10 Steps to Becoming an Ethical and Conscious Consumer

Choosing Human discusses 10 Easy Steps and Ways to become an Ethical Consumer or a Conscious Consumer

While standing in Forever21 have you ever wondered how a store could possibly sell clothing so cheap? How in the world do they make a profit on a $10 blouse after getting the materials, shipping the materials to a factory, having the item made, shipped to the US and then pay all the store associates who sold it to you. I wish the answer wasn’t bad business practice and overlooked human rights violations, but it is. With every dollar we spend we are actively casting votes about what we are willing and not willing to accept from companies and our markets.

I didn’t really begin thinking about what I was buying and the implications of my purchases until high school. Once I became involved in the pursuit of human rights and promoting ethical living, I went to a week long conference in NYC called Global Citizen Corps Leadership Summit. While at this summit I was fortunate enough to meet the founders of organizations like FEED and learned about the hidden horrors of these industries. These human rights violations are not just hidden in fashion but also in food, your morning coffee, your phone, Christmas decorations… basically anything and everything.

When I realized this I felt so incredibly guilty, sad and hopeless. I’m not writing this post to make you feel those things, I promise! I want to help you learn how to become an ethical and conscious consumer. It won’t happen over night, it’s something that you work towards and I’m not going to lie, I still struggle with being a conscious consumer at different points in the day. Little steps are still steps and every little bit helps. One of the many reasons why my blog is called Choosing Human is because every day I try to make choices that will do good for others, not just myself and not just for big corporations that don’t care for our sisters and brothers across the world.

I tried to include the most basic steps to help you become an ethical & conscious consumer; and hopefully start you on a journey to living a more ethical and justice driven life.

Choosing Human discusses 10 Easy Steps and Ways to become an Ethical Consumer or a Conscious Consumer

1. Research

Research will always be your friend and it’s so great that we’ve been blessed with google. You can easily learn the in’s and outs of just about any industry. Start looking into the sources of where your food and coffee may come from and then dig deeper into what the coffee industry may be doing behind the scenes. You’ll soon start learning that your sweet cup o’ joe isn’t too sweet for the farm workers who may be working in very inhuman conditions in order to cut costs. When you start uncovering things like sweatshops, underpaid workers, child labor among so many others, start researching the solutions. The biggest way we can help is by educating ourselves on not only the problems but the solutions. Microeconomic loan programs, fair trade sourced food, organic farming (keeps farm workers safe from dangerous chemicals), and products that give back are just some of the solutions. If you’re feeling like a real detective, try to track down some of your favorite stores’ stance on important issues. I worked at Victoria’s Secret for awhile and still love their products but I know that they are not ethically sourced and I know that in the past their organic cotton came from farms that use forced child labor, so now I’m actively trying to look for a brand to replace VS. I went so far as to look into their parent agency Limited Brands to find their statements on the issues that matter most to me. Take a look: http://www.lb.com/responsibility/our_responsibility.aspx

One big issue I see is that there is no way to really know where their products are being created other than countries and these guidelines they outlined aren’t very specific. This leaves so much room for inhumane working environments especially if it concerns factories outside of this country.

2. Look for the Labels.
If something is fair trade, organic, locally sourced, etc, it will almost ALWAYS say it on some kind of label or sticker. This is not always the case because it does cost money for certain certifications however it is slowly becoming more profitable to be ethical. This is one of my favorite snacks This Bar Saves Lives and as you can see it is clearly marked with labels stating that it is Non-GMO, the Vanilla Extract is fair trade and it’s gluten free. You will normally find these labels on the bottom corners of boxes and packaging or next the the nutrition facts. For clothing items check the paper tags and the tags on the inside of the clothing item.

Choosing Human discusses 10 Easy Steps and Ways to become an Ethical Consumer or a Conscious Consumer

3. Wants vs Needs
Part of being an ethical consumer is recognizing what our needs are and what our wants are. I’m not going to lie, I am someone who loves to buy things and loves to spend money, just ask Conor! I often have to stop myself and reevaluate whether or not I actually need that odd thing from Target or if I could do without it. About 90% of the time I just want things for the sake of having and after I go home empty handed, I’m really not missing whatever it was. On occasion if I go home and I still really want whatever it was I’ll try to find an ethical alternative. Say it’s a pair of shoes, am I able to find a similar pair that does more good? Most likely thanks to Toms, so I’ll go ahead and purchase from them instead.

4. Buy for quality
Following my last point. If I need to buy something new and something that is not ethically sourced then I will splurge and buy it to last. I don’t want to have to keep going back to a store to continue to buy the same item that keeps breaking and continue to push money into sweatshops. Think of things like your laptop or maybe even furniture(there’s always West Elm!!)

IMG_3411

5. Shop Local
When purchasing food try to look into local farms and always try to purchase seasonal food. Local farms and businesses struggle and need your support. Some farms are great and offer programs that you pay into. So you pay maybe $300 and you get a share of all the crops during the summer. You’ll be amazed with the amount of food you will get, the quality of it, the amount of money you save and you’ll be developing relationships with the people who supply your food. This also ends up being a great learning experience for children! Also, don’t overlook shopping at local bakery’s, cafes, tailors and other shops.

6. Recycle and Pay Attention to Packaging
It wasn’t until I was living on my own that I realized how much waste I actually created. Just think about what if you didn’t take out your trash, how quickly everything would pile up and now think about how much trash your neighbors may be creating. It’s horrible and we are running out of solutions for trash build up. An easy solution is to recycle whatever you can, compost what you can and avoid buying things with a ton of packaging. Remember those lunchables that you would beg your parents to buy as a kid. All the food was individually wrapped up, inside the plastic tray and then packaged inside a cardboard box. How unnecessary all that packaging was and so much trash was made from it! Now I think they’ve decreased the amount they package up the lunchables, but try to avoid things that come in wayyy too much packaging. I need less waste not more.

Choosing Human discusses 10 Easy Steps and Ways to become an Ethical Consumer or a Conscious Consumer

7. What is it Made of?
Say you cannot find something that is fairly traded, try to look for materials that are organically made. If cotton is organically grown then the farm hands will not be exposed to all the dangerous chemicals. Maybe the farm still doesn’t treat their workers the best but at least you know that they aren’t being exposed to unnecessary contaminants. Also look for materials that aren’t made of animal products, especially things like jade. I’m a huge animal advocate and I hate the idea of wearing another creatures fur or harming them to make jewelry.

8. Does it give back
A lot of products are now One for One, many people have different views on the sustainability of these programs and organizations but I love them, especially when they begin to move towards full sustainability. Some of my favorite brands that give back are Toms, Warby Parker, FEED, FashionABLE, Sseko and so many more. A lot of these organizations and brands either donate money towards something, have microeconomic loan programs, skill building programs for survivors and so many more. So many of these orgs have become so creative in problem solving and so successful. If you check out my Global Citizen List, you’ll see a compiled list of organizations that give back.

Choosing Human discusses 10 Easy Steps and Ways to become an Ethical Consumer or a Conscious Consumer

9. Hold companies accountable
This is so important. Every time you purchase something, you are casting your vote in what you want to see in the market. Hold your favorite companies accountable for where they get their raw materials. Call them to do your research and if you don’t like what you see or discovered, let them know. Write to them, call them and get together a petition. It may seem daunting but I promise it isn’t. There are also many organizations that lobby our government to encourage change through laws, so attend a lobby meeting or contact your local reps.

10. Take it Day by Day
Part of being an ethical and conscious consumer is about taking it day by day. It’s daunting and it’s a big burden to carry, especially when you buy that designer purse but don’t let it break you down. Every effort counts, big or small. Just take each day and try to strive for your best.

So tell me, what key things do you do to strive to be an ethical or conscious consumer? Let me know what your favorite ethical brands and organizations are!

Advertisements

The Guys Behind the Blog: Meet Conor

The Guys Behind the Blog Meet Conor!

Throughout my posts I’m always mentioning Conor but you haven’t really had the opportunity to really meet him. So today he’ll be taking over the blog and answering some questions that Betsy from Heaves to Betsy provided in her link up series, The Guys Behind the Blog.

1.  If you could write a book, what topic would you write about and why?
I would write a book about my experience playing on the Scotland International Lacrosse team. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I was fortunate enough to have gotten and I would love to share it with lacrosse enthusiasts around the world. Every year the sport grows and maybe sharing my experience would help it grow more.

The Guys Behind the Blog Meet Conor!
 2.  What is one thing on your bucket list, or one thing that you’d like to do or accomplish in your lifetime?
I would want to get my acceptance into medschool and work my way to being a successful DO. Since I was a small child I have always wanted to practice medicine and the decision has only been cemented as I’ve gotten older. As a volunteer at a hospital in high school I saw a lot of compassion and dedication in the physicians I worked under and was inspired to pursue medicine. Later, in college, I became an EMT to take on a more proactive role in the care of patients.  During this time a experienced everything you might expect as an EMT; I saved a few lives, had some casual conversations with strangers, and unfortunately lost a few patients. However, no matter how bad some of the work seemed on the surface, treating people when they needed help were the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life. I can’t image doing anything in life and that is why I hope I can become a doctor one day.
3.  If you could look out your window and only see one view for the rest of your life, what would you want to see?
 Edinburgh Castle. It’s a beautiful castle and it always make me reflect upon my proud Scottish heritage.
 
The Guys Behind the Blog Meet Conor!
4.  Imagine you’re opening a shop.  What are you selling?
Medical advice / procedures. I”m not really the type to sell goods and currently I don’t have any skill like welding or shoe repair that I could offer as a service. So, instead, I would like to become a doctor and offer medical services to the population at large.
5.  If you could have 50lbs of anything other than money, what would it be?
Gold, it maintains its’ value and so I would sell it.
The Guys Behind the Blog Meet Conor!
6.  Time to brag on your girl…tell us one thing that makes you proud of your girlfriend/fiance/wife!
 I honestly can’t say I’m proud of one thing of Rachel because I’m proud of too many things to even list! For the purpose of answering the question, here are just a few things that immediately come to mind: I’m proud of Rachel for following her dream in starting a blog even though it can’t be one of the hardest things to get started and make successful, I’m proud that Rachel is moral and ethically mind person who tries to ensure every decision she makes is not just in her’s or my best interest, but the world’s interest at large, I’m proud that she legitimately cares about some of the world’s most marginalized and forgotten people and does something about it, and I’m proud that she values people equally, no matter what the circumstances of their lives may be. Those are some of the things that make her such an amazing person in my eyes.

I Had No Idea

Choosing Human talks about NEDA, Eating Disorders and NEDAwareness week

This past Sunday (February 22, 2015) marked the first day of NEDA Awareness Week 2015. NEDA is the National Eating Disorder Association and it supports families and individuals who have been affected by eating disorders and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. I have been an active supporter, fundraiser of NEDA and someone who has received services from them since 2009. Every year since I have attended and fundraised for the annual NYC NEDA Walk and recently started participating more actively in NEDA Awareness week, now that I’m more open about my own story.

NEDA Awareness Week has the goal of putting attention on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve the public understanding of their causes, triggers and treatments. By increasing awareness and access to resources, we can encourage early detection and intervention, which can improve the likelihood of full recovery for millions. This years’ theme is “I Had No Idea”, which focuses on the importance of early intervention and recognizing the diverse experiences of people personally affected by disordered eating. Too often, signs and symptoms are overlooked as insignificant behaviors when in fact many of these are early warning signs of eating disorders. (NEDA)

Choosing Human talks about NEDA, Eating Disorders and NEDAwareness week

If someone is exhibiting signs or thoughts of struggling with an eating disorder, intervening during the early stages of development can significantly increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of a full blown eating disorder. It also leads to greater chances of a full recovery. It can prevent years of struggle and can even save lives.  A key goal of #NEDAwareness Week is to direct individuals to a free online screening for eating disorders at MyBodyScreening.org. (NEDA)

Looking back, now that I can consider myself recovered, I wish that someone had seen the early signs. I wish that I knew what they were and I wish my family did as well. There were so many opportunities for things to be different if I or the people around me had only known.

I Had No Idea

That skipping lunch when I was 11 would lead to a habit.
That feeling hungry wasn’t meant to be a good thing.
That obsession over the mirror would turn into disgust.
That making excuses was dishonest.
That avoiding events and outings at college would fill me with regret.
That I was hurting the people who knew and understood.
That getting healthy could consume me.
That eating organic and vegan food could consume my days and mind.
That my passion for exercise turned into a punishment for anything that I consumed.
That my body couldn’t thrive at the weight I was.
That I wasted so much time and money going to the hospital.
That my therapist was actually right.
How painful it would be to recover from something that no one acknowledges you have.
How strong I would have to be and how strong I truly am.
How perfectly imperfect I am.NEDAwareness_2015_FBCover_Athletes

For years I had no idea that I had an eating disorder. I thought that I was losing weight and getting healthy but the reality is that I was consumed by my disorder. Still my closest family members have no idea that I struggled with an eating disorder and that I have recovered. I couldn’t get real help when I needed it because the people closest to me had no idea what any of the warning signs were, what the seriousness of these disorders were and how to even speak about them. Let’s talk about this and really begin to understand eating disorders.

NEDAwareness Week will continue until the end of the month but I will be launching a series on Eating Disorders, Mental Health & Wellness. This was not the first time that I wrote about eating disorders and will not be the last. If you’re interested in reading my former post here’s the link: The Other Side of Eating Disorders. Share your story if you’re comfortable and start the discussion! I will always be available for anyone who has questions or need to talk. ❤ Thank you NEDA for providing amazing resources for NEDAwareness week!

Choosing Human talks about NEDA, Eating Disorders and NEDAwareness week