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I want to put my money where my mouth is. Got suggestions?
June 13, 2012 7:43 PM   Subscribe

How do I become a more ethical consumer? I'd like to primarily do business with organizations known for treating their workers - domestic and foreign - well. Where and how do I find them?

I'm building a household for the very first time at 26. I'm settling into the rhythm of adult life, and there's certain patterns I want to establish. One of those patterns is that of ethical consumption - I understand that we inhabit an inherently imperfect world, but I want to do my best to regularly patronize businesses that enhance the communities in which they reside and have personnel policies that are among the best in their industry, even in industries known for having a low bar to clear in that regard. I'm finding many accounts of notoriously bad actors, but I'd prefer to make affirmational choices with my purchases rather than having to react every time someone's PR department goes on vacation. In particular, I'm looking for places to eat out, purchase groceries, housewares, clothing, furniture and electronics. There are regional considerations - I live in Texas, and for that reason I find that I've never seen IRL a lot of places that people rave about online.
posted by Selena777 to Shopping (9 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is a website exactly for your! Responsible Shopper lets you compare mainstream (American) companies in a particular industry, and breaks out their grades in different areas (labor, health & safety, environment, human rights, etc.), as well as providing links to background information so you can see where the grades come from.

It's kinda depressing because most multinationals are not so great, but if you live in a smaller town and don't have access to HippieMart4000 but just Target and WalMart, it gives you the chance to do exactly what you're wanting to do: make choices to at least patronize the best business available to you.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:55 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Above all, look for ways to reduce your consumption habits.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:41 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Start local. Ask around. Find a local business you trust and like and ask who else they recommend patronizing. Call the Chamber of Commerce and tell them what you're interested in and ask who they recommend. Buy from local farms and don't be afraid to ask about their hiring and buying practices. Look for independently owned local business.
posted by Miko at 9:00 PM on June 13, 2012


I don't have advice for assessing vendors but I'd note that one alternative you have to purchasing at local retail franchises is buying online. Even things like the less-perishable groceries, if bought online in bulk, can be comparable in cost to retail.
posted by XMLicious at 2:46 AM on June 14, 2012


housewares, clothing, furniture and electronics

If you have the time, these are available in abundance used, and they are often of much better quality, sometimes much better-looking, than what's in the mainstream stores now. Also often cheaper to boot, though that wobbles once you stop looking at "vintage" and more at "antiques." (But "vintage"/"junk" is priced, here at least, competitively with what things would be if new at Walmart. The same $ that gets you a set of kitchen X at Walmart will get you a super-sturdy "vintage" one of charming design.) Etsy can be a good source of

(For "electronics" here read "toasters, lamps" and not "iPads")

+1 Burhanistan -- do not overlook freecycle, and curbside garbage night "shopping"... Find the people in your community who do a good job of repairing things, and have stuff fixed instead of replaced.

Not always a solution, but it definitely reduces what I spend at big boxes with questionable practices.
posted by kmennie at 2:49 AM on June 14, 2012


This is a good thing to do; thank you. If you are energetic, write to companies, ask them for information about their rankings on Fair Labor, and tell them why it's important to you. I used this search; you could probably make it better, but it got interesting results. When you do business w/ companies that are well-rated, thank them so they'll keep it as a priority.
posted by theora55 at 10:27 PM on June 14, 2012


This is meta-advice, but do beware of diminishing returns on attempts to get all of your consumables from ethical sources. If getting a particular thing or adhering to the necessary schedule for getting a particular thing is taking up a large amount of your time and money, that time and money would probably go farther in achieving your large-scale societal goals if it were invested in organizations that are working to make those changes happen on a societal/political level.
posted by invitapriore at 12:17 PM on June 15, 2012


I understand that getting all of my consumables from ethical sources is an unrealistic goal. I just know that I seem to have established my current patterns subconsciously based on a different set of priorities (price, convenience, ubiquity, variety) that support some of the worst possible choices, and I want to temper that tendency.
posted by Selena777 at 9:35 PM on June 15, 2012


It's actually not an unrealistic goal at all - it just takes additional work and usually more expense to you. But I know a not-tiny number of people who have managed to do this. And even if you shot for an 80/20 or 40/60 split, you'd be far ahead of most people.
posted by Miko at 8:06 AM on June 17, 2012


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