In today’s increasingly savvy society, consumers are becoming more aware that the products we purchase not only contribute to the wellbeing of us as individuals but to the wellbeing of the wider community and to the global environment.

According to UN estimates, we’ll need to grow more food over the next 40 years than we’ve grown in the last 8,000 years in order to feed the rapidly growing global population. As alarming as this statistic is, it makes us realise that making sustainable food choices is more important now than at any other time in history.

This enormous increase in food production is going to place huge demands on our already heavily exploited natural resources. The need for more sustainable food production methods is an absolute necessity. A lot of amazing work is already being done in this sector and a simple way we can help is through the purchase of products that have been eco labelled and certified as sustainable and by supporting companies who are utilising sustainable food practices. By taking these measures we can be certain we are contributing to the environmental change that needs to happen. To get on board with the myriad of product labels out there, let’s take a closer look at some certifications you will come across in the Australian retail landscape;

WWF Certified: The WWF (World Wide Fund) has done some amazing work in helping global sustainable food practices. You may have come across their globally recognisable WWF Panda logo but did you know you can now find it on food packaging? As an example, when you see a seafood product with the WWF logo on the packaging, it will appear alongside a certification mark from the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council). If you purchase seafood with these logos on the packaging, you can trust that it’s based on the highest standards for responsible food production.

UTZ Certified: This is a program and a label for sustainable farming which was founded in the Netherlands in 2002. UTZ is the largest program for sustainable farming of coffee and cocoa in the world. The UTZ Certified label is featured on more than 10,000 different product packages in over 116 countries. UTZ Certified products have to comply with a strict code of conduct governing sustainable farming practices, environmental impacts and social and living conditions. So, the next time you reach for that chocolate bar or coffee jar check to see if it’s UTZ Certified.

Organic Certification: In Australia, organic certification is performed by several organisations that are accredited by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). There are currently 7 different organic certifiers (all with different logos) in Australia:

· NASAA Certified Organic

· Organic Food Chain

· AUS-QUAL

· Australian Certified Organic (ACO)

· Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)

· Safe Food Production Queensland (SFQ)

· The Tasmanian Organic Producers (TOP)

Each of these certifiers have to comply with minimum national standards. NASAA is the most common label you may come across in Australia. Anyone can call their produce organic, however by purchasing a product with a label specifying ‘Certified Organic’ by one of the 7 national certifiers, consumers can be confident that it has substance and that the product has met stringent quality standards.

Sustainable Palm Oil Production: Palm oil production has a devastating effect on forests and the wildlife who depend on them for survival as their natural habitat. But the good news is the industry can become more sustainable. The WWF believes that companies that produce palm oil should follow the standard and guidance of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). As shoppers, supporting companies who use RSPO – certified sustainable palm oil is a step in the right direction. The WWF has made available a list of companies who support sustainable palm oil and you can access the list here.

And it’s not just food labels we need to become more conscious of; there is also an array of non-food product labels we can all get to know on our journey to becoming more environmentally friendly shoppers. Here are some great examples;

Choose products with a biodegradable label – these products have less negative impacts on our water and soil systems.

Look for the recycle trademark on any packaging.

Choose sustainably sourced food for timber products – look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.

Australian Made – shop locally made products rather than products that have to be transported half way around the world and know that you’re reducing your carbon footprint.

When shopping for items like TVs, dishwashers, washing machines, fridges or ovens, look for the star energy labels – more stars means more energy efficient.

Whether shopping for food, electrical appliances or even household furniture, there are environmentally friendly options we can all embrace. By paying closer attention and being well informed of the direct impacts of the products we purchase on our planet, we can begin making sustainable choices and inspire others to follow suit.

We hope this brief overview helps you shop more sustainably everyday!