our one-stop Sustainability Shop features a curated collection of Earth-friendly products that are reusable, recycled, reduced and recognized. Just look for the symbols as you shop on the main Sustainability Shop page. Every choice counts.
*In February 2021, a survey of 1,002 parents of children aged zero to 17 regarding environmental issues was conducted by Engine Insights for Zulily.