Just How Does One Person Consume Ethically?

A few weeks ago I read about a woman who, for one year, didn’t buy goods made in China. Sara Bongiorni wrote a book about her and her family’s experience. You can read an excerpt by clicking here.

I haven’t read her book, but reading the excerpt made me more aware of all the things I own and buy that are made in China. And Thailand, Ecuador, Peru and some countries, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never heard of. I noticed today that my hummingbird feeder was made in the U.S., but not much of anything else I have is.

I have no solutions in this blog. Just questions and thoughts on buying and consuming ethically. There are so many websites out there, so much to think about – the polar ice caps, what exactly goes into the toothpaste produced in China, how to go green.

Someone sent me a link to a blog entry about buying a bra that was produced “ethically.” Click here to read it. I guess I should assume the Victoria’s Secret over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder I’ve got on right now was made in a sweat shop somewhere, oh let me see, give me a second to take the darn thing off to find the tag…..Indonesia.

So my question is, do I investigate every company that produces every piece of food, clothing, candle, CD case, and durable good I purchase to be sure they don’t operate what we would consider sweat shops or that produce goods in an environmentally challenged way? And just what constitutes a sweat shop? If I don’t buy a particular product, and thousands of others (out of conscience) don’t either, does a woman or man or child who desperately needs a job get fired because consumption is down? I seriously don’t know the answer to this.

On the bra blog, the author mentions a site called Rawganique. They are a small manufacturing group in Canada that produces hemp clothing as “clean” as they possibly can. I went to the site and there’s no doubt they produce great clothes. I love their concept. But I can’t afford to spend $49 on a pullover. That’s the problem. When I need a t-shirt, I buy Hanes or Old Navy at $5 a pop. If I need a dress, I go to the Limited or New York & Co. to find cheap and pretty. Am I wrong? Probably. But I don’t have the money to spend on ethical.

Going “green,” on the other hand, seems a bit easier. I can at least take baby steps with that. I’ve changed many of the incandescent light bulbs I have in my lamps to the twisty florescent kind, for instance. Even though they’re a little pricey up front, the money I save in the long run is nice. The same cannot be said for clothing. I also found a website that will help you reduce, and perhaps eliminate, junk mail. Click here for more information on GreenDimes.com. While a for-profit agency, they will plant trees when you sign up to have them contact the companies that bug the crap out of you daily in your mailbox and tell them to stop sending you junk mail. I’m all for that. My mailman probably is, too.

If any of you have information you’d like to share about consuming ethically, please pass it on. As much as I’d like to be a global good citizen, it really does come down to economics.

Oh, oh, oh! And before I let ya’ll go, I was listening to the Jay Thomas Show yesterday as I was getting the hell out of Pittsburgh before another flood hit, and he was interviewing Alan Weisman who wrote the book “The World Without Us.” Seriously great website, too. The world would probably do much better without us hanging around, but as Weisman said in his interview, our species deserves to be here just as much as any other species. We just have to stop destroying everything.

That’s all I have to say today. Lots of posed and unanswered questions. Just a little something to think about this weekend. I want to go shopping at Penney’s to see if they have any good summer clothes on sale since they’re bringing in all the fall and winter stuff, but I feel a little uneasy about it. I know nothing about the companies that produced any of the clothes I own so looking at the tags tomorrow will do me no good. What to do, what to do. Suggestions?

3 thoughts on “Just How Does One Person Consume Ethically?

  1. I do not know. I have a whole bag of Dora toys that a cute 3 year old got for her birthday…. that are from China may have lead paint on them and be on recall. Why is there still lead in paint? I don’t even know why that’s such a crucial ingredient. I agree with you–it’s all so baffling… and if you sew your own clothes, you know nothing about how and where the fabric is produced. love, V

  2. Think globally, act locally.
    It’s one small step, and a step we all can take. Instead of buying books, clothing, food, etc., at the big box stores, patronize the local merchants in your town. It’s been almost five years since we’ve been in Wal-Mart. We buy our meat at Comet because it’s locally grown and butchered. Fresh veggies come from the local farmers at the local farmer’s market on Saturday. The shoes I buy at the locally owned family clothing store hold up much longer, and are usually cheaper than, Sears and/or Penney’s. The local hardware store owner is much more knowledgeable and helpful than the minimum-wage drones hired and fired all too frequently at the bigger stores. He also lets you return stuff that “just doesn’t work like it was supposed to,” even if you don’t have the original reciept and the package is opened.
    This is a rather long and rambling rant, but I do believe very strongly that supporting the local economy is an easy way to shop ethically and make sure our neighbors still have a job.
    PS – As the spouse of a Main Street book store manager, I have to laugh about the numbers of people who come in and tell him “You’re even better than the REAL bookstore!” (IE – Borders, Waldens, etc.) Try to special order a book in one of those places, and you’ll soon find out you’re simply a customer. On Main Street, it’s a different story.

  3. My dad buys locally when he can. He goes to the family run supermarket rather than the chain supermarket even though prices might be a little higher.
    Even when the fruit trucks come around in the summer with cheaper fruit, he buys it from the store.
    He says that when he buys in town, he supports the local economy rather than having the money go to some corporate bigwig or have it go to some guy who’ll be leaving town in a week and spend it somewhere else.
    Also, we had the same concerns with the lead paint as the poster above.. We’ve got Dora in every corner of the house.. we were lucky to not have been affected by the recall. Yikes!

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