Impulse buyers, mall junkies and online shopping addicts, listen up. Every time you swipe your credit card, you do more than just drain your wallet - you impact the entire planet.
Seems a little hard to fathom, right? Unfortunately, it’s true. Every purchase reflects the values you support and the type of world you want to live in.
As consumers, we hold the power for change. Our purchases dictate what should and shouldn’t be sold. When you make an ethical purchase, you’re supporting fair working conditions and showing the planet you care. What could be better than that?
In case you missed the memo: shopping ethically isn’t always easy. Production chains are complicated and frankly very confusing. So much so that companies can’t always guarantee what conditions their products were made in.
But not to fear, you can still love shopping and care about the planet too. With a few small tricks, you can become a savvy conscious consumer and shop with confidence, knowing your purchase will be an ethical one.
Read on for five simple tips!
First off, what is ethical shopping?
Put simply, ethical shopping is buying mindfully. It’s about spending your money on goods that won’t cause harm to society or the environment. Every purchase supports actions throughout the supply chain and beyond. Actions like animal testing, unfair trade in developing countries, child labour, cruel working conditions and other abuses. Long story short, what you spend your money on can have far-reaching implications.
In the past decade, the world has really woken up to the negative impact of their shopping habits. Take the fashion industry for example. Ever since the Rana Plaza Collapse (labelled the deadliest garment-factory incident ever), topics of meagre wages, child labour, unsafe factories, pollution and other abuses have risen to the forefront of the industry and still remain omnipresent to this day.
The benefits of buying ethically reach far and wide. By doing so, it encourages innovative products and brands, while discouraging others who are blind to the consequences of their actions. An ethical purchase does good for you, the people who made it, and the planet. Since buying things is fairly unavoidable, why not make sure your hard-earned cash goes towards a better planet?
How can I practice ethical shopping?
The first step to making a good purchase? Don’t buy at all. Take a look at what you already have and consider how necessary your buy really is. Alternatively, think outside the box and explore other options that will serve the same purpose. This step also involves avoiding those big red (and incredibly, incredibly tempting) signs that scream ‘SALE’ in capital letters. Resisting those signs will be hard at first but it gets easier, trust us. Especially when you notice your bank account doesn’t drop!
2. Shop locally
Why buy something new, when it already exists? From op-shops to flea markets, shopping second-hand is another great option for ethical consumers. You can buy a lot of things second-hand and it’s an easy way to promote a circular economy and support local businesses. For those not in the know, a circular economy is a zero-waste model. It’s based on the idea of reusing materials in order to fade out waste (ultimately, helping the environment and your bank balance too).
So before you click ‘checkout’ on your next online purchase, try browsing your local charity shops first. Anyone can buy a dress from a chain store, but no-one can copy the one-of-a-kind dress you discovered in your new op-shop haunt.
3. Get creative before recycling
Throwing things away is so last year. There are so many creative ways to fix, reuse or repurpose your things and save them from wasting away in a landfill somewhere. And thanks to the likes of Pinterest, we have an endless source of inspiration.
Torn shirt? Find a sewing kit or ask a family member for help repairing. Finished shampoo bottle? Turn it into a hanging plant holder. Empty makeup containers? See our five super-chic solutions. Rather than buy something new when it’s used up, think outside the box and explore other venues. This DIY mentality is key for any ethical consumer, as it’s instrumental in reducing waste while also saving you a pretty penny.
4. Get your Google on
If you’ve explored the steps above and not had much luck, you’re onto the next step: making a conscious purchase. Seek out products that respect the planet and its inhabitants. Look for fair-trade certifications, natural materials, transparency reports, ethical comparisons and information about how the product was made. You can discover a lot about a brand with a quick Google search.
Keep your eyes peeled for brands that give back to their local/global communities and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you discover a company isn’t socially responsible, move on.
5. Finally, respect your purchases
Treat everything you own like the investment it truly is. The way you look after your items, whether it’s a garment or phone, can impact the planet in ways that would surprise you. Follow the washing instructions on your clothes, be mindful with fragile items, and keep your skincare products in a cool place away from light and sun exposure. Thinking of your possessions as irreplaceable is a great mentality to hold. It helps your items live longer and subsequently, helps reduce waste.
6. Bonus tips: Don’t be afraid to get vocal
An important part of being an ethical consumer is letting companies know that you will (or won’t be) buying their goods. How else will they know to change? Tweet them, email them, DM them - whatever it takes to get in touch. Show them that good ethics is integral to driving sales, and reward those that act responsibly.
By choosing to buy from ethical and honest brands, we can drastically reduce the damage we inflict on this world. We can help promote a better relationship between ethics and a healthier world, thus contributing to a better future for everyone. Don’t forget that you, the consumer, have the voting power to spark change and force unethical practices out for good!