I had the opportunity this month to participate in the Ethical Living Challenge, a program created by Emma Crane, a 19-year-old student at the University of Melbourne. For 21 days, participants receive informative content and challenges on topics related to ethical living. A sampling of the topics: ethical travel, chocolate, shopping for ethically produced fashion and electronics. The project is an easy way to learn more about Fair Trade and ethically produced goods. What I liked most is how the program focused on what you can do to make a difference. After reading about the environmental and social impact of industries we support, it can make a shopper feel disheartened to say the least. So instead of feeling guilty about our consumption habits, why not change a thing or seven?
After reading the topics, I gathered a list of my top achievable ways to live and shop more ethically.
7 Ways to Live More Ethically
1. Chocolate. Buy and eat more Fair Trade chocolate! Fair Trade is a standard of ethical business transaction that ensures that everyone gets a fair wage and safe working conditions. I learned from the Ethical Living Challenge that over 100,000 child laborers work in unjust conditions in Cote d-Ivoire, where half the world’s cocoa is sourced. Some delicious brands of Fair Trade chocolate are Alter Eco, Divine and Green & Black.
2. Coffee and Tea. I love tea. But like chocolate, it’s often not sourced in ways that are good to the workers. Look for Fair Trade coffee and teas, or even teas grown in the U.S. like Harney and Sons’ peppermint tea. And shade grown coffee is better for the environment, so try to buy that when you can.
3. Cut back on sugar. You might already be watching your sugar intake for your health, but did you know that sugar is another industry that employs child labor? There isn’t much good news as far as worldwide sugar farming is concerned, so that’s just more incentive to try healthy treats instead.
4. Change your fashion choices. Producing textiles requires massive amounts of water, and cotton production uses $2 billion worth of pesticides annually. Choosing organic fibers, making clothing you have last, and upcycling are a few ways to reduce the impact.
5. Shoes. Another dark side of the fashion industry is the child labor and chemicals used in shoe production. You’ve probably heard of TOMS shoes and their ethical enterprise work. Vegan shoes and shoes from recycled materials are also good choices.
6. Travel ethically. The places we travel and what we do there can be another opportunity to live more ethically. Some questions posed by the Ethical Living Project to help make conscious tourism choices include: How is tourism there harming or helping the environment? Can you find ethical accommodation? Are there ethical tour companies you could use? Are there Fair Trade businesses you can support while you’re there? Researching these questions before you go will mean a more ethical travel experience.
7. Switch beauty products. Animal testing, over-harvesting of plant ingredients, and the use of toxic chemicals are some of the compelling reasons to be very careful about what cosmetics and toiletries we purchase. Look for cruelty free, organic, or locally-made artisan products to incorporate into your beauty routine. I’ve written about brands I like including InstaNatural, Rejuvenique, and Pura d’Or. Two of my other go-to brands, Acure and Andalou Naturals, are shown below.
Do any of these inspire you? Just changing one thing can make a big impact.