Informed Shopping: Being an Ethical Shopper

BY MARIA SAUER

Lights are strung around trees, wreaths are hung and large red signs are flashing “sale.” Stores are drawing us in during a major shopping season to purchase their brands. As we browse through stores, select our items, wait in line to check out and make another purchase for the season, has the thought of what else goes behind the purchase ever crossed your mind? When you decide between two brands because your brother wasn’t clear what he wanted for a present, was one of the deciding factors an ethical one? We often purchase items based on cost, quality and need. What is it that goes behind a product that makes it distinct from others? While it is necessary to purchase things, it isn’t always good for the people or environment involved in the supply chain of the product.

Each purchase you make supports an issue. Are you supporting deforestation, animal testing, pollution or child exploitation? Or are you supporting sustainable fair trade, organic practices and human rights? As your item is rung up at the register and you hand the cashier money, your voice is being heard. Knowing that your purchase raises a voice, it’s important to be informed of what voice that is.

A major principle in shopping ethically is learning about issues connected to the products surrounding us. Since there are a number of issues connected with products, start with one that concerns you. If chocolate is your go-to treat and you are concerned about child exploitation, look more into chocolate companies. While there are companies that participate in child exploitation, there are other companies that value the human dignity of each and every worker. An ethical shopping experience begins by being informed.

Once you are able to walk through an aisle with the information to ethically shop, identify products based on criteria that meets your values. If you value the day-to-day life of disadvantaged communities, you may intentionally seek out products that are Fairtrade certified. Each person is able to have an impact. You don’t need to travel to Malaysia to ensure that human rights aren’t being compromised. However, you do have the responsibility to make an impact where possible. With knowledge about issues that connect to products in our stores, you have become a conscious consumer. As you walk past “sale” signs displayed throughout stores and browse for products, bring with you this question: how am I going to make an impact?

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