The idea of ethical shopping traditionally brings up images of eco warriors mung beans and other stereotypes – but forget all that. Making ethical decisions as you shop is a modern, fashionable and smarter way of thinking for any 21st century consumer.
But where do you start? With products, brands, costs and transport to consider, shopping ethically has its complexities. Follow these tips to help get started:
Greener Shopping Trips
Firstly, it’s important to try to minimise the environmental impact of your shopping trip by selecting greener modes of transport. Wherever possible, leave the car at home and take a more sustainable form of transport, such as bus, train or foot. If using the car is unavoidable, try to ensure that you go equipped with a comprehensive weekly shopping list to save driving a repeat journey to pick up something you’ve forgotten.
Also remember to reuse your old shopping bags by taking them along with you on a shopping trip rather than wasting more. According to Recycle Now, around 10 billion plastic shopping bags are produced a year in the UK, and each takes over 100 years to decompose.
Buy and Shop Local
Where possible, try to support your local community and agriculture by buying local. Take a look at the place of origin specified on fruit, vegetables, meat and other fresh produce. Purchasing a local product means that you’re closer to its original source and therefore should be confident that it’s fresher than overseas counterparts. By buying local, you’re also indirectly taking a stand against the air miles and carbon emissions that an overseas product would have clocked up.
Shopping locally also helps to boost local economies and keeps independent shops and grocers open. Attending local farmers’ markets is also a good way of purchasing local and fresh products – and a fun way to shop. By buying directly from the farmer, you’re cutting out the middleman and ensuring your money is reaching the local producer first hand. Going shopping on foot is also good exercise.
Recycle, and Buy Recycled
Investing in recycled or recyclable products is also something to take into consideration when selecting products. Look for recycled alternatives for products you usually buy – you’ll probably be surprised at the range of recycled items on offer. You can, for example, buy recycled toilet paper, garden furniture, wine glasses and even a pencil case made of recycled tyres. And, make sure you recycle unwanted food packaging instead of throwing straight into the bin.
Choose Ethical Brands
Some products are more ethical than others, and the same goes from consumer brands. In order to back the heroes rather than unwittingly support the villains, it’s possible to see their ‘ethical score’ by using rankings developed by ethical campaigners Ethical Consumer. You can search for the most ethical mobile phone or laptop manufacturers right through to the greenest holiday companies, all scored on categories such as human rights and carbon emissions.
Try Fair Trade
Fair Trade is an international scheme which aims to ensure that producers in developing countries aren’t exploited. Products are sold at a price that realistically matches the overall value of the work and materials that have been invested by the producer. Importantly, this money will reach their pocket rather than that of a profit-making company. Look out for the blue and green Fair Trade logo on products.
It’s even possible to manage your finances ethically. An ethical bank, also known as a sustainable bank, is concerned about the social use of its investments and loans, and will usually make a commitment to its customers that their money will only be invested in ethical and worthwhile causes. One example of a bank with this sort of ethical policy is the Cooperative Bank.