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, www.betterworldshopper.com. 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, http://thriftedshift.blogspot.com, and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Vivienne Vitalich is the author of the ethical shopping personal style blog Thrifted Shift (http://thriftedshift.blogspot.com/). 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.