“Better” is better – Ethical Consumption

People love cheap stuff–especially when it comes to the stuff you have to have.  And who doesn’t look for a bargain and how can you blame them?

The problem, however, is that more often than not, we are sacrificing something bigger to have the cheap stuff.  The other problem is that many people can’t afford but to buy the cheap stuff.

Every purchase we make is a vote of support for the way a company operates and a vote against the way another does. Buying coffee?  The cheapest route would support a major corporation like Procter and Gamble, the largest multinational in the world, who uses its power to drive down prices and pay farmers far less than what has been deemed fair.  The more expensive fair-trade coffee ensures that farmers are paid a living wage and that the conditions under which the coffee beans are grown are environmentally sustainable.

Shopping at Wal-mart indicates your support for their abuse of workers around the world.  They have received an “F” grade for their record on workers’ rights (http://www.greenamericatoday.org/proGrams/sweatshops/scorecard.cfm). Target isn’t much better with its “D+.”

At the grocery store, we can support factory farms that put the population at risk with their practices, or we can support farmers that work to create sustainability and provide nutritious food that doesn’t contaminate our environment or our bodies with chemicals and pesticides.  Did you know, for example, that factory-farmed ground beef is washed with ammonia to kill e-coli that only occurs because cows are fed corn and not grass?  A terrific option for produce and meat is local farmers markets or buying into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  With these choices, you not only get the freshest products, but you also know exactly where your food comes from and you support your local economy.

Are these choices more expensive?  Mostly, yes (though my membership in our local CSA will ultimately cost less than all my purchases of similar items from the grocery store).  But in the end, our own ethical choices can serve as votes for the people who are doing it right and, in turn, are making the world a better place.

So maybe we don’t buy a bunch of new clothes from Wal-mart.  Maybe, instead, we shop at a second-hand store or only buy a couple quality  items from a fair-trade or union supplier.  Maybe we don’t drink 4 cups of coffee a day, but drink what we can afford because we’ve made a choice to buy fair-trade.  And maybe we don’t eat meat every day of the week, but instead only 2 or 3 because we’re buying from farmers who live their beliefs.

The more those us who can make these choices do make these choices, the more these ethical practices will be adopted by bigger players.  In turn, prices will come down and the options will be more accessible to those who struggle financially.

A good guiding principle  might be:  “More” is not better.  “Better” is better.

For additional information on companies that are doing it right, see:  http://www.newdream.org/marketplace/conscience_guide.html


2 responses to this post.

  1. Yes! I love your post and your way of thinking. There is also strong evidence that spending our $ with national chains such as Walmart and Target moves the $ out of our communities much faster than if it was spent with a locally owned business. I so agree that our purchases are our votes.


  2. Tammy, you’re absolutely right. This has been a serious concern for local businesses for years. Great point.


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