Ethical Consumerism for the Holidays: How Responsibly Can You Celebrate?
The holiday season is completely upon us and it seems to require us to consume in excess. Is this merely part of the human experience–honoring ourselves with times or seasons to eat, drink, and spend currency to the maximum? Haven’t celebrations like this always been part of our cultures?
Unfortunately, it is the very act of consumption that is the root cause of many (if not most) of the socio-environmental impacts around the world today. As a response, we often hear about ethical or responsible or conscious consumerism. But is ethical consumerism moving us in the right direction? Or is it an oxymoron?
Our tendency towards over-consumption throughout the year and not just during the holidays is without a doubt accelerating the extraction of our finite planetary resources and exacerbating the pollution of what is left. Run-away consumption and inequitable distribution of wealth are really doing a number on our planet. Can we change the dynamic simply by making better consumer choices?
Can we shop our way to a cleaner world and equitable society?
Many people would argue that there can never be ethical consumerism. But what about ethical consumption? We must eat food and use resources on this planet to survive, right? The web of life is such that resources are used and recirculated around the planet. It would seem though that the human part of the web of life has tipped right out of balance somewhere along the way.
The majority of people prefer to support brands that don’t destroy the environment and pay their workers a fair wage. And yet, these big brands aren’t hurting for customers. Where’s the divide? Is it a lack of information and transparency? Perhaps.
Perhaps, we are also overwhelmed by choices. Do we choose organic or fair trade? Do we prefer to support socially responsible brands or environmentally conscious ones? How do we rank our values in a moment of purchase? I believe that for many people it can become overwhelming and the fact that the onus falls on the shopper is also an unfair burden.
We write about this a lot here at Producers Trust because it is a big part of what motivates us. Empowering small farmers, makers, and sellers is at the core of our work. To do so, we want to connect them with consumers who share their values.
We recognize that a big problem is that it is hard for brands to remain committed to their values in a big globalized market. It’s hard for consumers to navigate style, preference, taste, health, marketing tactics, and general overwhelm while also purchasing with their values in mind.
In addition to continuing to follow our company journey and learn about the tools and networks we are building, here are a few helpful tips for a responsible holiday season. You may not single-handedly bring down the global temperature and ensure every person a fair pay rate, but we do all have a role to play and we are all connected.
So much of what we produce goes directly into the landfill or ends up in the oceans. Our linear style of production is based around take-make-waste thinking, that everything can be disposable and then bought new. This is good for profits. It should go without saying that it is bad for the environment. It is also bad for our spirits as it promotes disconnection from our earth and from those who tend the soil and the forests and those who grow our food and make our clothing.
So just don’t buy it. Take this as a challenge as you navigate the holidays and begin the new year. What if you really only bought and consumed what you needed? What would that look like for you?
Watch For Greenwashing
We talk about greenwashing a lot because we want to empower our the small farmers in our networks to share their inspiring stories. We don’t want to see farmers or brands who are deceptively trying to use fake values or practices to sell more goods. The reason behind it is simple. Knowing if you’ve been deceived by greenwashing is a bit more tricky, but with a bit of consideration and practice, it gets easier.
Check Labels & Be Wary!
Certifications and their corresponding labels can be helpful. They can also be very confusing. While it may be useful in a hurried moment of shopping to give a quick glance at which labels your product may have, there is so much more to it.
Avoid Fast Fashion
In order to keep new trends hitting the shelves constantly, fast fashion executives must find the most inexpensive materials and the cheapest labor. The industry exploits millions of people, majority women, across the world to keep up with the need for quickly changing styles. Additionally, it is a hugely wasteful and polluting industry. Many clothes end up in the landfill without ever being purchased. And many end up there after one wear, as the quickly changing styles and cheap production promote this kind of wastefulness.
These are the perfect reasons to not be seduced by the fast fashion industry as you shop for holiday gifts for others or new clothes for yourself.
Change Your Mindset
I don’t love to place full responsibility on us as consumers, because it isn’t fair. As well as stressing ourselves out over every purchase we make, we should be holding corporations accountable and with our traceability work at Producers Trust, we are intending to do it. However, we are all involved in the same broken system of production and consumption and we all have a role to play.
It is time for us to shift our mindsets about how and what we consume and how it comes to us. We need to be able to recognize how lobbying and marketing influence us and our purchasing decisions. We also need drastic systemic overhaul where large corporations, small producers and businesses, farmers, and consumers commit to change together. Is that too idealistic?
Ethical consumerism can empower individuals to contribute to positive change, it’s important to acknowledge that making entirely ethical choices can be challenging due to complex global supply chains and limited information. Additionally, it may be a privilege that not everyone can afford, as ethically produced goods can sometimes be more expensive. Despite these challenges, ethical consumerism remains a growing movement, influencing businesses to adopt more responsible practices and encouraging consumers to be mindful of the impact of their purchasing decisions.
Many of us want to support good brands, and with the tools and processes that we at Producers Trust are working with, we are making it easier for consumers to find and align with brands that share their values. Beyond this, we can all do some reflecting about our own needs and wants. Why do we buy the things we buy? Why do we waste so much? How susceptible are we to marketing tactics? Why do we feel we need so much more than we actually do? These are some initial questions to guide our reflection.
We encourage you to browse our marketplace to find regenerative projects that value the planet, the humans who work upon it, and the animals we share it with.