simple living :: shopping ethically

hello dearies!  it feels funny to not have written a shop help post yesterday, but just in case you missed the news- biz articles will only be posted occasionally, as this fall i'm offering a brand new e-course for online sellers called selling the handmade way- i hope to see you there!

shop ethicallyethiopian coffee travel bag

lately, i've been thinking a lot about shopping ethically.  every time i'm in the store and reach for an organic goody, the annoyingly cheaper alternative always seems to scream at me.  it's for this reason why i constantly  have to remind myself why it's important to shop with a conscience.

shop ethicallygo green grocery market bag

you may say, why is it important to shop ethically? with every purchase you make, you vote for what you believe in, what you support, and what you want to see more of.  if we increase the demand for more organic, local, fair trade, sustainable products, then companies will respond and the prices will come down.  with every purchase, we send a message directly to the manufacturers about what we want and what we like to buy.  the products we purchase have a direct effect on our economy, our personal health, and the health of our planet.

shop ethicallyergonomic coffee sleeve pattern

how to do you begin? i like to start off by asking myself a few questions:

  • - do i really need this?
  • - will i be able to use this for long time, then recycle it?
  • - how far did this have to travel to reach me?
  • - who made it and how were they treated?
  • - is it labeled honestly or with clever marketing?

shop ethicallyorganic lunch tote

so how do you shop ethically? there are a few guidelines that i try to adhere to anytime i can.  first, if there's an organic option, i always try to support it!  if you can't afford to buy everything organic, do some research on what is most important to buy organically.  for instance, (for health reasons) it's more important to buy organic strawberries than it is to buy organic bananas, because the thicker skinned fruits aren't as susceptible to absorbing pesticides.

next, always buy your fruits and veggies seasonally and try to buy them local if you can.  preserving seasonal foods while you can will save you from contributing to the thousands of miles these foods must travel out of season.  read more about our initiative to eat more seasonal and local foods here.

always read the labels. with statements like fresh, all natural, cage free, no added hormones and no added gmo- it's hard to know what's what!  often times there aren't any regulations behind such statements, so it's important to find out where it's coming from- an agency, the government or the company itself?  be conscious of marketing efforts and don't fall victim to thinking items are good for you just because they're covered with green labels and leaves.  to find out more about what these statements mean and who's behind them, read this article on making sense of food labels.

shop ethicallyfair trade coffee

choose fair trade. fairly traded goods mean that the people who grew the food or produced the item are getting paid and treated fairly, meaning they'll be able to stay in business!

purchase with a conscious. go beyond personal health and look for the most recycled, low packaging options available.  support recycled paper goods for your kitchen, bathrooms and office and always look for the products that have the lease amount of packaging.  instead of buying single use items, invest in melamine plates for picnics, cloth towels for napkins/paper towels and reusable grocery bags to shop with.

buy  handmade! that's an easy one, right?! if you think there might be a handmade alternative, skip the big box store and support small businesses.  visit places like etsy, artfire or your favorite handmade blog to find alternatives.

shop ethicallycheck ME grocery list

it's not always easy (or most affordable) to shop with a conscious, but don't think that your efforts are wasted or go unnoticed. whether it's one ethical purchase or a hundred-  you really do make a difference and your health as well as the health of the planet will benefit from every sustainable decision you make!

do you have any tips, advice or suggestions?

simple living

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  • This is a GREAT post & topic. I feel that consumerism is one of the most significant ways we can influence our society and country for the better. I air on the side of a minimalistic lifestyle, so I am not saying we should all buy stuff all the time even if we don’t need it…but unless you’re Logan and Tammy (, chances are good that once in a while you do go shopping. And HOW we shop and WHAT we shop for are so important, because what we spend our money on reflects our needs, desires, and values as a society.

    I make a huge effort to buy everything from socially and environmentally responsible sources…but it’s getting increasingly tough to find the TRULY ethical companies amidst a sea of greenwashing-“eco”-bandwagon-jumping companies (cough, cough, Walmart???? For reals, you’re not fooling anyone…I hope.)

    Long story short, do your research, and you’ll make smart decisions you can really feel good about and influence our economy and society in a positive way!!

  • I love this article Bonnie. This is a topic so close to home + my heart. I try to follow this philosophy of buying + selling ethically in my everyday life because I think they are so important. I will share your article with family + friends because you explain it soooo well :)

    • thank youuu mayi! :)

      @hannah- excellent focus! it’s a question we should all ask more often (myself included) and buying higher quality items is sure to last you longer, come from better practices and save you money in the long run!

      @tonia: awesome tips, as usual! i agree, it’s hard to find companies with true integrity. it forces us to all be a little skeptical, but i think it’s healthy to question these things, as we’ve been kept in the dark for far too long. have you all seen this video? it’s a short video that makes me cry touches on the deception we’ve been under over the last 50 years due to chemical agriculture. such a good watch!

  • Great post! I personally have been really focusing on the “Do I really need this?” question lately. It has prevented a lot of unnecessary purchases. I am aiming for fewer items very high quality, rather than many things that will break or wear out quickly.

  • Great post, Bonnie! I’ve been trying to think about these things more and more, so that I am making conscious decisions when I buy things, rather than just throwing them in the cart.

    I have bought my share of products that have been made cheaply overseas, but the older I get, the more I think about the fact that if those products were made locally, I wouldn’t be able to afford as much of them. I believe I have grown up in a society that tells me the value of things is less than they really are. I have been, in fact, conditioned to think I can really afford ‘stuff’ that if made, say, on this continent, would be far more expensive because someone would be paid a wage that is ‘normal’ here. That’s why folks think handmade or locally made things are too expensive. The alternatives aren’t made by your neighbor but if that was all you had access to, you’d think about the value of those products differently.

    We’d ‘value’ them more. And when I think about the true value of things, with the added benefit of supporting my neighbors and ethical practices that line up with my values, most things are worth the extra cost.

    • great points, victoria! i agree, the cheaper options are so tempting (especially when your bank account is hurting), but if you think about where things have really come from- it takes a toll on your buying decisions. if we just buy less, we’ll be able to afford the truly sustainable, well made products and support our neighbors!

  • hi bonnie! thanks so much for including our CheckME list in your post!

    a great topic for sure – we try to have a no spend month once a year (where we go without buying non-necessities – its amazing to see what stuff you RESIST buying).

    jenny :)