If you walked into a grocery store today, you would have many options available to you in terms of purchasing a product. Organic or Inorganic? Free-Range or battery? Fairtrade or unfairly produced?
Although you may not know it, these are all choices that you make when you buy food. The difficulty is in making the right choice. It’s easier to buy the cheapest option, but is it the best one? In being a consumer, it is our responsibility to make ethical choices when purchasing a product. Here is how you can be an ethical consumer and make choices that are helpful to you, to workers and to the environment.
The textiles industry has some of the most workers’ rights issues out of all industries. Many workers are forced to work in unsafe conditions. An example of this is the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013. On the 24th of April, the Rana Plaza, a dilapidated building in Dhaka, Central Bangladesh, collapsed, killing 1,137. There were 3,639 people working there that day. Rana Plaza supplied many high street retailers. It is likely that each one of us may have purchased an item that was produced inside this, now collapsed, building. As consumers, we have a responsibility to ensure that the clothes we buy are manufactured in a way that is responsible.
How can we buy Ethically manufactured clothing and textiles?
- Buy textiles made with Fairtrade cotton.
- Try to purchase clothes from cruelty free stores such as People Tree and MATT & NAT.
- Look out for the PETA approved vegan logo.
The food industry is another industry in which produce is often manufactured unfairly or without thinking of the environment. Many food products are grown with pesticides or chemicals. There are currently many undergoing schemes in order to ensure that food gets from the farm to our plate without the presence of cruelty or unfairness. Some examples of these are Fairtrade, Kenco’s Coffee vs Gangs, and the WFTO. These organizations allow for workers to have rights, fair and safe working conditions, fair wages, and most importantly, a voice.
How can we Buy Ethically produced food?
- Look out for the Fairtrade and WFTO logos.
- Purchase food from countries that you know have fair human and workers’ rights.
- Buy food that does not have much packaging, or has packaging that can be recycled, as this will lessen your carbon footprint.
- Wherever possible, purchase locally produced food, as it will have a shorter distance to travel to the store, and therefore use less fossil fuels in getting it there.
Fuel and Energy is an industry in which it is very important to make sure that you are being an ethical consumer. You should always research your electricity provider to see how they produce their energy. Another idea is, when investing in a car, to try to purchase an electric one. Remember, an electric car is only as clean as the energy you put into it e.g. if your electricity provider creates energy using fossil fuels, then driving an electric car isn’t actually much better for the environment than actually putting the fossil fuels directly into the car itself. It is very beneficial to the environment if your provider sources their energy through wind energy or hydro-electric power. In 2014, 22% of Irelands’ energy was renewable. This figure is hoped to have increased to 40% by 2020.
How can we Buy Ethically Produced Fuel and Energy?
- Make sure your electricity provider sources its energy ethically.
- Walk or cycle whenever possible.
- Invest in solar panels.
- Purchase an electric car.
Being an ethical consumer is very important to ourselves, others, workers and our earth. Making small changes to our lifestyle can make a big difference to our earth.