Reflecting on One Year of Shopping Ethically
It’s my one year anniversary of trying to shop ethically (hooray!)….but you may be wondering what that means and why it matters. Shopping ethically or shopping fair trade is basically buying products where people who make the products you’re buying are paid a fair living wage. Sounds simple, right? …..Wrong. Tons of huge corporations pay employees a “fair living wage” of less than a dollar an hour, which is what motivated me to start shopping ethically. Read below about my journey of shopping fair trade.
Shopping ethically or fair trade certified takes a sensitive heart and a bit of research (and it can be inconvenient), but it’s TOTALLY worth the effort. And you don’t have to do 100%. It’s not like going vegan. Even if you only buy 20% of your stuff ethically made, it helps. A lot! You’re helping improving the quality of other humans’ lives! A great first step is educating yourself on the horrible work conditions that other humans face when they’re making the clothes we wear….Remember, when you shop fair trade or local you’re helping local families and artists. You’re helping feed kids and keep the lights on in someone’s home. You’re doing good in the world when you shop ethically. For an excellent crash course in shopping ethically, I recommended watching The True Cost on Netflix: it’s a very eye opening documentary.
For me, I first began to educate myself on ethical shopping this time last year. I learned that some of Apple’s employees committed suicide because of the horrible working conditions in their factory. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103798/Revealed-Inside-Apples-Chinese-sweatshop-factory-workers-paid-just-1-12-hour.html This article brought me to tears, because I work on an iPhone and an MacBook and I just felt so unhelpful and guilty. Since then I’ve tried to shop less, buy items gently used or buy Fair Trade. Fair Trade Certified items are pretty expensive and hard to come by so this lifestyle adjustment isn’t exactly an overnight activity. I probably spent fifteen hours last year researching the Fair Trade movement, because it really resonated with me. At the end of this I’ll list my favorite fair trade stores…I just can’t afford very much from them unfortunately.
So maybe you think “Yeah it’s sad that these people in Bangladesh and China and Cambodia make 68 cents an hour but that doesn’t affect me and that’s just business”….then look at it this way: the more you shop ethical/American Made the more you’re pouring back into the American economy! I have lots of dresses, shoes and bikinis that are made here in America, and for me that counts as shopping ethically. Also, you can do something super simple like boycott just one or two corporations that don’t pay their employees fairly. I promised myself to never again shop at H&M or Forever 21, so I haven’t been in those stores since summer 2015. (However, that being said I do shop occasionally at Victoria’s Secret and they used sweatshops, so I’m not perfect.)
Check out some great ways to shop ethically below and read the definitions of the buzzwords:
- Buy Less. Buy Less. Buy Less.
- boycott a brand or two or ten that doesn’t treat their workers well
- Watch the movie “The True Cost” then make everyone you know watch it.
- When you’re about to buy something made in a sweatshop, double check that you REALLY want/need it
- If you can afford it shop Fair Trade certified. There’s this fancy Fair Trade USA Organization and they stamp items that are fair trade certified.
- If you can’t afford Fair Trade certified items, buy local or Made in America! (That counts, too, in my book)
- Shop at Goodwill; I’ve been doing it for a looooooong time.
- Look up your favorite companies and see if they’re ethical or not. If they’re not ethical, try cutting back or boycotting them.
- Remember that you’re the consumer and you ultimately hold the power! Which leads to number 10….
- Get involved! Research Fair Trade companies, follow them on social media. Write a letter the the companies you’ve boycotted and explain that you did so because they don’t pay their workers fair wages. You have a voice, so speak up (: It feels good!
“fair trade”: Fair trade is a social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improved social and environmental standards.
“Sweatshop is a pejorative term for a workplace that has poor, socially unacceptable working conditions. The work may be difficult, dangerous, or underpaid.”
The articles that motivated me to adjust my lifestyle:
Some great websites/blogs/shops: