How to Shop Ethical Brands
If you've been following along on our Instagram, you already know that being an ethically handmade business is important to us, but what does "ethical" mean and how can you shop ethically as a consumer? Between a global pandemic, social unrest, and trying to juggle a job, kids, and everything else life throws at you, it may be the last thing on your mind. The US has made it very easy to shop online and expect your order to be delivered the next day...and with free shipping (ahem, Amazon). It has also made it very difficult to find what we need made in the US and ethically made. Unless you have a disposable income, it may not even be possible for you to shop a lot of ethical brands because the cost is higher.
In this blog post, we'll talk about why Amazon and made in China products are cheaper and how we can train ourselves to be ethical consumers. The key to shopping ethically is to be kind to yourself. Shopping with awareness is not easy, especially in this country, but it is possible! This is a practice, not a race. Take your time to figure out what is important to you, and once you find your rhythm, it'll be super easy!
What makes an ethical brand? Why are their products to expensive?
To us, an ethical brand does as little damage to our planet and its inhabitants as it can and contributes to society and public good in a responsible, positive, and sustainable way. If a businesses only principle is to make as much money as it can with the lowest costs, they may not go this direction (enter: sending production to countries like China.) The problem with US businesses outsourcing to China is multifold. First of all, products are made as cheap as possible so the product you're buying will be cheap, easily broken, and usually made with mainly plastic. It creates a cycle of constantly buying the same product, so in the end, you actually end up spending more money on something you need rather than buying from an ethical company.
Secondly, all of this buying and cheap materials is TERRIBLE for our environment. When you throw away this plastic, it can not be destroyed and just sits in our oceans, at trash plants, and finds its way back into our food and water sources. EW!! All of this production also takes from our natural resources, not replacing or giving back in any way.
Finally, non-ethical businesses not only skimp on the product, but on paying the people who make these products. They are barely, if it all, paid and kept impoverished. Imagine having a full time job and still not being able to afford quality food and housing. This is the reality of non-ethical businesses and the why behind "Don't shop at Wal-Mart or Amazon." So when you see a handmade product double the cost of what you see on Amazon, realize that you're not getting a better deal...you're keeping the demand for these practices alive and well.
If you're thinking, "I'm with it..but what do I do? How can I shop ethically?" keep reading! I'm going to give you 5 tips for shopping ethically. You have the power as one person. You have the tools and resources to make a difference!
1) Ask yourself, "do I need to buy this?"
Before you even start shopping, ask yourself, "do I need to buy this product?" Do you already have something else that is comparable to this product? Can I up-cycle and reuse something I already have? Do I absolutely need this product right now? Is what I need made with plastic or non-decomposable? Most of the time, you'll realize you actually don't need this product. If you still realize you need to buy something, go to step 2!
2) Shop as locally and small business as you can!
Shopping locally and small is very in right now which is great! When you buy locally and from a small business, you are directly affecting your local economy and probably making the owner do a little happy dance because of your purchase! On top of that, your product is probably handmade and 10000% higher quality than big businesses. If you live in an area where there aren't a lot of in person small businesses (and hello, COVID), most of these businesses sell and ship online! Please don't act like these small businesses are Amazon. Don't ask for free shipping, any other "deals", or hound handmade businesses to deliver your order the next day. These are usually 1-5 people run businesses and they are going as quickly as they can! I think you can survive a week without your knitted blanket. If you have time restraints or questions, these are real people! Send them a respectful message and I'm sure they will do everything in their power to help you out!
3) Shop from businesses owned by POC / businesses that work with POC
A super easy, direct way to implement social justice is to research and shop from businesses owned by POC. There are sooo many resources online to finding these businesses..most you can order online! Just remember, you have time to find the businesses you like. No need to spend your whole paycheck then never come back. Pace yourself and shop from these businesses long term!
4) Once you have found your small businesses, keep buying from them!
Small businesses make most of their profits from repeat customers. Plus, we'll probably remember you! Talk about customer service! You don't have to find every single business in your area or the country that sells a certain product you buy. Find a business or two that sells what you like, then keep coming back to them! They usually have new products, seasonally, and can also take custom orders! I only buy candles from 2 businesses..I won't buy candle from anywhere else (hello KSM Candle Co and 228 Grant Street). It keeps me from buying too many candles, from buying from non-ethical businesses (stop buying Urban Outfitters candles, people), and I know the quality of my candles will always be great! It's also super easy not having to shop multiple places for a product, but going straight to my resources.
Still haven't found what you need? Keep reading!
5) Use Amazon as a directory, not a buying tool.
Unfortunately, many products such as household and appliance can only be found from certain businesses. An easy way to shop ethically through Amazon, is to find your product, then buy directly from the retailer, not Amazon. PS- Be aware of other brands Amazon owns such as Audible, Whole Foods, and Goodreads. Buying from these businesses is like buying directly from Amazon.
6) Subscription boxes!
Some ethical businesses offer subscription boxes! This is perfect for products you know you'll need habitually, like house supplies. You can schedule when you need your products and have them shipped right to you! I personally love Grove Collaborative, which sells only ethical products for your home and beauty! They even send your first box for free!
7) Sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you're super excited to get started buying ethically, that's great! Just remember we're human, and can't always be perfect. If you're not a zero waste kind of person, don't pretend to be! If you're in between jobs or have super busy month ahead of you, you may just not be able to afford high quality products all of the time.
- Most of the things you need...you don't
- Your money can go to billionaires or it can go to an actual person. You have power
- Once you find your small businesses, stick with them!
- It'll get easier! It's a marathon, not a sprint!