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Where to Shop Sustainable: Etsy

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Trying to shop sustainable can get really complicated. It’s pretty much impossible for anything to truly be “sustainable” in our current society. If you think about anything for long enough, you’ll find some part of it that’s unsustainable. But some things are more parts sustainable than others.

Living will require buying some things. And while I’m a huge fan of minimalism, I also do believe it’s important to treat yourself and enjoy life. Even though sustainable products may cost more, we can focus on buying less, but better quality.

One of my favourite ways to do that is by shopping on Etsy. For skincare, hair, and beauty products, I love finding zero waste items made with natural ingredients. Etsy is also a great place to shop for zero waste swaps.

Let’s talk about

  • What is Etsy and why is it sustainable?
  • How to tell if a seller on Etsy is sustainable
  • Why even buy sustainable products?
  • My favourite categories to shop on Etsy

Is Shopping on Etsy Sustainable?

If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s an online marketplace that connects small businesses and craft makers to a global customer base. There are a lot of sustainability reasons to support small businesses, but what about the environmental impacts of shipping?

Etsy offsets the carbon emissions of all shipping with a verified partner. And while there are problems with offsets, when compared to all the emissions from the supply chain of a multinational company, shipping the product from the seller to you in most cases simply does not compare.

While Etsy does not control the functions of it’s sellers, they’re dedicated to improving sustainability. Their operations use zero-waste practices and run on renewable energy, including the online marketplace. They also work to manage and improve their social impact and economic impact to support equitable access to opportunities and empower entrepreneurs.

The Etsy marketplace supports small sellers to reach a global audience, while setting a standard for corporate social and environmental responsibility. In addition, many shops implement their own sustainability policies. These are often described in the shop’s description, in it’s policies, or in the item description.

How to Tell if a Seller is Sustainable

The Etsy marketplace runs on renewable electricity, uses zero-waste practices in the operations, and offsets the emissions from shipping. What about the sellers? The answer will depend on the shop you’re looking at, and the item.

What Makes a Shop Sustainable?

When you’re looking at an item, you can go to the page of shop that sells it to find out more information. Here is a list of what to look for in an Etsy store you’re considering buying from:

  • Where is the shop located? Sometimes you can find a similar item from a shop that is closer to you, in which case it does not need to be shipped as far.
  • What are there shipping policies? Do they use reused cardboard, or compostable packaging
  • Do they have zero-waste practices in their operations?
  • Do they donate money or products?
  • How are ingredients and materials sourced?
  • Are the items handmade, or made by workers with fair wages?

What Makes a Product Eco Friendly?

There are also qualities that make a product more sustainable than others. Here’s a non-inclusive list of what may make a product more environmentally friendly than another:

  • Made with reclaimed or recycled materials
  • Made with natural, organic, cruelty-free ingredients
  • Reusable or minimal packaging
  • Durable and made-to-last
  • Meant to replace a single-use item
  • Sustainably-sourced materials
  • Repairable
  • Handmade in small-batches

Why Shop Sustainable?

“Sustainable products” have a reputation for being expensive, and this is not without merit. Compared to other items available today, they often are! Why is this, and why would anyone buy the sustainable version?

Why are Sustainable Products More Expensive?

Fair Labour, Fair Wages

Materials for and the manufacturing of sustainable products required the labour of workers. Paying a fair wage to workers and ensuring safe working conditions increases the cost of materials, and the final product. However, it’s also important to note that a higher cost does not always mean steps were not cut.

Skipping these steps can keep prices low. When companies focus on cutting costs without considering sustainability, factories are forced to remain competitive by lowering their labour standards.

Small Scale

Mass production can decrease costs due to economies of scale, but may also result in decreased quality and increased waste. It is also partly responsible for the consumer mindset shift towards the prevalent “throw-away culture” we live in.

Creators on Etsy make their products on a much smaller scale than multinational corporations. More time is spent ensuring the quality of each item and using materials as efficiently as possible.

Quality Ingredients, Quality Products

The items in Etsy shops are crafted by makers who are passionate about their business. They don’t want to cut costs; they want to make the best product for their customer. This means high-quality ingredients and items made-to-last.

My Favourite Categories to Shop on Etsy

Shop Sustainable Skincare and Beauty Products

I love Etsy for natural skincare and beauty products. As someone with sensitive skin, natural ingredients that won’t be irritating is really important. There are plenty of zero-waste and vegan options as well.

Shop Sustainable Hair Care Products

From package-free shampoo and conditioner bars to hair oils and masks, I love Etsy for hair care products.

Shop Zero Waste Swaps for the Bathroom

Take care of your hygiene without the plastic! Shop reusable, natural scrubbers and cloths, and a wide-range of dental products.

Shop Zero Waste Swaps for the Kitchen

From grocery shopping and snacks-on-the-go to storing food and washing dishes, there’s a zero waste swap for that. Here are some of my favourites:

Final Thoughts

Even though it’s impossible to shop sustainable perfectly 100% of the time, it feels good knowing your supporting someone who is trying to make a difference with their business. For more, check out my favourite sustainable Etsy shops.

To learn more about reducing your impact, check out my 10 tips to live more sustainably and the beginners guide to the zero waste movement.

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