I would like to start with a thought experiment. Think of your favorite 5 items of clothing. Ok great! Now ask yourself, where did I buy those clothes? And were does that shop get their clothes? Who made those clothes? And finally, where did the fabric come from? How did you go?
Being from the western world and living in an affluent society we Australians, as consumers, may be persuaded to think there is no reason for us to worry about where the products come from. Ignorance is bliss right? We want to buy leather but we don’t want to hear about the cow that died and we certainly don’t want to hear about the 12 year girl, working 18 hours days and a poorly lit shed being paid less each day then we would spend on our morning coffee. Meanwhile, do we know what it took to get those coffee beans into our cup?
It’s so so much easier not to think about these things, I get it, but unfortunately ignorance perpetuates the issue.
I’m not hear to give you a sermon or bombard you with facts about the 2 million children in Uzbekistan (one of the world’s largest exporters of cotton) who are forced to quit school and work picking cotton by hand in order to meet the governments cotton export quotas. Cotton which is turned into fabric to make clothes, bedding and other products sold to countries like Australia.
I believe deep down we know that the buck stops with us and ultimately it is our choice to create the world we want to live in.
So instead I’d like to give you some principles to help you move towards ethical consuming...
Remember that every purchase makes an impact
You don’t have to be crippled by guilt and ethical dilemmas everytime you walk into shop, however, take a moment and think of the ‘cost’ of your potential purchase. Cost and convenience are what drives us to buy and that’s fine but ask yourself ‘How Much Extra Are You Willing to Pay to Minimise Your Impact?’. Every dollar we spend has a gets passed down a chain and we want to be confident that its getting to the right people.
Avoid unnecessary consumption
‘Do I really need it?’ is an easy question to ask yourself the day before pay day and quite often when things are tight the answer is no. However, when times are good we tend to splash out and buy that third pair of yoga shoes for the season that you will never wear because who wears shoes doing yoga? According to ethical.org.au about 80% of all sellable products ends up as waste, on average within 6 months.
Get educated (one issue at a time)
It can be overwhelming when you begin to investigate how some of these industries work and if you try to take it all in at once you may feel like the problems are too many and too big. So start small. Maybe look into where your early morning coffee comes from, and seek out a place which uses a fairtrade brand. Each week, or fortnight, or month move on to a new product and investigate the issues and ethical alternatives. Educating ourselves can be the most rewarding thing we do with our time and gradually our shopping list can start to be more of a reflection of our values.
Seek out the best options
We all have different values and there are plenty of products out there to fit in with each of us. Fairtrade, organic, products made locally. Decide what is important to you and choose options that align with you. Remember that there is no right or wrong purchasing, only better or worse. Not every product can be perfect and tick all boxes so weighing up your values and prioritizing is important.
Share your discoveries and create a good habit
Once you have done the research and found some new amazing, ethical products SHARE THE LOVE!! Tell you’re friends! “You love my tights? Thanks, they’re made out of recycled plastic bottles!” People want to know that there are options out there so let them know. Get your friends into the habit of being choosy. It only takes about a month to change a habit and once we have found our ‘best option’ shopping list it won’t feel like a difficult task. More likely you will start to automatically notice ethical products and be drawn to them. So CELEBRATE your good choices and know that everytime you make a ‘better’ choice you are creating a more sustainable, ethical world. Well done