With every dollar you spend, you are impacting the planet and it’s people.
The question is however, are you using the power you wield as a consumer positively or negatively? Ethical consumerism is our way of turning our power to positive!
We live in a time of animal cruelty, genetically modified foods, broad-scale chemical monocultures, human rights abuse and priority of economy/ industry over the sustainable stewardship of our environment. These things can seem beyond our control, but fortunately, for the same reasons that the economy is considered a priority in the human world, so does money speak loudly to dictate changes in marketplace trends. Every time we buy something, the money we spend endorses a company and its activities. That is why the act of boycotting has stood the test of time as an extremely effective way of exerting consumer power upon industry and re-inforces the fact that ethical consumerism is an extremely positive force of change.
By avoiding companies that have an unethical track record and instead buying products from companies who are making efforts to have a positive impact, we can send a strong message for change and support the practices that make our world a better place to live in. Companies need our money to stay in business – money talks, and our dollar literally is our vote.
I have discovered a wonderful website that I believe to be very useful to every aspiring ethical consumer – www.ethical.org.au.
The Ethical Consumer Group is a community based, not-for-profit organisation and network, set up to help facilitate more sustainable, ethical consumerism, by supporting the pursuit of consumers to be informed. Their goal is to educate and empower people to make shopping choices that better reflect their values and to use their consumer power to create a better world.
Shop Ethical! is a project of the Ethical Consumer Group and is their main form of raising funds towards their continued work. It is an ethical consumer guide which now has 110,000 strong users and can be ordered as a paper pocket guide or, as a mobile app, both providing reference capability to you whilst “on the go shopping”.
The Shop Ethical! guide provides information on the environmental and social record of companies behind the brand names of common supermarket products to provide ethical guidance towards your product choices and purchase. Research has been drawn from over 50 sources including the work of organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Responsible Shopper, Greenpeace and Choose Cruelty Free. This website also provides ratings for companies, and more detailed information on the specific assessments used to generate these ratings. It also includes information on the related issues and further resources for reducing your impact via ethical consumerism.
I began walking the path towards ethical consumerism, way back when I was a teenager, twenty or so years ago…only I was not as conscious of what I was infact doing then, until I matured and moved into my own home and the responsibility of consumer choices rested squarely with me. I started to see the correlations between spending our money and showing our support for companies by the dollar value spent with them. This led to my firm belief in the “Power of One”- which ultimately becomes the “Power of Many”, once people have faith enough to act from their convictions, knowing this will impact right across the entire globe.
So what would be MY most recommended priority steps to begin walking the path of positive ethical consumerism?
- Take responsibility for being informed as to unethical, environmentally destructive industrial practices, via several different sources. Information has always and forever will provide, personal and planetary Power. Recently I bore witness to shocking footage on the ABC 7:30 Report, which showed graphic slaughter scenes in an Egyptian Abbatoir, who receives Australian exported live cattle. The images were extremely disturbing and inhumane, to put it very mildly. It would have been easier for me to turn off the channel, saying I don’t wish to see that graphic display…but only PEOPLE can help influence inhumane practices upon animals, THEY can’t. Solutions to problems will never be found whilst we don’t acknowledge the problem exists in the first place. The old saying “Don’t be like an ostrich hiding your head in the sand” rings very true here- we need to become aware of issues first, only then can we face them and take action to fix them.
- Learn to read product labels- numbers, ingredients and country of origin/manufacture and also take the time to KNOW the company behind the label. The easiest way to become committed to ethical consumerism is by familiarising yourself with the proven ethical companies and sticking with their trusted products, thus resulting in a quicker shop!
- Choose to support products that are accredited as Organic/Biodynamic and always look for a Certified Accreditation Logo- become familiar with the logos used in your own country- natural does not mean Certified Organic, nor does free range, however if you can’t source Organic animal products, the second best choice is free-range, so as to at least ensure the animal’s comfort and natural ability to range has been respected.
- Choose products that do not contain Genetically modified ingredients.
- Buy products in bulk, with the least amount and with the most biodegradable/recyclable type of packaging- take responsibility for the type and quantity of waste we create. Also try to recycle and reuse as much as you possibly can.
- Choose Multi-purpose home cleaners and chemical free personal care products – avoiding ingredients that are toxic to our environment, ourselves and that may pollute our waterways.
- Always choose unbleached, recycled or plantation derived paper products.
- Choose plantation derived, sustainably harvested, or recycled building timbers to build or renovate, sourcing them as close to home as possible.
- Lower meat consumption as a favour to your health and the environment. Did you know, that the protein derived from beef consumption takes at least 25 times more energy to produce than a comparable amount of protein from grain?
- Speak Up for more ethical choices as a consumer, then commit your support! Ask retailers for more ethical products/brands if they don’t already stock products of choice, but then ensure you follow through with the resolve and loyalty, to show customer support when they do the right thing!
- Support locally produced or manufactured whenever you can. I am aware we live in a global marketplace and the distance between all of our countries seems so much more insignificant now than ever before, but the reality is that the further the product’s country of origin, the higher the embodied energy that’s invested into that product, such as fossil fuels used in it’s transportation.