How to shop by your values with The Beagle Button

Back of a girl with brown hair in field of flowers
Image by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Beagle was founded to help people make better choices when they shop online. We reduce the negative impact that human consumerism is having on our planet.

There's a problem with the way we shop. Most of us (73%) say we want to buy sustainably but we struggle to make that change. It’s just that when it comes to actually doing it, it can get a bit tricky. That's what we've set out to solve- connecting sustainable action with intention.

A good place to start is by choosing one area you’re passionate about and focussing on that. With the Beagle Button - the sustainable shopping browser extension - you can set your own sustainability priorities, values and criteria so you get shown products that are most relevant to you.

To help you shop in line with your values even more, in this post, we dig into the current challenges in different areas, how brands are addressing the challenges, and what the future holds. Check out our top tips for each value to help you make better choices when you shop!

Organic

Organic vegetables at a farm shop

The health of our planet’s soil is under threat from deforestation and unsustainable farming methods. Overgrazing, clearing of natural habitats, erosion and the overuse of fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides and pesticides are all factors. Over time, the soil becomes depleted of the organic material that is needed to support plants, and so more and more chemical ingredients need to be added to be able to farm.

But there is a solution! Organic farming uses ecologically based pest controls and biological fertilisers from animal and plant waste, as well as nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Farming organically has loads of benefits. It uses less energy, lowers the pollution of soils and waterways, captures and stores more carbon and keeps more nitrogen in the soil.

With organic farming methods, the future looks bright - cleaner waterways, more CO2 stored, more insects to pollinate plants, and overall a more ecologically balanced environment.

The Beagle Button finds products with organic certifications so that users can shop with confidence knowing that they are supporting farmers who look after the ecosystem.

Top tip: Certifications > claims. Look out for the Certified Organic, Soil Association Certified or Organic Food Federation for food, or GOTS label for clothing.

Bonus - if you haven’t seen Kiss the Ground yet, we recommend that you do!

Plastic free

Plastic production has been increasing exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Shockingly, production is expected to double by 2050. (Source: One Percent for the Planet)

Today, single-use plastics account for 40 per cent of the plastic produced every year.

Many of these products, such as plastic bags and food wrappers, have a lifespan of mere minutes to hours, yet they may stick around in the environment for hundreds of years.

At least 14 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Marine animals ingest or get tangled in plastic debris, causing injuries and death. Plastic that enters the ocean gets broken down over time by UV rays, wind and other factors, meaning that they break down into microplastic and nanoplastics. These tiny bits of plastic are easily ingested by marine life.

On land, 91% of plastic made is not recycled. 12% of it has been incinerated (which means it isn’t present but has a negative impact in terms of the atmosphere and the gasses that are created). The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter.

There are two main solutions to help tackle the big plastic problem. Firstly, reduce the sheer quantity of plastic products we buy – especially single-use plastic. We can switch to using re-usable bags and cups and buying food – particularly vegetables – without plastic packaging. Secondly, we can choose products that use sustainable materials instead of plastic, such as bamboo toothbrushes and metal razors.

The Beagle Button helps users find plastic-free items, so they can be part of the solution to plastic pollution and reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

Top tip: Look out for the Plastic Free Trust Mark when shopping for your everyday items!

Plastic Free The Standard logo

Vegan

Livestock farming contributes 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It is hugely inefficient – to produce one kilogram of beef requires 25 kilograms of grain! Plus, around 30% of the earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming. Since food, water and land are scarce in many parts of the world, this represents an inefficient use of resources.

So what’s the solution? We need to reduce our consumption of animal-derived products –both for food and products. Veganism isn't new, but there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of vegan consumers over the past 10 years. The number of vegans in Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019, from 0.25% of the population to 1.21%. In 2022, research by Ipsos found that 46% of Brits aged 16-75 are considering reducing their intake of animal products in the future.

You can now get leather made from pineapple, beauty products that use plant-based alternatives and lots of meat-free products which look and taste like meat and are helping people move away from meat-based food products.

The Beagle Button supports users who choose to shop vegan, by allowing you to prioritise vegan products and brands through the extension.

Top tip: Choose products with the PETA, Leaping Bunny or Vegan Trademark. If you currently eat meat and buy animals derived products, you don’t have to go vegan overnight. Taking steps to reduce your consumption gradually will still make a great impact. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to it long-term.

Vegan trademark logo

Long lasting

Some may find buying inexpensively as their only option, and that is understandable. However, often, shopping for cheap products can be a false economy - as the old saying goes: ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. We’ve gotten used to a throwaway culture where things are produced cheaply, sold cheaply and thrown away in a casual way because it doesn’t cost much to replace them. The real cost of inexpensive products that break easily? The huge impact that this has on the planet, leading to more material in landfill, a waste of money for the person who purchased the item, and the impact that replacing items time and time again has on the environment. Instead, let’s prioritise products that are longer-lasting, reduce waste, and are a joy to use time and time again - or even pass down through generations. It might cost a bit more in the first place but - if you can afford to pay a bit more initially - it’ll be a better long-term investment for you and the planet.

Creating products that last is key to us reducing the amount of waste we produce. The Beagle Button supports users in finding products that are longer lasting. We search for Lifetime Guarantee products and will share with you when we find products that we believe will last you a lifetime.

Top tip: Look out for brands that give you a 10 years guarantee, or even better that offer a Lifetime Guarantee label. This shows that they are VERY confident that their products will last you a long time, if not a lifetime.

BuyMeOnce is a great place to start.

Ethically made

It’s devastating to find out that a brand that you previously supported has been treating workers unfairly. Some will throw their hands up, saying that all businesses treat their employees unfairly, and so be it. But you know that fair pay for fair work is justice, and you care about how the products you buy and use every day are made. Ethically made means suppliers are inspected routinely to ensure that their operations align with the principles and ethics of the brand. Paying workers fairly, appropriate working hours and ensuring that child labour does not appear in the supply chain: these are all key aspects of an ‘ethically made’ label. We do everything in our power to find products that are ethically made, and we pop up to make recommendations when we find products with the right certifications, proving to us that they are made fairly and justly, as should be the norm.

Low carbon

If the planet reaches more than 1.5c above pre-industrial levels,we will cause irreversible damage to natural habitats, rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions as standard. It isn’t too late, however, and we can all play our part - one way that you can support the need for a low-carbon future is by making your own future low-carbon too, and opting for brands that have proven their commitment to reducing carbon use.

The carbon footprint of a business is made up of a number of factors – the carbon footprint of the materials used; the packaging used; how far the materials have traveled; the carbon costs associated with transport; how far they travel after they are produced; employee commutes; the electricity used by the business at their offices and warehouses etc.

Monitoring and reducing the carbon footprint of a business is complicated and as a result, a lot of businesses haven’t done the calculations to establish exactly what the carbon footprint of their products are (or they’ve estimated most of the numbers and the results are not accurate).

We seek out brands that are working hard to get an accurate picture of their carbon footprint and are transparent about this with the rest of us. What are we looking for? Efforts to report accurately on carbon use, transparency about the challenges associated with it, and business efforts to actually reduce carbon footprint in their everyday operations. It’s a complicated subject, but one we firmly believe in. However, a number of brands now are working hard to get an accurate picture of their carbon footprint, and are sharing it with their customers. Some brands with carbon-reducing efforts worth looking into? Allbirds and Patagonia are a great place to start. Both have made great examples of understanding carbon impact and making solid efforts for transparency.

Top tip: try to repair over replace and get it fixed if you can. If that’s not possible, shopping second-hand or with carbon-neutral businesses is the next best thing. Here's a resource to where you can find climate neutral businesses: https://www.climateneutral.org/

Women-run

Why seek out businesses run by women? We’ve found that it’s a priority category that is important to many, and we support the ability to seek out women as leaders and founders and support their businesses.

Only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs in the UK are female. In 2017, only 5.6% of UK women run their own businesses, compared to 15% of women in Canada, almost 11% of women in the US, and over 9% of women in Australia and the Netherlands.

Why does this matter for the planet? Simply put, because we are in a crisis, and there are numerous statistics to show that women’s leadership is most effective in times of crisis.

There were a number of studies done on female politicians during the pandemic. Out of 194 countries, we have just 19 (< 10%) female leaders. Male-led countries have statistically nearly DOUBLE the number of deaths compared to countries led by women.

When it comes to business, the Harvard business review wrote an article called ‘Women Are Better Leaders During a Crisis’.

‘Based on our data they want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. They found that overall, ‘Women were rated more positively on 13 of the 19 competencies in our assessment that comprise overall leadership effectiveness.’

Chart showing women were rated as more effective leaders before and during the first wave of the covid pandemic

Given that we are in a time of ecological crisis, now is as important a time as ever to turn towards women and support their ventures. Creating an opportunity to put the focus on women and supporting entrepreneurs who are working to solve the climate crisis is important to our overall sustainability mission. Who wouldn’t want to support that?

Gives back

Businesses and their customers are increasingly aware of their responsibility to focus on purpose, as well as profit. According to Deloitte Insights, ‘Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction.’

Brands that are purpose-led will choose to support causes that align with their values, and the values of their customers and strive to create a positive impact with a portion of their profits.

To give some examples that feature on the Beagle Button, a deodorant from Earth Conscious gives 10p from every sale to the Marine Conservation society; Muddy Puddles products support Farms for City Children by providing waterproof for children’s visit to farms; Ethical Superstore donated a total of £163,837 to a number of causes in 2021 and PHB donate 20% of net profits to charities that improve the lives of people and animals in the UK and around the world.

Top tip: Look for brands that support 1% for the planet, and for brands that support causes that are important for you personally!

1% for the planet logo

Made in the UK

There are many benefits to buying products locally that were made in the UK, and there is a lot of crossover here in terms of the other values Beagle Button supports. From a sustainability perspective, products made in the UK don’t travel as far as products made abroad, so typically have a lower carbon footprint. In terms of animal welfare, British meat is produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world and no growth hormones are used, so it’s healthier too. Eating British seasonal fruits and vegetables is more sustainable too, as the products don’t travel as far and don’t require extra energy to create unseasonal conditions to promote growth. And it also has health benefits – foods in season contain the nutrients, minerals and trace elements that our bodies need at particular times of the year.

And if those weren’t reasons enough, buying local also helps the economy – choosing products made in the UK by a British manufacturer helps the UK economy to maintain existing jobs and create new ones. As a result, money paid to local people is then more likely to spend most of their income in Britain.

Finally, products in Britain are produced to high manufacturing standards with a minimum of an ISO 9001 or work in-line with the BS EN 1090 manufacturing standard. As a result, products are more likely to be of high quality and therefore last longer.

Top tip: look for the Made in Britain mark when you shop.

Made in britain logo

Minority owned

Some users prefer to shop at businesses that are minority-owned, so you have the option to set minority-owned businesses as a preference. Minority-owned businesses are important to building a more sustainable future. Over time, shopping at minority-owned businesses strengthens local economies, reduces disparities between the individual and the community, increases job creation and opportunities and results in a more equal distribution of wealth.

Minority entrepreneurs are important to economic growth and community development because they extend those same opportunities to others. Minority small business owners bring unique strengths and perspectives, ideal for creating new processes and products and driving innovation.

Big companies have a way of placing pressure on smaller, community businesses and pushing out local shops. Promoting diversity results in an economy that works for the people, not just big businesses. A green economy is possible only by including everybody.

So, why focus support on minority-owned businesses?

  1. Close the racial wealth gap created by generations of policies and rules that have pushed minorities out of the same opportunities for creating generational wealth, and therefore create more opportunities for meaningful savings and the building of generational wealth.
  2. Strengthen local economies – when small businesses flourish, so do local economies.
  3. Create jobs for communities – local businesses are far more likely to hire within the community and create jobs, supporting local economies to flourish. In 2002, minority-owned businesses created 4.7 million jobs.
  4. Celebrate other cultures and communities – shopping for products that celebrate minority communities is a great show of support and pride, celebrating other cultures and building a positive community.
  5. Hold companies that don’t support minorities accountable – many large companies vocally support minorities and diverse cultures, but practice policies that keep systems of injustice intact. When you choose minority-owned businesses over problematic ones, you divest from these practices and hold irresponsible companies accountable.
  6. The green movement is everyone’s movement.

Reference: Here are 6 Reasons to Support Black-Owned Businesses

When choosing between a major chain and a local minority-owned business, opt for the minority-owned one. Share your positive experience with friends and family. When you shop from minority-owned businesses, you’re supporting local communities and job creation. That’s far more sustainable than just spending money at big companies, like Amazon!

Do you have the Beagle Button yet?

If you’re feeling inspired to start shopping in line with your values, head over to the Chrome/Mozilla/Edge store and do it now and install Beagle Button now! If you have been a Beagle Button Beta user, then thank you for your support and being part of our journey so far – we couldn’t have done it without you. You’re the best!