Mindful Shopping: Making your dollar count

Many of the issues we face today are deeply rooted in what we buy and where we shop. Unsafe working conditions, environmental pollution, and animal cruelty are all important problems that can be influenced in the shopping aisle.

One way to make a change is to exercise our consumer muscle to buy into 'good' brands, but with so many out there, how do we know which one is good? Last month Green Steps facilitated a fun and interactive workshop on ethical shopping as part of Whitehorse City Council's Fair Trade Fortnight. The workshop brought together a diverse range of people, from seasoned shoppers, who were already using ethical shopping apps, to those flexing their consumer muscle for the first time.

With a focus on mindful shopping, we take a look at the role personal values play when choosing a brand or product, and what we can do to minimise our impact.

Know your values

There are an array of considerations at play when we purchase a product. These include price, value, quality and brand. This spectrum becomes even greater when we choose to buy ethically (think: animal welfare, ethical labour conditions, food miles, local production and the environmental impact). 

Indeed, a growing number of concerned consumers are not just thinking about taste and cost as they search retail shelves for food, clothing and households goods. With so many issues now impacting supply chains, and some of them particular to specific products (coffee or clothing), buying 'ethically' can mean different things to different people and oftentimes, is shaped by the issues that best reflect our values.

At the workshop, a ‘know your values’ activity provoked the group to think about where their personal values lie when purchasing different products. For those who cared deeply about the environment, one of the key considerations was pollutants in washing detergents whereas for those who felt strongly about animal welfare, they placed more importance on where their meat and eggs came from. When we buy goods that echo our values, we are using the power of our purchasing dollar to shape demand and influence an organisation, or perhaps an entire market. 

Pick your battle

While discussing prior knowledge of ethical shopping at the workshop, the overwhelming feeling was that marketing, labels and the desire to ‘tick’ all the boxes when buying ethical can be incredibly difficult. Supply chains are complex and it is not always possible to find an item that meets all the criteria we would like in a purchase - including cost.However, even where ‘perfect’ choices are absent, there are always ‘better’ choices to be made.

While attendees of the workshop agreed there is no silver bullet to buying ethically, being aware of what motivates your purchases is a step in the right direction.

And that is certain to count for more than the number on the price tag.

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