Shoppers can feel helpless when it comes to making eco-friendly purchases, especially when eco-friendly alternatives often come at a premium – not ideal in a cost crisis of life.
According to a recent survey, nearly three-quarters want to buy more sustainably, but struggle to find quality products from reputable brands without breaking the bank.
Could a simple web browser extension be the key to saving the planet without breaking the bank?
Emilia Shovelin road tests Beagle Button, a web browser extension aimed at providing shoppers with eco-friendly and ethical alternatives to the products they view online.
Beagle Button raises awareness for sustainable shopping, as a new web browser extension that offers greener alternatives to your usual everyday shopping
Beagle Button has a machine-learning tool that detects when a user makes a purchase, automatically searches for eco-friendly alternatives to the specific products you’re browsing, and occasionally pops up with their best suggested sustainable trades.
The browser extension offers a wide range of greener alternatives that are highlighted through their service, whether you’re buying new jeans, a mobile phone tariff, or a toothbrush.
Because Beagle works at the product level, it says you won’t see random or irrelevant alternative pop-ups while you’re browsing either – because the app works to match the products as closely as possible.
However, like any new technology product, there are flaws that have yet to be ironed out.
I’m a big advocate for shopping as sustainably as possible and know the struggles consumers face when finding affordable, ethical brands that are still quick and easy to get to.
Fewer, more deliberate purchases will save you money in the long run. It’s about pushing for sustainable behavior.
Daniel Hemsley, CEO of Beagle Button
Beagle Button claims its product could help you save money when shopping, simply by encouraging you to shop more mindfully.
Daniel Hemsley, boss and co-founder said: Ultimately, consuming consciously and therefore less will save you money.
‘For example, for something like jeans, the Nudie jeans we recommend are a lifetime purchase, Nudie will repair them for free indefinitely.
“It is unfortunately true that non-sustainable products have been designed with built-in obsolescence in mind and the sustainable alternatives we show.”
When I tested the browser extension, I was not presented with a cost-effective alternative.
Browsing through Asos I had my eye on a pair of jeans and found a nice pair, from an unsustainable brand, for £20.
Beagle Button automatically searches for more sustainable alternatives when you shop online and is constantly working to improve its suggestions through machine learning.
When I asked for an alternative to the Beagle Button extender, their best match was a pair of recycled jeans for £108 – five times the price.
And that doesn’t just count for clothes. The ethical brand not only tries to encourage you to buy sustainable products, but also to buy them from eco-friendly retailers whenever possible.
I decided to test this by searching Amazon for a standard plastic toothbrush, and Beagle generously offered an alternative bamboo product for the same price.
But, when I went to buy it from the most durable retailer, I found myself having to pay extra postage, which was twice the price of the toothbrush.
My order went from £2.50 on Amazon to £7.50 for the same product.
Although Beagle suggests that its extension can save money, that means in the long run: it promotes ethical purchases which may cost you more upfront, but claim that the products will last you longer and therefore cost you less. To replace.
Hemsley said: “We know there are certain realities that buying something for a higher price as an investment is a privilege that just isn’t possible for a lot of people, but that’s where buying second-hand comes into play.
“Making fewer and more deliberate purchases will save you money in the long run.
Ethical brands include organic, vegan and ethically produced products, as well as low-carbon delivery options and plastic-free packaging
“Longer term, we are working to ensure that Beagle makes sustainable shopping more affordable and accessible through discounts.
“Wherever possible, we pass on the discounts from our partner brands to the end consumer.”
The good news on this front is that the team is working on a way to limit increasing their suggestions if needed by adding an optional price cap to their picks.
Hemsley added: “This is something we are considering and want to do as part of the previously mentioned commitment to ensure Beagle makes sustainable shopping more accessible. We know part of that is the price and we are working on it.
In the meantime, Beagle Button is convinced that its product can help save money and protect the environment in the long term.
Hemsley said: “For us, we think it’s about pushing for sustainable behavior.
“There’s a whole list of zero-waste hacks out there that save money, whether that’s extending the life of your food or permanently replacing otherwise disposable products, i.e. safety razors with razor blades.”
Beagle Button spotlights companies working towards greener practices
Beagle Button is compatible with almost all browsers and their team insists that it can be used to purchase anything from banking services to energy bills and appliances to your coffee pods.
But, the app still has some bugs to work around that I noticed while shopping online.
I couldn’t find an example of a more sustainable alternative to household essentials such as washing machines, toasters and dishwashers.
I also had trouble getting the browser to suggest alternatives when browsing cell phones, different banks, and big tech like speaker systems.
However, what I noticed about the app is that it always encourages me to think consciously when shopping online.
Previously I might have just bought the £20 jeans or overlooked the packaging, but now I find myself questioning everything.
The app also strives to highlight other companies with progressive ideals, offering users to filter out sounds that only offer vegan, women-run, or minority-owned products, as well as options for low carbon delivery and made in the UK.
I even went ahead and bought a pair of jeans thanks to their extender and although it was quick and effortless to use I don’t know if I’m just dropping £60 on a pair of jeans as prices across the UK continue to rise sharply.
I won’t be removing the extension anytime soon. It’s a good reminder to question purchases, how they are made and where they come from.
Beagle Button could be a sign of good things to come for consumerism and the environment, but many are likely to be reluctant to part with their hard-earned cash during this cost-of-living crisis – even if it helps the environment .
But as Beagle adds more products and the cost of eco-friendly items hopefully drops in the coming years, it could prove a useful tool for that green push.
Until then, I will wait impatiently in the wings.
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