Consumerism and ethical lifestyles do not, for many people, fall under the same umbrella. The two areas, however, are very much entwined and by following guidelines it is easy to make a huge difference to the environment by deciding exactly where the money from your wallet goes. There are two ways of doing this – boycotting brands and positive purchasing.
The first of the two options, boycotting, is the easier of the two to undertake. By researching which brands and products are created in immoral means it is possible to steer clear of purchasing them. Similarly it is easy to look at the materials that products are made of – synthetic products, such as plastics, often require toxins in their creation whilst natural materials do not. By buying natural resource equivalents of goods it is possible to recycle or re-use them at the end of their usefulness. Similarly wood, for example, bio-degrades at a much faster rate than synthetic materials and, as such, provides a much smaller burden to the environment. Therefore boycotting man made materials can help improve one’s green credentials, particularly if organic products are purchased instead.
Positive consumerism is the opposite to boycotting goods – rather than not purchasing items that can cause a negative effect on the environment, positive consumerism recommends buying items that help the green cause. Positive consumerism is in some ways easier to research when the consumer knows what they are looking for; positive companies are likely to be proud of their environmental contributions and, as such, will label their products with badges of honour. This is the opposite of less moral brands; unlike in animations, where toxic goods have large skull and crossbones placed upon them, it is unlikely that negative goods will advertise themselves as such.
What to look for
There are a number of different labels which, when identified, can help a consumer assemble an environmentally friendly and morally just shopping list. The most famous ethical label, of course, is the Fair Trade one. This label represents the fact that every single worker in the process of creating Fair Trade goods will be justly fiscally compensated for their work and will be guaranteed a safe working area too. There are many similar labels which can highlight a good’s green credentials – the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production and Ethical Trading Initiative labels are two such recognised tags. Various symbols on clothing, including those that denote they are made with organic materials, are worth pursuing also.
Positive goods and brands
Away from looking at labels there are other areas worth considering. When buying food it is possible to decrease a carbon footprint by purchasing only locally sourced goods – any foodstuff that is purchased in a supermarket will have more than likely have been flown or shipped in, as well as being driven to the market, which will have created a large carbon footprint via transportation. Purchasing food from farmer’s markets can help combat this particularly if the food purchased is organic. Similarly it is worth investing in charitable and philanthropic brands wherever possible. Many good providers user, as consumer incentives, charitable schemes aimed at helping, both nationally and internationally, those in need with regular aid and donations. Many of these are environmentally targeted and, by purchasing from these brands rather than immoral or amoral alternatives, it is possible to make a positive impact on the environment.
Kieron Casey is a BA (Hons) Journalism graduate who blogs regularly on a number of topics including ethical shopping, solar power and the environment.