How do you determine if a product is sustainable?

To answer this question we have created a flowchart. We use this to decide if we should feature a product on our website. We want to share this tool to make it easier to determine if a product you've found is sustainable.

We use this flowchart based on product information that is provided by the manufacturers. There needs to be a certain amount of trust that what the manufacturers say about their products is true because we can't personally check all the claims. We hope this tool helps you to determine if a product is sustainable. Download as PDF

Follow this flowchart to determine if a product is sustainable.

Additional criteria
We consider additional criteria for the products we feature on our website that don’t belong on the Sustainable Product Flowchart. Some are personal preferences, some are just not applicable to all products.

Vegan: Preferably products should not involve animals at all. But if they do they should be cruelty-free.
Human factor: People should have a safe environment to work in. For a product to be sustainable it needs to be made fair and sustainably. We factor in ethical points like safety, fair wages and welfare of the workers. When products are made in social or protected workshops we consider this a plus.
Production location: We like small scale and localized production. That said, there are advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing work. By including the country of production we enable you to make your own decision.
Power source: We already use so much energy, so why not use our own power if we are able to. This is why we prefer products such as hand grinders and mills over electrical ones.
Affordability: Sustainable products can be quite expensive and are therefore not affordable to everyone. We do not consider price to be a determining factor because we want to show what products are available and serve as an inspiration to all.

Does it contain new materials?
If any part of the product contains new material answer 'yes'. If it doesn't contain anything new answer 'no'. 

Fossil fuel free?
Has any part of the product been made from fossil fuels? Nowadays most products contain materials made from crude oil and its derivatives such as petroleum. 

Toxic free?
Does the product contain any toxins or harmful chemicals (phthalates, BPA, parabens, etc.)?

Plastic free?
Does the product contain any type of plastic (also called polymers), including PLA or other bio-based plastics? Bio-based plastic, although more eco-friendly than traditional petroleum-based plastic, still has numerous issues. The production process is better but once the plastic is created it's almost indistinguishable from traditional plastic (and all it's problems). It takes a long time for bio-based plastic to properly degrade and it needs very specific conditions to do so. On top of that it doesn't mix well with other plastic which makes recycling difficult. 

Certified wood?
If the product contains wood, is the wood certified? Certifications such as FSC, SFI, ATFS, PEFC.

Palm oil free?
Does the product contain palm oil? Palm oil has been linked to a plethora of issues ranging from deforestation to extinction. Although there is an ongoing discussion surrounding alternatives to palm oil we have chosen to ban any product containing palm oil from our website. 

Is it recycled or upcycled?
If you've answered 'no' to any of the questions above the product can still be considered sustainable if the material has been recycled or upcycled. Example: a frisbee made from recycled ocean waste plastic. 

Is it biodegradable, compostable or recyclable?
The end-of-life of a product is very important. A product may seem sustainable, but if it ends up in a standard landfill or trash incinerator not much is gained.

Is it the best alternative available or does it reduce ecological problems?
Not all products can be made 100% sustainably at this time. But they can still be sustainable products if they are the best alternative available or if they contribute to solving an ecological problem. Examples: earbuds made from 99% recycled material or a litter collecting backpack that contains new plastic.

Follow this flowchart to determine if a product is sustainable.

Does it contain new materials?
If any part of the product contains new material that have been made for this product answer 'yes'. If it doesn't contain anything new answer 'no'. 

Fossil fuel free?
Has any part of the product been made from fossil fuels? Nowadays most products contain materials made from crude oil and its derivatives such as petroleum. 

Toxic free?
Does the product contain any toxins or harmful chemicals such as phthalate, BPA and paraben?

Plastic free?
Does the product contain any type of plastic (also called polymers), including PLA or other bio-based plastics? Bio-based plastic, although more eco-friendly than traditional petroleum-based plastic, still has numerous issues. The production process is better but once the plastic is created it's almost indistinguishable from traditional plastic (and all it's problems). It takes a long time for bio-based plastic to properly degrade and it needs very specific conditions to do so. On top of that it doesn't mix well with other plastic which makes recycling difficult. 

Certified wood?
If the product contains wood, is the wood certified? Certifications as FSC, SFI, ATFS, PEFC.

Palm oil free?
Does the product contain palm oil? Palm oil has been linked to a plethora of issues ranging from deforestation to extinction. Although there is an ongoing discussion surrounding alternatives to palm oil we have chosen to ban any product containing palm oil from our website. 

It is recycled or upcycled?
If you've answered 'no' to any of the questions above the product can still be considered sustainable if the material has been recycled or upcycled. Example: a frisbee made from ocean waste plastic. 

Is it biodegradable, compostable or recyclable?
The end of life of a product is very important. A product may seem sustainable, but if it ends up on a standard landfill or trash incinerator not much is gained. It shouldn't take long for the product to biodegrade, we don't have a set amount of time but it shouldn't take 20+ years to biodegrade. There is a difference between compostable in your garden and compostable in an industrial setting. To us, sustainable products are compostable in your own garden. 

Is it the best alternative available or does it reduce ecological problems?
Not all products can be made 100% sustainably at this time. But they can still be sustainable products if they are the best alternative available or if they contribute to solving an ecological problem. Examples: earbuds made from 99% recycled material or a litter collecting backpack that contains new plastic.

Additional criteria
There are some more criteria to consider, but they don’t all belong on the flowchart for sustainability. Some are personal preferences, some are just not applicable to all products. We try to share all important information when featuring products so you can make an informed decision when buying something new.

Vegan: Preferably products should not involve animals at all. But if they do it should be cruelty-free.
Human factor: People should have a safe environments to work in. When products are made in social or protected workshops this is a plus.
Production location: We like small scale and localized production. That said, there are advantages and disadvantages to outsourcing work. By including the country of production we enable you to make your own decision.
Power source: We like products that are powered by ourselves. For example we choose hand grinders and mills over electrical ones we already use so much energy, so why not use our own power if we are able to.
Affordability: Sustainable products can be quite expensive and are therefore not affordable to everyone. We do not consider price to be a determining factor because we want to show what products are available and serve as an inspiration to all.