As issues like resource shortage and environmental sustainability become more prevalent, more people are learning the true cost of those items they consume on a daily basis. Ethical consumption has had a major surge over the last decade, with consumers willing to pay to ensure that their actions and purchases create the minimal possible impact on the environment. Here, let’s discuss the nature of ethical consumerism, and how it can create change on a smaller scale that can influence the way companies do business.
What is ethical consumption?
Ethical consumption is a set of purchasing ethics in which consumers in markets make choices based on the positive principles and environmental implications of a product, where it came from, and how it has been produced. It focuses on the empowerment of consumers to be able to make informed, rational choices based on the information presented to them, and the transparency of the companies providing goods and services in a sustainable manner.
Products that fall into the ethical consumption category include everyday items like organic produce, energy-efficient appliances and recycled products, as well as experiences like sustainable travel. While the movement still has a long way to go, more and more people are changing their purchasing choices based on their environmental impact, heralding great change for the future.
Struggles of being an ethical consumer
While being an ethical consumer is the most sustainable practice, it can also be difficult. The amount of information available to consumers is both a help and a hindrance, and many become confused when trying to navigate the world of ethical consumerism.
Another struggle of being an ethical consumer is in the way that companies present themselves. Some hide unethical practices by using buzzwords, or showboating minimally beneficial production processes to hide larger issues behind their practices – for example, companies like Coca Cola have boasted about their recycling programs, but have not addressed issues with oils spills or chemical waste that stems from their production plants.
Examples of responsible consumption
Responsible consumption can be a powerful tool for change, and there are many ways that you can incorporate it into your life. Here are three examples of ethical and responsible consumption, and how the actions of the individual can change the world for the better.
Buy Local Produce
When purchasing food, one of the biggest considerations is food miles – how far your food has travelled. While supermarkets may offer ‘locally grown’ produce, this can often refer to fruits and vegetables grown on the other side of the country, which have a significant carbon footprint as they are transported to the retailer’s locations.
Instead, look for farmers markets in your local area, and purchase your produce from local vendors. Not only does this reduce the food miles of your purchase, it supports local farmers, and helps them continue sustainable practice into the future. You should also consider purchasing Fairtrade produce, which focuses on the working conditions and fair wage practices of farm workers during the production process.
Purchase Pre-Loved Clothes
The fashion industry is one of the biggest consumers of water in the world, using around 79 billion cubic metres of our most precious resource each year. As well as being resource intensive, workers in the garment industry are subject to some of the worst working and pay conditions, and only around 2 percent take home a living wage each month. This has been worsened in recent years, with the rise of fast fashion creating an increased demand for lower-quality garments at a faster turnover to keep up with latest trends.
Many consumers have taken note, and are now taking steps to ensure that their fashion footprint is less harmful to workers and the environment in the long term. Instead of buying into fast-fashion, visit a vintage or thrift store and purchase high-value items from reputable fashion houses designed to last a long time, and aim for a minimalist approach of ‘quality over quantity’.
Practice Sustainable Tourism
While we all love to travel, tourism has one of the largest carbon footprints of any industry, and can cause severe damages to local communities and environments. Many companies are promoting responsible consumption, with ecotourism and sustainable travel high on the agenda for tourism-reliant nations like Australia and the Philippines in 2022. To become an ethical consumer while travelling, consider avoiding traditional tourist choices that cause detriment to local communities, and instead focus on locally-run tours, environmentally friendly activities and companies owned and operated by native or indigenous people.
Ethical Consumers Are The Future
Whether you’re a homebody or love to explore, ethical consumption is the only choice for those wishing to promote a healthy and sustainable future for our planet. Not only does it benefit local communities, it sets up and encourages programs and business practices that both preserve what we have, but make way for newer, greater technologies and policies in years to come.
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