Sustainable and ethical shopping may seem difficult, but with a bit of knowledge and forethought you can shop for products that have less negative impact on the environment and the people who produce the goods. What is ethical shopping? Ethical shopping is buying products that are Fair Trade, organic or cruelty free. What are sustainable goods? Sustainable goods are products that allow for positive environmental and economic impact through their entire life cycle.
A list of sustainable and ethical products might look something like this:
- Fair Trade certified coffee, tea or chocolate
- Organic or free range chicken and eggs
- Refurbished electronics and mobile phones
- Clothing from secondhand shops
- Cruelty free shampoo and cosmetics
Low Consumption or Less is More
Ask yourself if you really need the item at all. Do you need another blouse when you already have three? Maybe ask a friend if he or she would like to swap a shirt, tie or sweater.
If you have access to public transportation use the bus or metro instead of your car to get to the store. You could just stay home and shop online, because carriers like UPS are a more efficient delivery system than everyone driving to the store.
Keep items longer. Chances are good that you or your family do not need the latest phone, video game or television. Electronics have batteries, rare minerals that are mined and plastics that are harmful to the environment.
Shopping at secondhand shops is a win for the environment, the store and your wallet. Fabrics like polyester are produced from oil and most cotton is grown with over used pesticides, so giving these clothes a second chance keeps the textiles from the landfill and reduces the environmental impact.
Most secondhand stores are either managed by a charity or family owned, so buying fashion secondhand helps your community. Often you can find clothing with the original tags still attached priced at a fraction of the original cost. Most thrift stores sell formal, casual and athletic clothing for the entire family. Most thrift store shoppers would say that the fun of shopping secondhand is that you never know what you may find.
If you have a special event coming up and would like to wear something with a designer label rent a dress or suit from a clothing rental website. You will feel fabulous in your fancy designer dress while reducing the environmental impact.
Making ethical and sustainable purchases should include looking for Fair Trade certified products. These products have met specific environmental, social and economic standards to help a farmer’s income and community sustainability. It is easy to find a Fair Trade symbol on boxes or packages of coffee, tea and chocolate. Fair Trade certified products in the U.S. will have a small logo with a green background and a person holding a basket.
Know the difference between organic and free range eggs and meat. Free range simply means the animal has access to open air runs, but is probably fed conventional feed. Organic farming is subject to strict principles that cover protecting the environment, the animal’s welfare and the avoidance of antibiotics in the animal’s feed.
Another way to make ethical shopping choices is to buy cruelty free lotions and cosmetics. Cruelty free products are those that have not been tested on animals. A typical animal test for a cosmetic manufacturer would be a skin or eye irritation experiment that can be painful and cause suffering to the animal.
Try the no poo approach to caring for your hair. Most shampoos and conditioners have toxic ingredients that wash down the drain and harm the environment. The no poo method uses baking soda, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil for cleaning and conditioning hair.
Knowing to look for the Fair Trade logo, understanding the difference between free range and organic and adopting the less is more mindset will help you take simple steps toward sustainable and ethical shopping choices.