For everything we buy, we try to support something good.
We don’t buy meaningless things from meaningless places.
If we don’t need it, we don’t buy it.
Creating demand for good things means there will be more of them in the world.
We’ll consider what good things are most important to each of us, individually. Sometimes we’ll choose between the options on the shelf in front of us, and sometimes we’ll go out of our way to find and support a brand that shares our values. Such as…
To shop ethically is to support causes that are meaningful to you. Fair labor, yes — but also education, poverty, breast cancer research, battered women’s shelters, empowering third-world entrepreneurs… if it moves you, buy from brands that support it.
The 3/50 Project says, “If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.” And, “For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here.”
Reuse and repurpose
What items require that no resources be expended for you to own them? Those that were previously owned. (The first owner created the demand.) Most thrift stores are operated by organizations that support community causes, such as Goodwill, which benefits people with disadvantages.
Quality over quantity
Products that are made to last, that have a classic design and that are versatile. They just feel good.
Repair, not replace
Did you know it costs $1 dry cleaners to replace lost buttons? Things like split seams, broken heel tips and broken leather straps are much easier to fix, or have fixed, than they might seem.
Materials that respect the environment
Environmentally friendly materials can be one of the easiest components to find and identify. Consider not only the impact these items have directly on you (e.g., nontoxic cleaning products), but also the amount of resource that went into creating them (labor, energy, transportation, etc.). According to Annie Lennox’s The Story of Stuff, 99 percent of what we bring home from the store is thrown away within six months of purchase, including products and packaging.
Fair labor rights
Transparency about manufacturing practices = yes please. (Note: This topic can be surprisingly touchy. Labor issues are a personal passion of mine and were the number-one reason I became interested in ethical consumption in the first place. I believe strongly in transparency about the use of fair labor, but I’m also sympathetic to manufacturing in underdeveloped countries where sweatshop-grade factory jobs are better than their alternatives, and to the fact that the documentation process for fair labor certifications is simply not feasible in some underdeveloped areas.)
Environmentally friendly materials
We buy products made with materials that respect the environment. We consider not only the impact these items have on us directly (like nontoxic cleaning products), but also the amount of resource that went into creating them (labor, energy, transportation, etc.). According to Annie Lennox’s The Story of Stuff, 99 percent of what we bring home from the store is thrown away within six months of purchase, including products and packaging!
Air freight uses significantly more energy than either ground (for continental) or ocean (for global) transport. For us online shoppers, this means that Ground shipping is almost always a greener option than Overnight.
Need versus want
The question that inevitably influences all the rest. In many cases, cultural norms get in the way of answering this question for us. Quaker author Richard Foster wrote in the 1970s, “Where planned obsolescence leaves off, psychological obsolescence takes over. We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out.”