Tips for Including Ethical Consumption & Purchasing in Your Lifestyle
It’s an unavoidable fact of our lives that as consumers in the 21st century, a stressful dichotomy exists. We all need to purchase products including food, clothing, furniture, and electronics, but the current state of the world creates a situation where ethical consumption needs to be included as more of a factor in our lifestyles. We know it can be overwhelming and thinking about how consumption negatively affects the environment, workers, animals and communities has the potential to make us feel powerless. In the face of this common feeling, something we can tangibly do is put our best foot forward to become consumers with a mindset for ethical consumption and purchasing.
The most important thing to remember about ethical consumption is that it is an act of spending your money within your means in a way that aligns with your values. For example, maybe you are particularly concerned about climate change, animal welfare or workers rights. You can use ethical consumption and purchasing to put your money towards and support companies that share similar values as you.
With that said, here are some helpful tips from us at M&J to help make your ethical consumption journey a little bit easier.
Pivot to Handmade Products
Where you can, purchase items that are handmade instead of those made on factory assembly lines. Products that are handmade use less energy, generally create less waste and can give the benefit of supporting small-businesses and artisans. Handmade products produced by artisans generally use more local supply chains, opposed to the complicated, less than transparent supply chains used by big corporations. As an added bonus: handmade products are often unique and can feature special touches that most factory produced items cannot. They are also a perfect option if you want to add some distinct pieces to your home that reminds you of the importance of connection with other people.
Start the Transition to Fair Trade, Ethically Sourced Products
Another thing you can do is transition to using and purchasing fair trade, ethically sourced products where it makes sense for your lifestyle. You can use a reliable resource like Ethical Consumer’s Guide, which is a non-profit whose mission is to be an easy to use resource for all consumers. They have shopping guides in various categories where they use an ethical rating system that is based on research of over 40,000 companies, brands and products.
When shopping for products with an ethical consumption mindset it can be helpful to read labels and descriptions. Products that meet specified requirements will be designated as Fair Trade Certified and Fair Trade Foundation which indicates that a particular product meets certain environmental, economic and social standards. If animal welfare is why you’re becoming a more ethical consumer, you can look out for the Cruelty Free International label that indicates the product was not tested on animals at any point in the supply chain. Similarly, a Certified Vegan label indicates that a product has not been tested on animals or contains any animal products. You may see this label on food, clothing, furniture and other items. There are also other labels you can look out for such as Bird Friendly, The Global Organic Textile Standard, Rainforest Alliance, and Globally Recycled Standard.
Ask the Hard Questions
When you are purchasing a product with an ethical mindset, particularly a high ticket item like furniture, don't be afraid to ask the hard questions about how the product was made by conducting research on various aspects of the supply chain and manufacturing from angles such as the environmental impact, waste creation, workers rights and more.
For those who have chosen to include ethical purchasing in their lifestyle due to environmental concerns, there are various factors you can look into including but not limited to: how much energy was used to create the furniture piece you have your eye on, how much waste was created in the manufacturing process and if toxic materials were used in the manufacturing.
If workers rights is your reason for being an ethical consumer, you can research which country the materials that the piece of furniture you have your eye on is sourced from or produced in. If material is sourced from or produced in a country known to have poor protections for workers, you can question if this product is in line with your values and start considering brands that manufacture and source materials from countries that have higher labor protections.
Of course doing a lot of background research on the ethical factors of a product takes time and is not feasible for every single itemyou buy but for expensive items you are making an investment in, this tip may come in handy!