Taking Back the Power as an Ethical Consumer

The farmer’s market example: You go to the farmer’s market to buy apples. There are two local orchards with stalls at the market. The apples at Rainbow Orchards and Green Fields are the same price and the same quality but it’s common knowledge that the man who own Rainbow Orchards domestically abuses his wife. The family who own Green Fields are nice people with two young children who are well known and liked in the community. Who do you buy your apples from?

This is a simple example but it highlights something important. Most people would choose to support a business run by people they like whose values they agree with and would actively avoid giving money to people who hurt or commit violence against others. Going one step further, some people might choose to buy an inferior product or a more expensive one because they believe that it is more important to spend their money in line with their values. So what does this mean?

The World Market

This same principal can be used to guide us in every aspect of how we spend our money. The processes that create the products we buy are very far removed from us. We only see the end result. However, everything has a past and every past and every producer has an ethos by which they practice business. Just like Rainbow Orchards, the question is whether that is something that we want to support.

There are some quick easy rules that can help with ethical consumption:

Cheap rarely means good

Companies build things to fall apart, this is called planned obsolescence. But it means that we are taught to buy things frequently that will not last. Companies drive down prices so people will keep buying products but that just means the cost of the product gets offloaded somewhere else, like on the workers. In some cases companies cut corners on things like waste disposal and the cost is the harmful toxins that are released into environment.

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CC Image courtesy of David Brooks on Flickr

Buy to last

This point is similar to the previous one. When we buy something cheap it is rarely an investment, but we should not treat non organic products as disposable. Recycling is not enough to keep up with how much we throw away. And the broken, barely used things we take for granted end up dumped into our lands and oceans. This whole system is cluttering our earth with so much that it’s only a matter of time before our waste starts to become a defining feature of our landscape. In some places it already is. We can do better.

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CC Image courtesy of Camera Eye Photography on FlickrBuy to last

Shop local

Buying things locally means supporting small business and reducing your carbon footprint by not financing the long distance shipping of goods. A win all round. Tomatoes from Spain might be cheaper than tomatoes from the UK but only if you don’t count the cost to the environment.

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Avoid packaging

Plastic is evil. It’s also everywhere. Including in our oceans and rivers. Although some is recycled a lot of plastic is neither recyclable nor biodegradable. Some of it is even quite toxic. Bring your own bags when shopping and try to buy less processed food that comes in packaging and more loose fruit and vegetables. Fore planning is your friend. Have a reusable coffee cup for takeaway drinks and a water bottle of your own to avoid buying drinks on the go.

An empty rubbish collection truck leaves the Tapuhia rubbish dum
CC Image courtesy of Connor Ashleigh through Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Flickr

Go organic

Buying organic should not be a status symbol or a health fad. It’s true it costs a little extra but that’s where priorities come in. If you can afford it buying organic is one of the best things you can do for the earth and the environment. Chemical fertilisers and insecticides pollute the natural environment and damage ecosystems. When we buy organic we support methods of farming responsibly and in harmony with the earth.

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One thought on “Don’t buy it

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