Ethical Shopping

Ok, so what is ethical shopping? It is our shopping decisions that drive supermarkets and manufacturers to offer the goods that they do.

Ethical shopping means using our spending power to do the least harm or the greatest good.

If we buy cheap clothes made in third-world sweatshops we are encouraging worker exploitation.

Cheap meat means factory farmed animals, that's probably why we are reading a vegetarian recipe web-site, after all.

The power in our wallets really does make a difference. The FairTrade movement is proof of this. Virtually every UK supermarket now sell goods with the FairTrade accreditation, because customers want to buy them. This is helping human rights across the world.

How do we shop ethically? Positive and Negative buying.

Positive buying means favoring products that meet your ethical ideals. Organically grown vegetables, for example. Support your local shops, they are an endangered species in some areas.

Shopping closer to home also means less traffic pollution, especially if you can walk to the local shops.

Avoiding buying things that are produced in ways you disapprove of is negative buying. Vegetarians don't buy meat, so this is a form of negative buying.

You might choose to avoid all the products from a particular business, because you don't like the way it conducts itself. This type of boycott has a long history. In 1791 there was a boycott of sugar produced by slaves that almost halved the sales of sugar produced in the West Indies while the sales of sugar grown by free men in India grew tenfold.

Another form of negative buying that helps the environment is simply to consume less or throw less away. Can an item be recycled or re-used?

If you find you are throwing food away you are probably buying too much. Your buying power can make even the giant supermarkets change their ways. Our nearest supermarket now offers "Buy one, get one free next week" instead of "Buy one get one free" so we don't end getting twice as much as we can eat in a week.

How do we do ethical shopping?

The real key to ethical shopping is to know what products to buy and what to avoid. FairTrade and Ethical Consumer Best Buy labels are good guides but there is a lot of information available. An article in the New Scientist magazine suggest that CO2 emissions are influenced more by what we eat than how far it travels. One of the conclusions in the article was that we should eat less red meat. As vegetarians that is easy advice to follow.

There is a useful website you can visit that promotes a magazine, but the site itself has a lot of useful information.

Remember that every little helps. It would be wonderful if everyone made all their buying choices on ethical lines but it probably isn't going to happen. Cutting out one car journey a week or choosing FairTrade all adds up to a better world, one small step at a time.


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