How can I make sure my ‘eco’ buys are genuinely helping environment?

Q I’m trying to be more eco-conscious when it comes to the products and services that I buy. However, I’ve heard that some ‘green’ claims made by companies turn out to be either misleading or sometimes completely false. How can I be sure before I buy that the company is doing what it claims to do for the environment? Rebecca, Co Kildare

A When you buy goods and services, consumer law gives you a number of rights, including that the goods and services be ‘as described’.

This means that they must match the description given either verbally, or in an advertisement, including any environmental or ethical claims. If you’re unsure of the accuracy of a business or brand’s ‘green’ claims, take the following steps before you buy.

First: look for proof of a company’s claims. Do some quick research online or via social media to find out more.

Be wary of businesses with vague references to sustainability.

Most genuine brands will want to share details of their ethical and sustainable approach to doing business so look for brands with dedicated sections of their website or social pages outlining their green credentials.

Second: don’t judge a brand by its packaging. Watch out for vague language such as ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘all-natural’ – as well as ‘green’ imagery which can be used to convey the product or brand as being sustainable or ethical.

Don’t judge a brand by its packaging alone. Be sure to read the list of ingredients and check the labels carefully before you buy to ensure you are satisfied that the claims are genuine.

Third: beware false certifications. Look out for fake ‘approved by’ seals or standards marks by institutions that may not even exist. Do some quick research if you’re unsure about a certification seal. Instead, look out for approved seals such as EU Ecolabel, EU Organic Logo, Fair Trade Certified, and Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Contact the CCPC via its helpline on 01 4025555 with full details if you believe that you may have been misled about green claims.

Dangers of baby nests and baby sleep bags

Q I saw the CCPC was warning consumers against the dangers of baby nest and baby sleep bag products last month. I was going to buy a matching set of both products for my best friend as a gift for her newborn, but I’m concerned they’re not safe. Is this the case? Trudy, Co Cork

A The CCPC is responsible for making sure that a range of consumer products sold in Ireland meet required safety standards. As part of our work in product safety testing and market surveillance, over 4,500 dangerous baby nests and baby sleep bags were recalled in Ireland last year due to a number of potentially serious safety risks. Last month, we issued guidance for consumers to highlight these risks, but also to provide practical tips on how to use these kinds of products safely.

For example, before you buy a baby sleep bag, always buy from a reputable retailer and avoid any products which appear to be poorly manufactured. Make sure too to buy a sleep bag that’s suitable for your baby. Check its age range, height and that the neck opening isn’t too large for your baby’s head to slip through, once fastened – so as to avoid the risk of suffocation.

Avoid button or Velcro fastenings when buying a sleep bag – instead look for a sleep bag with safe and secure fastenings – such as zippers or poppers, with a smooth seam.

To avoid the risk of choking, ensure there are no detachable small parts – such as buttons. Check for strings, cords, ties or ribbons – as these pose strangulation risks. Always read all labelling and follow the warnings and instructions carefully. Never use a sleep bag where an infant can climb out of his cot.

Similarly, you should take a number of steps before and after buying a baby nest.

First: read the HSE’s safe sleep advice at hse.ie.

Second: Never place a baby nest on a bed, sofa or any soft or uneven surface as this can cause an increased suffocation risk.

Third: never leave a baby unattended in a baby nest.

Fourth: remember that babies should never be carried in a baby nest, even if it has handles.

Fifth: ensure your baby nest has no drawstrings or ribbons attached.

Finally, whether you’re considering a baby sleep bag or baby nest, always check the safety warnings and follow the instructions carefully. It’s also worth checking the ‘Safety Gate’ alerts page at ec.europa.eu for recently recalled baby sleep bags or baby nests or details of any safety issues that have been raised.

Contact the CCPC’s helpline on 01 402 5555 if you have any safety concerns about a baby nest or baby sleep bag.

Managing credit card debt amidst cost-of-living crisis

Q I find myself becoming more and more reliant on my credit card for day-to-day expenses as a result of the high cost of living. I’ve used it so often lately that I am nervous about my next credit card bill. What are my options if I don’t have the money to pay it back in full? Jim, Co Galway

A How you manage your credit card has a significant impact on your overall financial wellbeing. With high interest rates and penalty charges if you miss payments, credit card debt can quickly add up. However, there are a number of steps you can follow to help get back on track.

The first and most important step is to face up to your credit card bill as soon as it arrives. If you’re worried about accumulating debt you may not be able to repay, if possible, stop using your credit card completely and fight the temptation to use it for day-to-day expenses by leaving your card at home.

Second: plan your repayments. It is important that you pay as much as you can afford off your bill every month. By paying more than the minimum repayment (by even a small amount), you will reduce the time it takes you to be debt free and save you money in interest. 

Third: check to see if there is a better rate available. Interest rates for credit cards currently range from 13.8pc to 26.6pc, so it could pay to switch. Some financial providers offer a 0pc interest on transferred balances for a limited introductory period.

So, if you move your balance, every cent you pay will reduce your debt, as you won’t be paying any interest for that introductory period.

Fourth: although you may feel reluctant to take on more debt, it can make better financial sense to take out a personal loan to pay off your credit card debt. Interest rates on personal loans are generally lower than on credit cards.

However, make sure you stop spending on your credit card – otherwise, you will be faced with both the loan and credit card repayments.

Overall, it’s important to manage your credit card, to keep debt to a minimum and ensure that your credit rating and ability to borrow is not affected.

If you plan to use your credit card in the future, consider reducing the credit limit to an amount you can comfortably afford to repay every month.

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