The first thing to know and accept is that ethical living is a marathon, not a sprint. And it’s definitely not always easy. Think of all the things you currently own and all the things you buy on a regular basis. Everything from food to clothing to home goods to toilet paper all came from somewhere. It all touched someone else’s hands before yours. It has a story behind it. When you think of how much STUFF is in the world, it can be extremely daunting to figure out how and where to purchase it all in a 100% ethical, sustainable, and transparent way. If you woke up today and decided to never buy anything that wasn’t produced 100% ethically again…. well, that might be impossible, to be honest. There are certain things that just aren’t made ethically! But you can always start somewhere. So, try just going 30 days at first. Or try just one category (like clothing). Then add another. As you learn and discover, it will become easier.
When it comes to shopping and living consciously, one of the most valuable things you can do is evaluate your priorities. This is something I do on an ongoing basis. Sometimes, I will see something I really want, but I know there is a really good chance it was made in a sweatshop. This is when I have to consciously stop myself and ask: how much does having this thing really matter to me? Do I actually need it? Is it worth knowing that someone else probably paid a much higher cost for it than I’m about to? Usually, after I’ve answered these questions, I don’t end up buying whatever the item is.
Look around your home. How much of what you buy is out of necessity? How often do you make impulse purchases? How much waste is your household producing? Do you know where the things you buy were made? Do you value quality over quantity or the other way around? Doing this self-assessment can be really helpful for you as a reference point!
Use Your Voice (You are more powerful than you think.)
Whether it is a clothing line increasing transparency in the supply chain or a tech company putting to action more sustainability initiatives, more and more large companies and corporations are finally beginning to change the way they produce their goods. Businesses are slowly but surely becoming more responsible and ethical. And is it because they believe in it? Is it because they really care about people or about the world? Sadly, in most cases: the answer is no. What they DO care about, however, is what their customers want. Because that’s how they are going to make their money!
This is good news for us as consumers because it means we hold the power. If enough of us say: “No, I refuse to buy one more $5 t-shirt made in a sweatshop in India,” then those companies have to either: a) change something for the better, or b) go out of business because they’re no longer turning a profit. So, tell companies what you want! Not only with your voice, but with your wallet. Shopping a certain way is empowering, and it can help others become empowered as well.
Not only will using your voice communicate to businesses and help keep the movement going, but it will also help reassure you that you aren’t alone. I encourage you: talk about it! Join someone else who shares your passion and go on the journey together. Share resources and brands. Discuss how difficult it is sometimes. Ask the hard questions. Challenge each other. Trust me, it will make it easier.
Use Your Resources
There are more and more resources popping up all the time, just like Buy Better Stories, which will help you learn what’s ethical and what’s not. So, start researching. Read books. Watch documentaries. Read blogs. Get to know which brands are ethical, find your favorites, and make them your staples. Look up the brands you currently love and see how they rank when it comes to transparency with resources like Project JUST or Fashion Revolution.
Remember: your lifestyle is not going to change overnight. And that’s okay. But if you are passionate about changing the way you live and shop so that other people aren’t suffering because of the things you buy, or so that our planet might be able to survive for future generations – then realize that you DO have the power! You CAN succeed on this journey. And we at Buy Better Stories want to help!
What is your favorite ethical brand?! Add it to the Buy Better Stories Directory!
This article was originally written for Freestate.
Photo: Luiza Sayfullina