Mindful Consumption – Making Ethical Shopping Choices

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Welcome to the October 2012 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Ethical Shopping ChoicesThis post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they make purchasing choices.

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One of the biggest steps we take in this journey we call “going green” is taking a hard look at what we choose to purchase. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we totally vote with our dollars. It really does make a difference when we choose to support companies that truly use eco-friendly and sustainable practices. Unfortunately, it can be difficult sometimes to determine whether a company is truly ethical or if they simply market themselves that way.

My illustration called fair trade
Read on for a few ways that you can be a more eco-friendly consumer by shopping ethically by honing your buying habits and learning how to really gauge a company's practices before you hand them your cash.

Consume Less

When you buy less stuff overall, you’re contributing less to the amount of natural resources that are used to manufacture new products. This is one of the most significant ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Admittedly, it does take a bit of getting used to, especially in our culture today.

Buy Used

Keep trash out of landfills by buying used items. It doesn't mean you have to own junk by any means! I've found many beautiful, high-quality pieces of furniture through Craigslist, at thrift stores, and even on the curb ready for trash pick-up. Your options are even wider if you're handy with DIY projects. Sometimes all a piece needs is a coat of paint or a bit of cleaning to be as good as new.

Questions to Ask Yourself

One of the simplest ways to start buying more mindfully is to ask yourself a few key questions before buying:

 

  • Is this product Fair Trade Certified? Or, was it made in a country with sound labor laws?
  • Is it made from sustainable materials? Green alternatives exist for pretty much everything these days, made from sustainable materials like hemp and bamboo.
  • Is it packaged sustainably and with recycled/eco-friendly material? Excess packaging is common, but it's also incredibly wasteful.
  • Is it made locally? Always try to choose products made near you. Valuable resources, namely oil, are used to haul products around the world.

It's a habit that takes awhile to really get used to and take root in your life. Mindful consumption, however, is not something you can ignore if you wish to live a greener and more sustainable life. As we head into the Christmas gift-buying season, be sure to keep these thoughts in mind!

Support Fair Trade

The Fair Trade Federation defines fair trade as “a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade.” Wikipedia calls it “an organized social movement which promotes standards for international labor, environmentalism, and social policy in areas related to production of Fairtrade labeled and unlabeled goods.”

The fair trade movement promotes and supports fair wages for workers no matter where they are from. “Fair wages” referring to what makes sense locally. Manufacturers, artisans and craftsmen must earn a wage they can live on and that is relative to other trades in their local economic system in order for a product to be labelled “Fair trade.” Generally, this means that artisans, etc. are paid 15 to 30 percent of the retail price of the goods they're creating.

Fair trade also applies to the  environment that people work in. Fair trade organizations work hard to ensure safe working conditions for artisans, create economic stability for communities in developing countries, and improve social and humanitarian conditions in those communities to help ensure that the workers can continue working and earning wages.

While it's good to know what's behind the production of everything you buy, – every dollar, every penny is a vote! – some items are more likely than others to be produced in an environment that supports human exploitation, whether because of unfair wages (basically slavery), unsafe working conditions, child labor or a combination of these. These items include:
  • Clothing
  • Beans & Grains
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate/Cocoa
  • Herbs and Spices
  • Tea
  • Nuts
  • Cooking oils
  • Sugar
Another way to make sure your dollars are flowing ethically is to support crafters and shop owners who only use fair trade materials in their products! Just another reason why buying handmade is the way to go.
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Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:

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Kylie Wiser is an herbalist, writer, and educator on plant-based living. She founded Everblossom in 2009.

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5 Responses

  1. Brittney Minor

    I love buying handmade…more unique and I love supporting people that love what they are doing! It is so important to ask questions before we buy! Everything we purchase shows that we support it!

  2. CelloMom

    I love the way you put “Consume less” way at the top! I really believe this is the way toward healing the planet.

  3. Sarah @ made in usa challenge

    People are always shocked when I tell them that my challenge to buy products made in USA has saved me money. I have found that by being more conscious of my consumption, I buy less in general, and when I do it is something I really need and I choose a high quality, ethically made product made in USA that I know will last a long time.

  4. Becky Elmuccio

    I agree that putting consume less as your first point is a great one. Treating the planet ethically means sometimes choosing to not buy something.

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