My ethical shopping journey


Ethical shopping: What is it? To me, it’s my goal that none of my money will support child labor, oppressive sweatshops, nor hateful discrimination. When you shop, you vote with every dollar you spend, every article of clothing you buy.

Do you want your money to support your neighborhood and community, or do you want your money to support billionaires with multiple mansions?

Do you want your money to help your neighbor’s daughter join a soccer team, or do you want your money to support the practice of children being pulled out of schools in order to pick cotton for months at a time?

Do you want your money to support a local business owner who always donates money to local schools, or do you want your money to support sweatshops in Los Angeles where it’s virtually impossible to be paid minimum wage because workers are literally paid 12 cents a garment?

Ethical shopping is a huge and very tricky subject to navigate. I know it can be completely daunting and disheartening. It’s OK to start small, just a little at a time. I started about four years ago when I stopped eating at national chain restaurants and only patronized local ones. Then I began only shopping at locally owned grocery stores. Last year, I began trying to shop for clothing in a more ethical way.

One place I start is the Better World Shopper website, I click on “Rankings” and then “Clothing,” but there are many other categories to choose from, such as cosmetics, office supplies, and even toilet paper! I like this website as a place to start because they have worked for 20 years to research companies with a focus on their human rights practices, environmental practices, community involvement, animal protection, and basic social justice issues such as fair wages. They have given hundreds of companies grades, which can change as time goes on.

At the A+ category are used clothing stores. This is because thrift store profits go directly back to the community. Also, consignment stores are usually locally owned, and I know my favorites regularly support schools and charities. Beyond used clothing stores, the large retailers begin to get listed and the grades go all the way from A down to F.

Better World Shopper is a great resource, but not every store I’m interested in is listed. When that happens I need to roll up my metaphorical sleeves and do some research. Google is an amazing resource. Type in your favorite major retailer and then the phrase “sweatshop” or “child labor” or “labor violations” to learn if that business is the kind of company you want to be supporting. There are also other informative resources to be found by searching “ethical shopping.”

Being an ethical shopper is not easy, especially at first. I’ve said good-bye to some of my former favorite stores because I couldn’t stand the thought of my hard-earned funds being associated with factories where women work 10-12 hour days, six days a week, with no bathrooms nor running water. As a consumer, you are a force to make positive changes. Shopping is voting! I would love to discuss ethical shopping further and support others who would like to make changes in their shopping habits.  I can be reached at my blog,, and via email at

About the author
Vivienne Vitalich is the author of the ethical shopping personal style blog Thrifted Shift ( She lives in Seattle with her Handsome Husband, dog, and cat.

The next time you’re on the lookout for a summer staple, whether it’s a white eyelet blouse or a breezy maxi skirt, try looking up a few of your favorite clothing stores to see if they make the grade.

9 Responses to “My ethical shopping journey”

  1. Jamie Says:

    Ms. Vitalich brings up some really great points and ideas. A lot of us already think locally when buying produce but I am excited about taking this to the next level: clothing! As someone that worked in fashion design for over 15 years it was always disheartening to go overseas and work in the factories. I work tirelessly on trying to bring some sort of production back to the states but was never able to do so. I get wanting a $5 t-shirt but at what REAL price! Yes, it seems like a very big overwhelming task to take this on but as Ms. Vitalich points out: small steps! Great work Ms. Vitalich!

  2. onion Says:

    This is a really amazing topic! its often more work to consider all elements of shopping but I LOVE the value in knowing that our money doesn’t support oppressive systems! I’m going to use the better world shopper link too. I will also share this with my little sister. I think she would love knowing about it!! Thanks for writing it Mrs. Vitalich!

  3. Renae Says:

    Well my opinion is a bit weak honestly. I’ve never known these problems existed. Where have I been? I began Thrift shopping last year because of my budget but have learned many other positive interest along the way, thankfully to Ms. Vitalich. Thrift shopping is exciting and some what marvelous because my clothes don’t look any worse, or even look better than the clothes that individuals get at the Malls or Target or Kohls. I was getting to the point that I couldn’t get anything remotely new, not even a nightgown. My wardrobe has tripled over the past year and I haven’t bought one item at a regular store except 4 pairs of summer shoes that were cheap, too. You have really got me thinking however, and I appreciate that, too.

  4. Joni@WalkingColors Says:

    Wow, what a great bit of information. I’ve already bookmarked the web-site you mentioned and will be doing more research.
    I’m a screen printing t-shirt artist and I’ve already made the decision to buy only US made. It’s been more work getting everything in order that I need just to keep it here in our country. They sure don’t make it easy. If I wanted to buy from sweatshops I would have already been up and running, but I refuse to support other countries and child labor abuse.
    Thanks for the great writing Vivienne!

  5. Jacquelineand... Says:

    I’ve been following Ms. Vitalich’s blog for quite a while and it has been an eye-opening journey. I’ve learned a great deal from her and have been slowly putting this information to use…bookmarking the website she mentioned will be even more useful.

    Thank you for sharing this information Vivienne!

  6. Beth Says:

    This website is very useful as I’ve been trying to be a more ethical shopper – I definitely have a long way to go! Thanks for the information Vivienne!

  7. Gracey at Fashion for Giants Says:

    This was a great article; wonderfully written, Vivienne!

  8. Christine Says:

    Thanks Vivienne, I am a reader of your blog and was intrigued by your insertion of cost per wear sideline for your outfit posts and knew right away that I could identify with how you were trying to define your style and fashion choices. Clothes should last more than one season or a few wearings!
    I love to thrift and I know I need to get better about NOT shopping the sales racks at Target and other big box retailers. Thank you for making me think about the clothes I buy and making me a more ethical consumer.
    This article is informative and eye opening.

  9. Mary Says:

    Oh… I knew sweat shop types are out there, but I did not think of LA…that would say Made in USA. I do like to thrift…I have found some wonderful items…$2-6. It’s so great to come to your posts, see very cute items and have them make an upper grade in the scale.

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