What to Know About Ethical Consumerism

11 months ago 44
Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 24, 2021

If you’ve ever chosen a brand of coffee because it’s “fair trade certified,” switched from a big bank to a local credit union, or bought clothes or books from a locally owned store instead of a big national chain at the mall or online, you’ve engaged in what’s known as “ethical consumerism.” What exactly is ethical consumerism, and how can you be a more ethical consumer?

According to Ellis Jones, PhD, an associate professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and the author of The Better World Shopping Guide, ethical consumerism means “consumers attempting to use the money they spend as an economic voting system. The average American family spends around $22,000 every year on goods and services. Think of it as casting 22,000 votes every year for the kind of world you want to live in.”

In other words, using the power of your shopping dollars to support values that matter to you.

Why Choose Ethical Consumerism

Of course, those values can be different for different people, but in general, Jones says, people interested in being more ethical consumers focus on a few main categories of issues, including:

  • Human rights: child labor, fair trade, livable wages, and workers’ rights, health, and safety
  • The environment: climate change, recycling, renewable energy, sustainable farming, ocean conservation
  • Animal protection: humane treatment, factory farming, habitat preservation, animal alternatives, and vegan friendliness
  • Community involvement: family farms, local businesses, sustainable growth, campaign contributions, political corruption
  • Social justice: harassment and discrimination (based on race, gender, age, sexuality, ability, religion, ...
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