COVID-19 destroyed many livelihoods and businesses. Along with this, news sources say that by 2030 global warming and its effects will be irreversible (Neslen). Undocumented workers continue to be exploited by every day (Cárdenas-Vento and Sims). All of this is overwhelming and even depressing, but if you’re in a place of privilege like me, ask yourself, “What can I do to aid in the fight for justice?” One of our most powerful forms of protest is our dollar. Money is a resource and a source of power. We need to do our best to support companies and businesses that abide by ethical practices and support the dismantling of white supremacy, not just in name and on Facebook, but financially, too, as a way of holding companies accountable. Making conscious decisions to examine and change our buying habits is as important as donating to causes that we advocate for. Here are tools and questions that have helped me in my quest of using my dollar in more ethical ways in 2020.
Saving Time and Money
Ethical products can cost more than their non-ethical alternatives, and ethical shopping can take time. For me, instances where a product that is ethical just costs too much or cannot be found, can create feelings of guilt and despair. But I can’t allow room for those feelings or else it would be difficult to make a difference. So, to save yourself a few cents and some time, interrogate your shopping practices before you shop. The classic mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is great to go off of. Another two“Rs”-“Reflection” and “Research”- are critical to ethical shopping. Before leaving for HomeGoods or typing Amazon into your search bar, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions. Reduce: “Is this product necessary to my health and wellbeing?” Reuse: “Can I use said item for anything else?” Recycle: “Can this object be recycled, composted, or given away?” (Think about selling clothing to a second-hand clothing store near you like Plato’s Closet or an online-based one like ThredUp.) Reflect: Based on your findings, how can you become a more mindful consumer? Lastly, research: “What companies, practices, and habits can I make use of to match my values with what I consume and buy?” While you research I would recommend using Ecosia. It is a search engine that costs nothing to use, is a certified B Corporation, and puts profits from ad revenue towards planting trees, according to their website. So far, they’ve planted over 98 million trees.
Who and Where Are You Buying From?
Online shopping has become inevitable. It is easy, simple, and time-saving. Next time you’re internet window shopping on Amazon, download the browser plug-in DoneGood, which provides ethical alternatives to whatever item you’re looking for. Still, while it’s easy and simple, buying from big companies online, like H&M and Zara, normalizes a lack of transparency in company policies and processes, like the working conditions and payment of employees, or how materials or ingredients of products are obtained (Hitchings-Hale). So, if the option exists, buy the item you want or need from a small and/or local business. Small businesses, due to their size, are often (but not always) more conscious in their vetting process for vendors, production processes, and treatment of workers. In light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, there’s been recent pushes for consumers to support small and local Black businesses. Check out the EatOkra app, which allows you to discover local Black-owned restaurants, and The Black Wall Street app, an app designed for people to find local Black businesses.
What’s in it?
Look at the label or tag. Ethical companies will often make their policies very clear. You will never see “Possibly Made with Child Labor” written on a M&M’s package (Siegel and Whoriskey). Fair-trade, B-certified, animal cruelty free products will wear special symbols. If there’s nothing in the product’s description or company’s website, dig a little deeper into their practices, you might not like what you find. Sometimes making an ethical purchase is as easy as studying the label or reading the “About” page of a business’s website.
Honestly, shopping ethically can be exclusionary, requiring too much money, too much time, or there’s not enough options. Like so many other mindful habits, ethically shopping is a lifelong practice that does not have a linear path. There’s lots of ups and downs and mistakes are made. Even so, using your dollar in some capacity to promote the values you support is important to creating the kind of world we want to live in.
Hitchings-Hales, James. “Hundreds of H&M and Gap Factory Workers Abused Daily: Report.” Global Citizen, 5 June 2018, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hm-gap-factory-abuse-fast-fashion-workers/.
Neslen, Arthur. “By 2030, We Will Pass The Point Where We Can’t Stop Runaway Climate Change.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 3 May 2019, www.huffpost.com/entry/runaway-climate-change-2030-report_n_5b8ecba3e4b0162f4727a09f.
Sims, Shannon, and Véronica G Cárdenas-Vento. “Undocumented, Vulnerable, Scared: the Women Who Pick Your Food for $3 an Hour.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 July 2019, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/10/undocumented-women-farm-workers-texas-mexican.
Whoriskey, Peter, and Rachel Siegel. “Hershey, Nestle and Mars Won’t Promise Their Chocolate Is Free of Child Labor.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 June 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/hershey-nestle-mars-chocolate-child-labor-west-africa/