Since moving to a more green, natural lifestyle, one area that I have really looked at is how ethics play into our family’s buying decisions. We try to support small businesses, and companies that produce safe, environmentally friendly products.
I’m not going to claim to be perfect all the time, because I’m not. But we do our best. There are typically 5 ethical questions I like to ask myself when we’re making a purchase.
Is it Safe for Humans?
The most important thing is that the products we purchase are safe for people. There are so many toxins in the products we use everyday, that you really have to know what you’re looking for and have a list of must avoid ingredients.
Personal care products and cleaning products can contain an abundance of toxic chemicals, as there is no regulation around ingredients used in these products. The Environmental Working Group has a Cosmetics Database that I often refer to, and they just released a guide to healthy cleaning. These are great resources to start with, but always be sure to do plenty of research when choosing these products for your family.
You also need to be careful that toys you purchase for your children don’t have nasties in them like traces of lead, BPA or phthalates. Even children’s clothing can be harmful. It’s very difficult to avoid clothes that are treated with toxic fire retardants. You’ll find those same toxins in your furniture and other areas around your home.
Is it Safe for the Environment?
If it’s safe for humans, it’s usually safe for the environment – but that’s not always the case. We like to choose toys that are made from renewable resources or recycled materials.
Buying quality, well-made products is one way to reduce how much waste ends up in our landfills. It’s always very tempting to let the girls load up on cheap toys at the Dollar Store, but I have to remind myself that those products are poorly made and break easily. When they break, they go into the trash and onward to our landfills.
While quality may cost more in the beginning, in the long run, it’s worth it.
Is it Made in the USA (Preferably Local)?
Someone once told me that to truly make a difference, you need to start with your community, then your county, then your state, then your country then the world – in that order.
I always try to remind myself of that mantra when shopping. We try to support local businesses first. It’s not always an easy choice, but it’s the right one. If you can’t help hold up your community, how do you expect to impact anything else?
Our economy is in an increasingly difficult place, and it’s up to us to make choices that can change that.
If Not, is it Fair Trade?
It’s not always possible to buy things that are made or sold locally. We live in a global society, and many things are made overseas now. So, I like to at least purchase from international companies that use ethical business practices.
I don’t always require that they display the Fair Trade Certification (it costs more money to attain that), but I want to know that they are paying their workers fairly and they aren’t using child labor. I want to feel confident that my comfort isn’t harming someone across the globe. Many countries don’t have laws protecting workers, so it’s one small thing we can do to protect our fellow humans.
Remember: USA Made or Fair Trade.
Is it Made By a Company I Can Trust?
And finally, the last thing I ask myself is whether I can trust the company. This is something that has really hit me hard recently with the misleading No on 37 Campaign. Large food corporations are deceiving people into thinking Prop 37, which would require labeling of GMOs in California, is bad for them.
It’s really sad because I used to purchase some of the organic brands manufactured by these corporations. But if I can’t trust them to be honest with the public about GMOs, how can I trust that those organic brands are what they say they are? I can’t.
For example, General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and Larabar. General Mills has so far contributed more than $900,000 to oppose GMO labeling! One of the last major organic brands I trust is Nature’s Path. Even though it’s an independent Canadian company, they have so far contributed more than $600,000 into supporting the ballot initiative to label GMOs. Right on!
Trust is very important to me.