10 questions to help you become an ethical consumer in 2021

If 2020 has been challenging on many levels, it also brought us hope and new perspectives. One thing we are definitely grateful for is to see the growing support eco-friendly and conscious businesses have been getting lately. 

As a consumer, we have the power to make an impact. The more we start paying attention to where we spend our money and which companies we decide to support, the more businesses will start adapting to this demand as well. 

So how can we be an ethical consumer in 2021? 

The paradox of being an ethical consumer

In a society that pushes consumerism as much as we do, ethical consumerism can seem like a paradox… and a trap, too. One thing we need to consider is not just what we buy but how we buy. The way we have been conditioned to consume has to be revised.

But before we dive into it, we want to emphasize one important aspect:

You don’t have to be perfect right away. To “become” an ethical consumer can be really overwhelming. The more we start learning about it, the more overwhelming it can become leaving us with the following feeling: 

“If I can’t be the perfect ethical consumer right now then there isn’t even a point of trying”. 

This is far from true and this belief is what is holding us back as a society, too. 

Imagine 1 million people doing 10% better this year to be more ethical. Wouldn’t that have more impact than a handful of people being “perfect”? 

Please be gentle with yourself. Start step by step. Start paying attention to the different aspects that will make your behavior more ethical and conscious but do not feel discouraged by the work ahead of you. 

Our number one tip is to start with one area you feel more comfortable and passionate about. Whether it is buying ethical clothes, food, or cosmetics, starting in one area will help you transition more smoothly. 

Step by step, you will realize that being ethical comes more naturally to you and it isn’t that big scary mountain to climb anymore. 

Everything comes with time and we are so grateful you are here and trying your best. Keep doing it, inspire others to start somewhere, and let’s empower each other.

Zero waste concept

10 questions to ask yourself before making a purchase

1. Do you really need this product?

The number one element to consider is not whether the product or the company is ethical or not. It is to ask yourself if you actually NEED that product. 

That itself requires a whole change in your mindset. 

Let’s say you find a really good ethical company making eco-friendly shoes by repurposing waste. AWESOME. 

But wait… do you need shoes at the moment? Maybe you still have shoes in perfect condition. 

Buying an ethical product when you actually don’t need it isn’t an ethical choice. So instead keep notes of those awesome companies for when you actually need the products.

In our high consumerism world, reducing our consumption is a key element and can also be very challenging. Take time to reflect on your purchases and try to minimize impulsive shopping.

2. Can you buy it second-hand?

Buying second-hand is a great way to avoid overconsumption and additional waste. It also helps you to save money! 

3. Can you borrow it?

You need a dress/suit for a wedding but you know you won’t be wearing it after that day? Borrow one or rent one instead of buying it new and leaving it in your closet. 

4. Why is this item so cheap?

We know, social and eco goods can be more expensive. And it usually is a blockage for most people. We look at the price and compare it to other products. Sometimes there can be a huge difference in price and we start wondering if it is really worth it or not. 

Instead of wondering why a product is expensive, we need to start wondering why some products are THAT cheap. It all comes at a cost. 

So before deciding if a product is too expensive, research why some of the products on the market are that cheap.

5. Are the people manufacturing the products fairly paid and treated?

One of the main reasons products have been able to be so cheap is because workers haven’t been paid fairly. Look into the story behind that cheap t-shirt… you probably won’t want to buy it after all. 

Many companies have taken advantage of workers around the world desperate to accept working at a low wage because that is the only option for them to survive. They endure having to work in dangerous conditions which allows the companies to keep the costs as low as possible. 

Fairtrade work assures that workers are paid fairly and their work environment is safe. 

Be careful, every industry is impacted. If you have doubts about the practices of a brand, make sure to do your research and ask for more information.

6. What is the environmental impact of the product?

Make sure to look into the carbon footprint of the product and see if it has been made sustainably. Look for the environmental guidelines the company is following. Learn about the ingredients they use – to be sure they are non-toxic but also their productions aren’t destroying wildlife habits (the production of palm oil for example that is destroying rainforests and participating in the extinction of orangutan).

7. Is the product cruelty-free?

Make sure the company is cruelty-free. Animal testing is unfortunately still a practice widely used. To learn more about shopping cruelty-free, check our guide here.

cruelty-free shopping

8. Are you aligned with the brand?

When you buy any type of product you support a company, making sure the company is involved in ethical practices is important. Products can be very similar but each brand is unique. They all have different values, different practices. 

Get to know the brands behind the products to help you make your choice. 

Visit their about page, read their blogs, check out their social media. This will give you more information about their views of business and see if you align with them.

9. Is it certified?

Still unsure if this an ethical product or not? There are different independent certifications and labels that can help you make the right choice. Take a look at our list here.

10. How will you dispose of the products?

Let’s look at our purchase as a full circle. It’s one thing to know how it is made and how you will use it. But have you thought about how you will dispose of it? 

How much waste will it produce afterward? Can it be compostable? Recycled? Reused?

Here is the full circle of SellSage Plantry compostable tableware:

As we mentioned earlier, do not get overwhelmed by all these questions, but do take them into consideration next time you are facing a purchase – it can be as small or as big of a purchase as you want. 

Afraid you won’t remember it? Download our checklist now to keep on your phone at all times so you can be reminded of it. If the product you want to buy doesn’t check it all, it’s ok. Be aware of it and if you still decide to make the purchase, you are now making it in full awareness. 

Education and awareness are key to make changes. The more knowledge you will know, the more empowered you will be to make purchases that you feel aligned to. 

Being an ethical consumer isn’t just good for the planet. It also will make you feel good and more aligned with your values. We promise you will soon not even feel like having to make efforts as it will come more naturally.

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