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How To Shop Ethically - A Guide

Most of us want to know that our actions, particularly our buying habits, are not harming our environment. We want to know that, but knowing is difficult. With so much mixed messaging and so much contradictory information, it can seem impossible to ever be sure. Especially since the research is time-consuming and we’re busy people right? Even I don’t have all the answers and I’ve done plenty of research. Especially when launching my eco-friendly jewellery business. Committed to making products that weren’t going to further harm the planet, I spent a considerable amount of time selecting and sourcing sustainable materials and perfecting traditional methods of jewellery craftsmanship. Still, as sustainability isn’t a black and white issue, we aren’t yet at a point where we can say one option is definitely better than its alternatives. There are too many components. Hence, why I’m calling this ‘How To Shop Ethically’ article a ‘guide’. Less of a set of rules and more things to consider as you shop if you are striving to do so ethically. I hope you find it useful and please do comment if you have any thoughts or knowledge to share - we are, after all, all still learning.


Materials

One of the biggest issues our planet faces is the inability to decompose the huge amount we throw away. What escalates this problem is our development of materials that are designed to last. Plastic is the material twitch the worst reputation. We built an incredibly strong durable substance and yet we make products from it designed for short term use. It’s impossible not to buy plastic, on occasion, but we are able to limit its use. Using a tote bag for groceries is an easy swap, as well as noticing the amount of packaging used in different supermarkets and taking this into account when deciding where to shop. Wooden toys are also a great alternative to plastic and, let’s be honest they look better too and are far more likely to be passed down or passed onto to other children when ours grow out of them.

Eco Alternatives To Plastic

Fast fashion is a real problem with 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothing going into landfil in the UK alone, every year. Polyester is considered the most damaging, taking up to 200 years to decompose, with linen and cotton taking between 2 weeks or 5 months on average. Clearly, there’s a great indication of which is the better choice there. However, the water that garments take to produce should also be taken into account. It gets a little trickier here because the harmfulness of this is linked to how many pollutants are added to this water to create the clothing. Dyes for instance and the microfibres that manmade materials contain do make their way back into our oceans. Harming marine life and entering the food chain too.

Therefore, the general guidance when choosing clothes is to source those closest to natural materials. Organic cotton, such as that used in my jewellery, is sustainable because it is biodegradable and does not require chemicals to produce.

fast fashion and how to shop ethically

Bamboo is big right now. Naturally growing and sustainable, bamboo is being used in toilet paper and for all sorts of products usually made from plastic or wood. Bamboo is preferable to hardwoods because it takes only 5 years for the plants to reach maturity. Yet, many bamboo products come with a higher price tag. Hopefully, this will decrease as demand increases so it is a great choice when budget allows.

bamboo alternatives to plastic and sustainable shopping

Made To Last

It’s not reaching to say that we’re being duped on a daily basis into buying products that aren’t built to last. Hence forcing us to spend more money more often. Notice how your phone has incredibly advanced technology that enables you to access to almost any information, almost instantaneously, and yet the battery only lasts three years, if you’re lucky. Big tech has a lot to answer for in forcing customers into upgrading their products regularly, thereby creating unnecessary waste. But they’re not the only ones. Our grandparents aren’t wrong when they tell us that their generation kept their goods for decades. Yet, companies like Ikea worked out how to make furniture and homewares cheaper, meaning we had the option to replace them and redecorate every few years. It seemed great at the time, when very few people were even asking how this short-term use was going to affect the planet.