The phrase ‘Ethical Consumer’ has been popping up everywhere these days. As a concept, it’s a lovely idea, but how do we even start to become one of these so-called ethical consumers? It’s in the doing that it counts, not in waxing philosophical.
What does being an ethical consumer mean, exactly? It is said that ethical consumerism – also known as moral purchasing, ethical sourcing and green consumerism – is a type of consumer activism based on the consumer voting with their money. Simply put (according to this article in The Guardian), “an ethical consumer means buying products which were ethically produced and/or which are not harmful to the environment and society”.
The key is to simply bring consciousness and intention into our consumption. Seems so simple when we put it that way, but first we need to find practical ways to begin.
Here are our suggestions…
Doing your research is really the foundation of becoming an ethical consumer. With access to the internet, this has becoming easier than ever – when in doubt, Google! Why not start by finding out where your food comes from, as food is something so essential to and prevalent in our lives – it’s important we know what we’re putting into our bodies every day, right? There are some disturbing and highly unethical and inhumane practices around so many things we consume; including child labour and underpaid and abused workers. Not only this, there may be harmful chemicals in your food or even clothing (in the dyes used, quickly absorbed into your skin when you wear them)! What are the ethics of the company behind the brands you use? Do they have a stance or code relating to how their employees are treated or using chemicals in the production of their product? No code of ethics at all should set off alarm bells for you.
Carefully Read Labels
Labels can be very telling – often the more fine print, the more suspicious the product. First of all, where does your product come from? There are many countries where workers are paid a tragically low amount for their labour and forced to work in inhumane conditions. As above, do your research on what the conditions are like in the country where what you buy is made. Also, look out for whether the product is organic or not. There are stamps from certification bodies you can trust, but in some cases there may not be a regulating body to ensure that the claim on the label is authentic. Carefully reading the list of ingredients is also key. You want to buy things that are as close to mother nature as possible, not harmful to you otherwise it defeats the purpose of buying things in the first place – if they do not add value, why spend your hard earned money on them! Once again, research helps you make more informed and conscious choices.
This is so crucial to being an ethical consumer, for several reasons. First of all, it reduces our carbon footprint. With global warming and climate change being such a threat to the survival of our Mother Earth, every bit we can do to decrease our impact and tread lightly helps the environment. Another important reason is so that we support local businesses. As much as possible, you want to consume brands that you can put a face to, which cannot be said for a large corporation. Put your money towards helping the local economy flourish, rather than helping sustain an often faceless corporation whose main concern is to make as much profit as possible. It has been said that when you buy locally, it becomes a direct investment into your community’s economy –when community members come together to support and empower one another, everyone wins! Now that’s the spirit of Ubuntu. Farmer’s markets are a great place for green consumerism, and buy indigenous where possible.
Bring Your Own Bags / Be Conscious of Packaging
It is no secret that plastic is tremendously harmful to the environment. Again, mind your footprint! Make sure you bring your own bags to the store – made of non-plastic material you can use and re-use over a longer period of time – or simply re-use plastic bags you have already accumulated. It is such a simple yet effective way of bringing consciousness into your shopping experience and really does make a difference. Also, mind the packaging! Don’t buy products with a lot of unnecessary packaging, avoid buying plastic-packaged products where possible, and re-use every bit of packaging you can. Or recycle. Reduce, re-use, and recycle. Help educate others by leading by example of teach your children so they can become ambassadors themselves.
Upcycle or Give Away Your Belongings
Give your no longer wanted belongings new life by turning them into something else, otherwise known as upcycling/repurposing. This can involve converting old t-shirts into pillowcases, for example. Get creative! And there are way too many new things being produced and clogging up the planet, why not give away items that no longer add value to your life to people who will get use out of them? There are plenty of people in this country who do not even have their basic needs met and would be so grateful for the belongings you would otherwise discard. Sharing is caring and it costs you nothing to pass on previously-loved possessions that you don’t have use for anymore.
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