Last week we announced our commitment to sustainability. As a part of that commitment, we’ve launched a new Eco Buy label – here’s everything you need to know.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II seemed to change the conversation overnight for many; pictures of mind boggling swathes of plastic waste polluting our oceans was a trigger to start thinking about sustainability and the environment with a greater sense of urgency.
We’ve always been proud of our Best Buy recommendations and confident that you’re going to get a great product that does the job, but we know from asking the questions that our members wanted something extra.
Research with members showed that sustainability was at the forefront of their minds. This has directly led to an uptick in our work on plastic waste, recycling, and food waste and a swathe of popular features in the magazine.
It also led to the first steps in building the Eco Buy recommendation.
Which sustainability issues matter the most?
We asked members what mattered most when they considered products and sustainability and, overwhelmingly, longevity, energy use and repairability came out top.
Longevity came as no surprise. Amazingly, the average washing machine is thrown away after less than six and half years, but thanks to our new survey analysis methodology, we know that machines from the best brands with proven records can last more than 20 years.
Likewise the frustration we hear from members on their struggles to get products repaired is palpable.
Maddeningly unhelpful design decisions, such as sealing units and making repair access virtually impossible, is one of many complaints.
For the categories where we have kicked off Eco Buys, we know that repairing makes sense when measured against the environmental impact of buying a new model.
Energy efficiency can be vastly different between the best and worst too – an efficient dishwasher will cost half as much to run as an inefficient model.
All these elements are rolled together to establish what does and doesn’t make the Eco Buy cut.
We also take core performance into account: it doesn’t matter how easy a dishwasher is to fix, how efficient it is, or how long it might last – if it’s no good at washing dishes we know that will just leave you frustrated and, ironically, with a product on the scrapheap long before its time.
Where next for Eco Buys?
The testing team is busy assessing more categories for the Eco Buy treatment, with both large and small domestic appliances leading the list. Cars are a potential next step.
We are also working with our international partners – other consumer organisations across Europe – to figure out how much further we can go.
Life Cycle analysis is something of a holy grail – assessing the complete environmental impact of a product through creation, distribution, use and disposal.
We know such data can reveal startling disparities in how different product categories impact the environment, but it also happens to be incredibly expensive – that’s why working with consumer organisations around the world really is a must.
We don’t just expect to influence product design through our reviews. Our policy team has been busy too, using our test and survey data to influence and feed into government consultations on eco design, energy labelling, the availability of spare parts and the longevity, or built-in obsolescence, of many digital products.
You can read our commitment to sustainability’s three key areas of focus here.
Which sustainability issues matter most to you? How would you like to see our progress in this area continue?
Let me know in the comments.