Along with the ‘refuse, reuse/repurpose, recycle’ ethos discussed over in Waste Management, ethical consumerism is a lot about knowledge. Knowing who is making the products you buy, what they’re made of, where they’ve come from, and what the conditions are for the people, communities and environments who produce these products. Only then can you make an informed decision about which company/s to support.
As mentioned in the What is Permaculture? page, I started using ShopEthical a year or so ago, and quickly became familiar with who owns/produces what, so I can better support the companies that I believe deserve it; and I will forever be disappointed that T2 is now owned by Unilever …
Recently though I’ve also become aware of companies like Thankyou who produce products such as bottled water, which isn’t really a particularly good thing, but the money they get for their products goes towards providing safe drinking facilities for people in developing countries. Likewise, their cereals and muselis provide both a week’s food for someone in a developing country and contribute towards longer-term sustainable food production projects there. Yes, the cereals come in a heat-sealed plastic bag inside a cardboard box, but, thanks to Coles, this plastic bag is now recyclable (refer Waste Management) and the cardboard box is compostable. And you get the feel-good feeling of ‘giving back’.
Another example is WhoGivesACrap (yes, that really is their name) who produce toilet paper and use the money to fund sanitation projects in developing countries. Their loo paper appears to be more expensive at first glance, but each roll is actually 400sheets (vs the usual 220-230) and it comes wrapped in paper not plastic. Personally, I’ve found it to be a bit softer than other eco-brands like Naturale, you can order it online in bulk, and there’s free shipping! What’s not to like?
You may have heard the reference to ‘concentric circles/rings/zones’ in permaculture? It actually applies to quite a few different aspects of permaculture, not just the design of a site, and this is another one of those times, or at least that’s how I picture it in my head. First circle, right in the centre, is me, my family, my house and my garden, around that is the Local circle, then the Region/State circle, Country circle and lastly Overseas circle. I use these circles to determine ‘priority’ shopping: what i/my family can’t produce ourselves, I try to buy/trade locally (within 150km of my house), when I can’t do that, I try to buy products produced within my region or state, when that’s not possible, I buy Australian-made and owned (checking on ShopEthical to make sure that they are actually Australian owned, and checking the label for any ‘made from local and imported ingredients’ statements, because you can bet that the only ‘local’ ingredient is the water used to rehydrate/bulk it out, the rest is shipped in from overseas), then lastly, from overseas companies.