As this blogging project kicks off, let me tell you a little about me and how green I am already or – more specifically to this blog topic – how ethical am I when it comes to consuming goods and disregarding waste?
There are four of us in the family – me, my other half and our two young children (both under 5). We really care about ethical spending and waste so what do we do to live out that ethos? Well, hmmm, not that much actually above the average person I suspect. We want to and, until now, I think we have comforted ourselves that sorting out the recycling means we are doing a reasonable job but sitting down now to think about it may suggest otherwise!
Time for a little audit…I’ll start with consumption. What things do I actually do that might allow me to claim I am a responsible consumer?
You can see from my earlier posts that I gave up using the supermarket for 28 days from 10 March to 6 April 2013. During this period I learned a lot about ethical shopping and about how I wish to spend my money.
Reduction in supermarket use: I haven’t stopped using supermarkets completely, but I hate them and try to spend as little as possible there! (For some reasons not to use supermarkets, see my post Supermarket-free Me: Day 16.) I use local shops as much as I can in the hope that my money is going back into the community and to increase the chances of buying local produce – therefore reducing the miles my purchases have travelled to get to me. I also increased the frequency of my locally sourced organic fruit and veg box to weekly and top up most of what I need on top of that from the local fruit and veg shop.
Tax Avoiders: I haven’t used Amazon since recent publicity about them avoiding tax payments in the UK. I haven’t banned myself from using the site completely, but where I can source the goods I want from other places, I do. It has therefore lost several months’ worth of my custom – significant as I used them as a first port of call for internet shopping. I also haven’t been back to Starbucks also due their tax avoidance in the UK plus the erosion of rights for their employees (reported in December 2012).
Cheap clothes: I avoid the supermarket for buying clothes plus shops that sell at very low prices due to a vague belief that they are using ‘sweat shops’ to produce their goods. To be honest though I have never researched this and, at a guess I would say that some of the shops I do buy clothes from probably have similar questionable production procedures so action on my part is needed.
I try not to ‘over-buy’. It makes me feel guilty when there are so many people who struggle simply for survival. Also, I am aware that possessions I really want often lose their novelty value in time.
Children: One topic that gets me straight onto my soap box is the issue of children and presents! I am horrified at the way that, from birth, children have possessions lavished upon them in excess. While I’ll guess this doesn’t apply to all children (some families barely cope on restricted incomes), my experience is that huge amounts of money are spent on non-necessities even where people are stretched financially in order to do this. I desperately do not want my children to become materialistic, and have deals with some friends and family to seriously limit spending on presents.
Adults: As the parents of young children, we actually don’t have a lot of time for shopping for ourselves, even on the internet. I’d say our consumption is relatively modest but I could definitely improve my purchasing habits. Off the top of my head I’d say my biggest indulgence for me is clothes and yet within a couple of years I have often got rid of items which I’ve decided don’t suit me any longer or the quality means that they don’t look as good as they did new. Plus we have ‘clear outs’ a few times a year as we have a lack of storage space. Laziness reminds me to resist the temptation to buy extras – the more things that come into the house, the sooner we have to sort out the piles of excess!
I’m wondering if I’ve missed anything? The above all seems a bit half-hearted and the thought of having to sort out my purchasing habits is daunting. Avoiding the supermarket for 28 days took a lot of effort and basically I allowed myself to use any other shop (except Amazon or Starbucks!) as substitutes. I do feel however that it’s about time I support more ethical enterprises and challenge my own morals while I’m at it.
In my next post I’ll focus on waste – thereafter I’ll get down to the business of improving my practices! There’s plenty of material for this new blogging project…