Vote with your money! The first, and easiest, step toward sustainability is to become conscious of where our money go and what our money buy. Shopping for useful and not-so-useful items is the cornerstone of our consumer-based economy and while it’s near impossible to reject this comfortable and ingrained behavior, it is possible to shop almost anything and support socially responsible businesses and small, independent entrepreneurs at the same time!
Things I like to consider before purchase:
- If the company is independent or part of a larger corporation. This one is tricky because companies rarely advertise this. The only way to find out is through your trusty best friend; Google. My rule of thumb is that most household brands that you find in your local grocery store now belong to the powerhouses, so avoid them. The global giants of commerce don’t need any more of your money because they now use it to plunder, pollute and enslave the planet while buying all the political power they can get to ensure their stronghold monopoly. That’s why they keep buying up the little guys, too, like rabid pac-mans.
- Human cruelty. Most food, apparel and electronic goods are made and harvested by low-paid workers in developing counties with little access to education, basic living standards and any hope of escaping poverty. Buying organic and fair trade is to take a stand against these practices. The next step is to buy from small businesses that advertise their social responsibility in taking care of their workers and their communities – whether that is your local farmers or a village in Africa.
- Animal cruelty. There is absolutely NO need for animal testing in cosmetics and skin care! If something is so toxic that you can’t readily put it on your skin without checking if it burns away rabbits eyes first, it probably doesn’t need to be in your so-called “skin care” in the first place. There are too many wonderful alternatives out there to ever support animal cruelty again. Alex’s Guide to Compassionate Shopping. This is my favorite list to consult. Alex keeps it up to date and also tries to link together company branches of the larger corporations. Good stuff!
- Ingredients. It’s a little weird that this comes in fourth but once you start researching what is actually in your food and stuff that goes on your skin, a large chunk of what’s offered in the food and health industries today quickly become products non grata. You won’t even consider buying it; it becomes so undesirable that no amount of advertising can lure you back in. To me, 80% of the average grocery store in the US is off-limits. Buying their toxic products holds as much appeal as buying rocks. So I don’t.
Get cash-back with most online purchases. No need to give corporations more than you have to. Ebates works great, if you’re an obsessive compulsive like me. In six months I have received $50 back in my paypal account. Before I make a purchase online I click on Ebates first and enter the shop site through their system. It tells you how many % you will receive of total purchase. And it works! It takes a little bit of detective work – sometimes the cash-back doesn’t automatically post so you have to manually request it – but overall I’m very satisfied. Hey, I’ll take that extra $50 any day. That’s a trip to the grocery store for organic goodies. Or two months of internet!
What’s your way of doing good while shopping? Please share your favorite products, advise or experiences below!
I actively try to buy LOCAL as much as can. Local = Fresh (Best taste!) & Conservation (Less energy spent transporting!). Plus it helps support my community while sending a triumphant “Not-this-time!” message to corporate business at the same time. Also, I cant not look at the ingredients of WHATEVER Im looking to purchase. My rule of thumb is if its packing strange and unfamiliar chemicals foreign to my vocabulary, skip it. :D
I can’t believe I forgot local! From a sustainability point of view that is an absolute must. I tell people that it took me about two years to form the habit (and understanding) of looking at ingredients labels each and every time I purchase food and skin care. It’s a learning curve and it takes some time to master but it’s absolutely vital to keep our lives junk-free. You can’t trust the companies or government on this one.