Life around the world

Wednesday, 13 November, 2013 - 21:02

Ethical shopping

by LaurenS

Since I went to university and started and doing my own shopping, I've been a lot more conscious about considering the ethical and environmental impact of the products I buy. For example, one thing that confuses me is why vegetables from abroad are cheaper than those that are locally grown. Maybe the answer is that workers abroad aren't paid as much as they are in the UK and its cheaper for companies to transport them. It seems ridiculous that we buy vegetables from abroad when we can buy some that have been grown a few miles away, I buy most of my vegetables from a local greengrocer and I think theses taste much better than vegetables from abroad.

Going into the supermarket is even more difficult for me. It sometimes feels impossible to only buy products that are ethical and environmentally friendly. However, there are some fair trade products which aim to help make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. They are available in many supermarkets and the range of fair trade products that are available has made me more aware that it's not just coffee or chocolate that can be fair trade. We can now get fair trade cotton, flowers, juice, fruit, cakes, biscuits, honey, beer and wine. However, it is sometimes difficult to find fair trade products as they are still not that common in most shops. If there isn't a fair trade option, then I'll choose something that is better for the environment. If there isn't even something environmentally friendly, I choose the cheapest item, because then I think the company won't get much profit as the companies selling the more expensive products. I doubt the profits are shared fairly with the workers and buying the more expensive products will allow the company to expand.

Another way I try to lead an ethical life is through vegetarianism. I've been a vegetarian for about four years. At first, I just stopped eating meat because I decided I didn't like the idea of eating a dead animal and I wanted to lose weight. However, a few years later when I could think more deeply about things, I realised there were more reasons for being vegetarian. Firstly, I don't like that many animals live in bad conditions with a small space. Furthermore, breeding animals for meat production is often bad for the environment because it needs a lot of land and water. I don't have a problem with the concept of eating animals, but like Fair trade products, it's difficult to find free range meat. So, I find it easier to eat more ethically and environmentally friendly by not eating meat at all.

What we wear is another problem. Most of the main clothes shop haven't developed an effective ethical policy for their clothes yet. I prefer not to shop in cheap shops, because the clothes were probably made in bad conditions and I see many people in the street wearing the same clothes as me. Now I usually just buy second hand clothes in charity shops; the charity makes money, resources are saved and I get cheap clothes.

I think if a lot of us really knew what was behind what we buy, we'd think twice about buying it.

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When you go shopping, is it important for you to buy products that have been produced in a fair and environmentally friendly way? 

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