By our nature, we’re consumers in a materialistic society. We shop because we need to. It’s part of our human lifestyle. When we need something, we travel to the nearest shop to look for the thing we need. The modern world of consumerism is nothing more than a matter of convenience to greet our current craving or necessity.
So, shopping has become a mindless act. And it’s phenomenally easy for us to forget what’s behind the product’s history – how it was made, who made it, what it’s made out of, how it’s been transported and what the morals of the company are.
If you don’t shop ethically – don’t worry – it doesn’t mean you’re unethical. Being an “ethical” consumer means doing your part to support brands that do more good for humans and the planet than the other 90% of brands out there around the globe (this is simply an estimate).
So what is an ethical brand, exactly?
As defined by The Branding Journal, an ethical brand is one that is morally correct, does not harm people, animals or the environment, contributes to society and the public good in a responsible, positive and sustainable way.
Can we find ethical brands that are within our budget? The answer is yes, but it really all depends on what your budget is in the end.
Everlane, Made Trade, Patagonia, Pact and TenTree are just a few clothing lines that aim to produce sustainably – fair trade to workers, using resources responsibly, not damaging the ecosystem and avoiding toxic chemicals in their clothes – while keeping things on the “less” expensive side. It’s still pricier than what we’re used to, though. But that’s because manufacturing clothing responsibly is no cheap process. It comes at a price.
But . . .
If you’re hoping for some $15 t-shirt options without harming anything, I highly recommend you shop at your local thrift shop. Honestly, I’ve found them to have some of the best clothes I have with little money spent on it.
An article I recommend you read, A Complete Guide On Buying Ethical Clothes On A Budget, gets straight to the point (as well as some detailed insight on the tricks of the trade) when it comes to shopping consciously.
As for household products?
Your local shop will have the most authentic and natural items you could ask for. Small businesses often aim to produce quality products rather than cheaply manufactured ones because:
1) They don’t have enough resources to produce an extensive supply of items, which means the less that is made, the more quality it is.
2) Small businesses understand that locals are seeking out uniquely made quality and organic products.
3) Supporting local businesses has always been a fad, but lately has been rolling in the direction of sustainable practices.
I recently started shopping “ethically” online through the Zero Waste Store, but there are so many more environmentally conscious stores where you can buy household products out there. Just google it – you’ll find a plethora of what you’re looking for. In the end, you’ll feel better for taking those small steps to improving a lifestyle that helps the planet.
Now for food.
Farmer’s market is my go-to. Now, if you don’t have one near you, a good alternative would be to start growing your own foods (start small, just the herbs and perhaps lettuce and peppers) where overtime you can even expand to produce as many foods as you’d like.
If neither of those work for you, then try the supermarket and search for brands that offer products with the simplest, cleanest ingredients and hold the label of “fair trade certified”, “sustainably harvested” or even “Certified B Corp”.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that follow the standards that help maintain a healthy environmental and social direction. Many brands throughout the world possess this certification, therefore letting us feel more comfortable trusting their products.
Sometimes “organic” labels can be deceiving. We tend to think we’re ingesting far healthier foods when we buy organically rather than the non-organic products. For the most part, the reality is it’s nothing more than a marketing tool used by companies to sell their product faster than a conventional item. Organic essentially means no pesticides right? No chemicals to harm your system? But what about the varying other factors in the food industry such as GMOs, BPA in plastic packaging and an endless array of other pre-approved synthetic chemicals that are allowed in these “organic” products.
If you want to be authentic and natural, I harp on what I wrote in a previous blog How To Shop Sustainably and Make Money : go for products with the simplest ingredients, that are easy to pronounce.
For most of us who may feel motivated to do some kind of good for the environment, we hit a stump. We’re not sure where to start when it comes to shopping ethically. And then perhaps we lose the high and the motivation and end up back to our regular routines.
That’s okay. I’m in the same boat, too.
This should not be a read that discourages a person who loves the environment to think they are wicked for still buying a pre-made meal in plastic packaging or driving around emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Most of us are not able to avoid the luxuries of living a completely, 100% eco-friendly lifestyle. In fact, it’s just not possible for anyone at a normal living wage at the moment.
But the goal is to commit to small actions that align with our values, and then start making headway. Over time, the efforts get easier and more automatic.
Our main focus should be to prioritize what we feel is right for ourselves and the environment. Since we love the planet, we should treat it that way we would treat a loved one. And this means to commit to a lifestyle that does as little harm as possible to our home.