Important Questions for Ethical Consumers
There are a few important questions you need to answer for yourself:
1. Do I really need to consume at all?
Sometimes the strongest move you could make is to simply stop consuming something altogether. This could be something like; getting rid of your car and only using public transport; installing solar panels and no longer purchasing electricity for your home; giving up alcohol, coffee or tea; or giving up all animal-based products entirely. This is certainly a very strong option but you need to make sure that you will be able to live (and work) effectively if you stop using something altogether
2. Do I really need to consume so much?
Cutting down or reducing your consumption can help support your beliefs. Cutting down on using plastic containers; reducing the amounts of sugar or salt you use; switching to more fuel-efficient transport; eating less processed foods; drinking less alcohol; learning to sew your own clothes, or even growing some veggies at home. Sometimes this reduced consumption can also have the added benefit of increase the money you have left in your purse or wallet!
3. Can I substitute it for something else?
Can I buy products and services that support the ideas I believe in? For instance, can I switch to buying coffee from suppliers that I believe are supporting FairTrade principles? Can I only buy fruit and vegetables that are organic? Can I buy products and services that support jobs in my local community? All of these choices depend on the market (what is available to you), the price (what you can afford) and how committed you are to your ethics (how convenient/inconvenient it is)
4. Will it really make a difference?
You need to decide how much effort you are willing (and able) to put into being ‘ethical’. This means you will need to be prepared to accept that being an ethical consumer may not be as convenient and simple as just buying products and services that are easily available. Some things may cost more, somethings may not be available in your area…and some things may not even exist yet!
The most important thing is to be well-informed and make sensible, educated choices. You need to find out whether the suppliers are honest about how they make their products or how they deliver their services. You will need to shop around, compare prices, and share knowledge with others to try and get a better idea. On-line internet forums are proving to be very useful places to get reliable information from other ‘ethical’ consumers – far more reliable than government information or even promotional information from the producers themselves. A good example is this the GREEN STARS Project https://greenstarsproject.org/