While out and about over the past few days, I was reminded that our town’s annual yard sale will be
happening soon. One Saturday morning each spring, my neighbors set up tables on their front lawns to
display the items they no longer use in the hopes that someone else may give them new homes.
Thinking about this town wide resale effort made me realize that this long-standing event might now be
considered on trend given its sustainable impact on our community. Notably, a recent article from
Forbes What Recent Trends Say About Sustainable Shopping In 2023 (forbes.com) cites a report that
82% of consumers desire the brands they shop to support real sustainable practices, and nothing
exemplifies the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle quite like items exchanged at a yard sale.
This trend towards sustainability in commerce has the potential for us all to reap the benefits of being
good stewards of our environment. But for almost as long as the idea of sustainability has become
important among consumers, the practice of greenwashing by companies has been taking advantage of
it. So, what exactly does the buzzword “sustainability” mean, and how has “greenwashing” been used to
lure consumers while lining the pockets of less scrupulous business owners? According to Harvard
Business School, The Importance of Sustainability in Business | HBS Online “sustainability in business
refers to the effect companies have on the environment or society.” There are various positive impacts a
business can have in one or both areas. Using recycled materials in products and packaging and
investing in clean energy are examples of sustainable business practices. On the other hand,
greenwashing, according to National Geographic, What is greenwashing—and how do you avoid it?
(nationalgeographic.com) “is a form of misinformation often used to entice an aspiring green
consumer.” With greenwashing, companies promising to be sustainable, biodegradable, or
environmentally conscious may be outright lying or at least stretching the truth. So, what is an
engaged consumer to do?
To make the best decision, we each must take the time to do our research, question what advertisers
are telling us, and think about the bigger picture. Companies are trying to sell us something, and if it
sounds too good to be true, perhaps it is. Like many of us, I believe maintaining the health and safety
of our planet and its people, and preserving it for future generations, is absolutely a noble and
necessary cause. However, it’s important to be aware that businesses may take advantage of this by
making us feel good about our purchases when perhaps a more impactful choice can be made.
By now you might be wondering, how does Fortune and Glory practice sustainability? We like to look
at being good stewards from a wholistic point of view. To begin with, we only carry timeless items
that are crafted to last, not end up in a landfill when they have broken or are out of style a couple of
years from now. Our jewelry can be resized or repaired in the future if necessary, and our many other
gifts are purposefully made to be treasured for generations. The prices of the products we sell lend
themselves to being selected thoughtfully by our customers, not bought on impulse. In addition, we
are happy to help customers decipher the subtle differences between items to find just the right one
they are looking for. This helps to reduce the number of returns that would incur further
environmental costs in packaging and carbon emissions. Finally, we’ve decided to replace our mailers
with ones made with recycled materials. Our customers can then make the choice to recycle them
after receiving their beautiful new items in the mail.
With the environmental issues we are facing today it is sometimes easy to lose hope for our future. But
perhaps we can find comfort in the fact that the practice of sustainability is not entirely new. People have been applying the three R’s -reduce, reuse, recycle- for generations. Sometimes this was done by
choice, but many other times it was out of necessity. The idea that “one man’s trash is another man’s
treasure” has been around for decades, as has the reminder to “waste not, want not.” The desire to
preserve what we have today, while preparing for the needs of tomorrow, is certainly not new- we
perhaps just forgot how important it was for a time. The good news is that we can all make choices
today that can positively impact the world we have tomorrow. We simply need the motivation and the
knowledge to make them.