Shoppers can feel powerless when it comes to making eco-conscious purchases, especially when environmentally friendly alternatives often come with a heavy price tag – not ideal in a cost of living crisis.
Nearly three quarters want to buy more sustainably where possible, according to a recent survey, but find it difficult to find quality good from trustworthy 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 aiming to give shoppers planet-friendly and ethical alternatives to products they’re looking at online.
Beagle Button is raising awareness on shopping sustainable, as the new web browser extension that offers more eco-friendly alternatives to your usual every day purchases
Beagle Button has a machine learning-enabled tool detects when a user is shopping, automatically searches for eco-alternatives to the specific products you browse and occasionally popping up with their top suggested sustainable swaps.
The browser extension boasts a wide range of greener alternatives that are highlighted through their service, whether you’re shopping for new jeans, a mobile phone tariff or toothbrush.
Because Beagle works on a product level, it says you won’t see random or irrelevant alternative pop ups too whilst you’re browsing – as the app works to match the products as closely as possible.
However, like every new tech product, there are some flaws that still need to be worked out.
I’m a huge advocate for shopping sustainably wherever possible and know the struggles consumers face on the regular when finding affordable, ethical brands that are still quick and easy to access.
Making fewer, more deliberate purchases will save you money in the long run. It is about nudging towards sustainable behaviour.
Daniel Hemsley, CEO at Beagle Button
Beagle Button says its product could help save you money when you shop, just through encouraging you to shop more consciously.
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 buy-for-life purchase, Nudie will repair them for free indefinitely.
‘It is sadly the case that unsustainable 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 cost-saving alternatives.
When browsing 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 continuously working to improve their suggestions through machine learning
When I asked the Beagle Button extension for an alternative, their best match was a pair of upcycled jeans for £108 – or five times’ the price.
And this 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 environmentally friendly retailers wherever possible.
I decided to test this by searching Amazon for a bog-standard plastic toothbrush, and Beagle generously offered an alternative bamboo product for the same price.
But, when I went to purchase it through the more sustainable retailer, I found myself needing to pay for additional postage, which was twice the price of the toothbrush.
My order went from £2.50 on Amazon, to £7.50 for the same product.
While Beagle suggests that its extension can save money, it means in the long-term: it promotes ethical purchasing that may cost you more upfront, but claim the products will last you longer and thus cost you less to replace.
Hemsley said: ‘We know that there are some realities that buying something for more expensive as an investment is a privilege that for lots of people just isn’t possible but this is where buying second hand comes in.
‘Making fewer, more deliberate purchases will save you money in the long run.
Ethical brands include organic, vegan, and ethically made products, and low-carbon delivery and plastic free packaging options
‘Longer term, we are working to ensure Beagle makes sustainable shopping more affordable and accessible through discounts.
‘Wherever possible we pass on discounts from our brand partners to the end consumer.’
The good news on this front, is that the team are working on a way of limiting how much their suggestions are able to increase by if needed by adding an optional price cap to their selections.
Hemsley added: ‘It is something we’re looking at and want to do as part of the commitment mentioned earlier to ensure Beagle makes sustainable shopping more accessible. We know part of that is price and we’re working on it.’
In the meantime, Beagle Button feels confident that its product can help in the long run to save people money and the environment.
Hemsley said: ‘For us, we think it is about nudging towards sustainable behaviour.
‘There are a whole list of money-saving zero waste hacks that can be employed to save money, from making your food last longer to being permanent replacements for otherwise disposable products i.e. safety razors with razor blades.’
Beagle Button highlights businesses that are working towards greener practices
Beagle Button is compatible with nearly all browsers and their team insist that it can be used to shop for anything from banking, to energy bills and household appliances, to your coffee pods.
But, the app still has a few bugs to work around I noticed when shopping online.
I was unable to find an example of a more sustainable alternative to household essentials such as washing machines, toasters, and dishwashers.
I also struggled to get the browser to suggest alternatives when browsing mobile phones, different banks, and large tech such as speaker systems.
However, what I did notice about the app is that it still encourages me to think consciously when I’m buying online.
Previously I might have just bought the £20 jeans or not considered the packaging, but now I find myself questioning everything.
The app also works to highlight other companies with progressive ideals, offering users to filter for brans that offer only vegan products, are women-run or minority owned, as well as made in the UK and low-carbon deliver options.
I even went ahead and purchased a pair of jeans through their extension, and while it was quick and effortless to use, I’m not sure if I’m content with dropping £60 on a pair of jeans while prices across the UK continue rising steeply.
I won’t be deleting the extension any time soon. It’s a nice reminder to question purchases, how they’re made and where they come from.
Beagle Button could be a sign of good things to come for consumerism and the environment, but it’s likely many will be hesitant 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 helpful tool for that green push.
Until then, I will be keenly waiting in the wings.