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Purchasing for Your Health & Our Planet

By October 28, 2020November 15th, 2021No Comments

You may have heard the phrase “your vote is your dollar”- where you choose to spend your money speaks to the products and services that you value and support. By purchasing products that minimize negative environmental impacts by using safe ingredients and ethical, energy-efficient manufacturing or from companies that demonstrate social and operational responsibility, we can help shift the economy toward behaviors that protect natural resources and our society in perpetuity. There is no easier or more intuitive way to make your opinions heard than by voting with your dollar. 

Many of the consumer products that line our supermarket shelves are highly unregulated. Ingredients in the most innocent of products, such as shampoo, may share a spot on the list of carcinogens: chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Some are actually banned in other places like Canada or the European Union. By choosing products that minimize negative environmental impacts, we can help shift companies, markets, and economies toward behaviors that help protect our personal health and the natural resources we, and future generations, need to survive. 

There are steps you can take as a conscious consumer to “vote with your dollar” for both your health and the continuation of safe products. 

Minimize Purchasing and Packaging

Ultimately, the most effective method to reduce waste and problems associated with consumer products, is to minimize consumption of such products. If possible, avoid purchasing single-use items (such as disposable cutlery, paper or plastic plates and cups, single-serve coffee pods, plastic water bottles, etc) 

Be Informed

Watch the Story of Cosmetics. This 8-minute video tells the story of how the cosmetics industry has allowed carcinogens in their products.

Learn to read labels.  Oftentimes, products will embellish their claims with words like “natural” and “ecofriendly,” which have no legal definition and thus are essentially meaningless. Avoid listed ingredients such as Benzophene, PABA, Avobenzone- chemicals found in sunscreens that cause cell damage and cancer in humans and damage coral reefs as well. These apps can sort through the unjustified claims by their justified health and safety ratings based on chemicals on the ingredients label- all of which are listed:

Think Dirty, Shop Clean

Skin Deep

Leaping Bunny

Get familiar with Auburn’s purchasing preferences. Auburn recognizes the connections between our purchasing and the health of our planet and people. They have worked with our suppliers through preferred vendor contracts for products that meet rigorous, third-party verified sustainability standards for the following 4 categories. 

  • Cleaning Products: Auburn University prefers the purchase of general cleaning products and janitorial paper products that meet one or more of the following certification programs:
  • Electronics: Auburn University prefers the purchase of electronic products such as desktop computers, notebook/ laptop computers, displays, thin clients, tablets, TVs, and imaging equipment that meet EPEAT Gold or EPEAT Silver Standards.
  • Paper: Auburn University encourages the purchase of post-consumer waste recycled copier paper. The office supply preferred vendor contract with Staples offers 30, 50, and 100% recycled-content paper options with on-contract pricing for all campus units.
  • Vehicle Rentals: Travelers are expected to rent compact or midsize class vehicles unless sharing the rental with more than 2 other AU business travelers. University travelers are highly encouraged to rent hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles when there is availability. 
  • For more information on how you can help Auburn save money and conserve resources via purchasing and other efforts, visit our Working @AU page

Take Action

Educate others! Inform them of the dangers of certain chemicals, encourage them to download personal health apps. 

Call your representatives! Let them know about The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Little steps over time make a big difference; even more so if you encourage others to do the same. The products that line store shelves are carefully curated by corporations to reflect what we buy the most; our dollar vote ultimately controls the market. Taking a stand and buying less single-serve products and looking for certified, safe, and healthy alternatives is the best way to influence the economy to produce conscious products in an ethical manner to serve the planet and those who inhabit it.


Originally posted by Beatriz Carmona October 2019, Updated & reposted.


Learn about the SDGs & AU and our contributions related to this post.

SDG3 Good Health and Well-being SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production

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