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4 Simple Ways To Make A Sustainable Purchase & Be An Ethical Consumer


Shopping Sustainably - Sustainable Fashion Tips - Ethical fashion and vegan blogger.jpg
Wearing Rhumaa Jacket, Nudie Vegan Jeans, Stella McCartney Shoes

The resurgence of conscious living is making us consider our everyday choices. From food to fashion, there’s a dire need for us to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle to save the planet and for our health.   

For those seeking to transform the concept of a green lifestyle from aspirational to achievable, there couldn’t have been better times. There are several companies committed to better practices making the life of ethical consumers less complicated than it was a few years ago.

As an ethical consumer, our buying decisions are based not just on the quality and usefulness of products, but also on the ethical policies of the companies who sell them. Until a few years back, getting hold of a company’s ethical policy and information about their working practices was very challenging. Fortunately, things are much transparent now. With the help of organizations that are pushing the case of sustainability like Ethical Fashion Forum and United Nations and increasing demand for transparency from the consumers, companies are more open to sharing information.

If you are not sure how to choose an ethical brand, don't worry. I have put together four trends in retailing that will make conscious shopping easier for you

Rise of sustainably packaged products

An easy place to start considering your environmental impact is with consumer-packaged goods. Plastic is one of the biggest threats today to our planet’s health and pretty much everything we buy is wrapped in plastic – most of the times needlessly.

Fortunately, many companies are now offering sustainable packaging alternatives, some even committing to eliminating plastic use. A great example of such a company is British beauty brand Lush Cosmetics that created the world’s first solid shampoo bar that requires zero-packaging. In fact, about half of the Lush’s products use no packaging, and they only use eco-friendly materials {like post-consumer recycled polypropylene} when going naked is not an option.

Next time you want to buy something, look for brands that offer eco-friendly packaging for their products whether it is for your grocery, fashion or health needs. For example, for your beauty cabinet instead of products that come in plastic jars shop for skincare that is packed in recyclable glass jars.

Many brands also offer refilling option to cut down on packaging waste. I absolutely love the body care products from Plaine Products that come in refillable aluminum bottles. Their vanilla and lavender shower gel smells divine and uses only clean ingredients.

There are plenty of options in every category to pick products that are consciously packaged. All you need to do is make an effort by researching or asking the right questions. 

Companies committing to sustainable resource management

Bangs Shoes - Socially Conscious Businesses - Shopping Ethically
Retailing uses enormous amounts of energy and even e-commerce stores are guilty of sucking up a lot of energy. Online stores like Amazon have huge warehouses that require enormous energy consumption to run.

With the rising awareness, many companies have recently started switching to more sustainable energy and working practices. However, for some brands, incorporating sustainable practices is not a trend but it’s ingrained in their DNA and they put a great deal of thought into continually improving sustainability. For example, they understand that things like better energy efficiency are not just good for the planet but it also helps to reduce their business costs and customer prices.

A great example of a company who rose to the challenge of better resource management is ASOS. They introduced various measures at their UK warehouse to lower their carbon footprint, using sustainable fabrics like organic cotton for at least some of its garments, and by collaborating with organizations, such as Ethical Trading Initiative, to improve the labor conditions in its supply chain. The company reported a significant 11% reduction in average packaging emissions per delivery for the year ending 2017, according to its website.

Asos also curates a good selection of sustainable fashion products to make your wardrobe more ethical. Supporting sustainable retailers like ASOS, Reformation, Thought Clothing is a great way to increase our commitment to making conscious choices. 

Improved health and safety factoring into supply chains

Commitment to the environment is not the only ethical concern that we should be mindful about. Ensuring the safety and well-being of people who make our products is also very important as a conscious customer.

Where retailers source their products from can be extremely significant, especially in terms of health and safety.

After the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, that took lives of over 1,135 workers, the world is now aware of the terrible working conditions of labor in developing countries like Bangladesh. When this disaster took place, some retailers were appalled that this could happen in the modern era. Thankfully, they made a commitment to improving the safety standards of workers in Bangladesh, through monitoring, training, and inspections by professional engineers.

Many retailers then signed The Bangladesh Accord, designed to safeguard working conditions of around 2 million people. You can learn more about this agreement and a list of signatories on Accord’s website.

Shopping from ethical brands is the best way to ensure your money isn’t going to brands that are exploiting people and pushing them into slavery. However, when sustainable brands are not easily accessible, you can shop from mainstream brands like ASOS and Marks & Spencer who have also signed up to actively support Anti-Slavery International, an organization which has been working to combat modern forms of slavery – including in factories overseas – since 2017.

Focus on CSR, Fair Trade & Cruelty-Free

Bangs Shoes - Socially Conscious Businesses - Shopping Ethically
Over the last few years, there is a rising trend among brands to introduce positive efforts like giving back a part of their profits to charities or for a cause, choosing to be “cruelty-free” and supporting fair trade principles to ensure smaller growers and manufacturers get an equitable price for their goods and people who make the products are paid fairly.

Being an ethical consumer is as simple as reading the product label to check if they are tested on animals and only pick those that are not, aka certified cruelty-free and also vegan. Similarly, when you are buying a t-shirt or chocolate, make sure the brand you purchase from is paying fair wages to its workers and are part of the Fair Trade initiative. And if you genuinely want to help the world, why not shop from a socially conscious brand that gives part of its profits to the community (via a charity) that reckons with you? For example, when you buy from Bangs Shoes, they give 20% of their net profit in helping people start their business or Toms Shoes who donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for every purchase that you make. 

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These simple screenings will ensure we are all doing our bit to make this world a better place and being a conscious consumer.

However, these are just basic filters. Once you've started your journey of mindful living, you will learn something new every day and will be able to decide what is important for you and find brands that check all the boxes! 
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