One of the biggest ways you impact the world is through the things you buy.
By shopping ethically, you can help you make the world a better place.
What is shopping ethically?
Ethical consumption is the practice of evaluating what you buy on the basis of its impact on the earth. This includes the resources it uses, and particularly, the people who take part in producing it.
By making more ethical shopping choices, we can help decrease exploitation of workers around the globe, giving our money to people who need it to live, instead of corporations that will create more pollution with it.
It may not seem like it, but where we spend our money makes a big difference in what producers choose to sell.
We can shape the way products are created and what they are made of by choosing to buy things that reflect our values.
By being critical and conscious of what we buy, we can reduce waste, reduce pollution, and improve the lives of workers and our economy.
How can we achieve this?
When you buy something, ask yourself the questions below and try to find the product that gives the best answers.
What can I do with the packaging?
Almost every product we buy today comes with a crazy amount of excess packaging, which just gets thrown into our garbage, and therefore, landfills at best.
Try to avoid as much packaging as possible, but if you can’t, opt for more eco-friendly materials.
Cardboard is best because it can be recycled more easily than thin plastic. Avoid foods with excess packaging, that are individually wrapped, or that come in weird materials such as the aluminum-plastic hybrid found inside snack boxes or that make up chip bags. These cannot be recycled and so go straight to the landfill, or even possibly the ocean.
To avoid this, buy in bulk, buy wholesale with your own packaging, or buy a less wasteful alternative. For example, instead of buying bags of pre-cut lettuce with plastic you can’t recycle, buy full heads of lettuce, which usually come in little to no packaging.
Where did this come from?
There are two ways you could look at this question. One side has to do with physical distance, and the other about the ethics that went into making this product.
One the first hand, it’s important to consider the distance traveled between the production of something, and the store you are buying it at.
Local produce is a great solution for this because it is grown and distributed by local growers, meaning it had to travel less of a distance than something that came from across the country.
Plus, it helps put money back into your local economy and support the people who live and work near you, building your community!
Unfortunately, not all products can be made in all areas, but you can explore your options at farmers markets, or even searching in your area on Etsy.
What Is This Made of?
Knowing what the inputs (the products that make up a larger product) are for something that you consider buying can help you determine how good the product is not only for the environment, but for you, too. This is especially true when buying foods. The fewer ingredients a food product has, the better it is for you and the planet, most likely.
A good example of this with something that is not food is reusable water bottles. These are a product that can be very easily green-washed.
Even though the water bottle will last a long time, what can you do with it when it is time to get rid of it? Can you recycle it? Will its inputs harm the earth?
For example, the glass bottles with silicone outings to prevent shattering: the glass is great, clean and easily recyclable, but if it shatters, what do you do with the silicone? While silicone is recyclable, it’s not as easy to recycle as aluminum or other household products. It would have to be brought to a special recycling facility.
These implications are important to consider because the planet can be impacted at all parts of the process.
Who made this?
Just as important as what is the product made of is who made the product. Try to buy products that let you know where they are made and by who.
By buying local, you can avoid buying from companies that exploit their workers by shorting their pay or giving them unsafe conditions.
Of course you can’t completely change everything you own right now to reflect more ethical standards. That’s okay! Use items to their fullest extent, and when a replacement is needed, consider these questions! Even the smallest step forward matters.
Thanks for doing your part!