What we buy and how it is produced…

Being an ethical consumer means buying products which were ethically produced and/or which are not harmful to the environment and society. This can be as simple as buying foods without palm oil or as complex as boycotting goods produced by child labour.  But what does that really mean when it comes down to individual choices?

The Solutions for the Planet got to discussing recently what factors influence their own personal buying habits. Does where we live impact on these habits? Who we live with? Where are friends and family are? What’s more important fairtrade, local sourcing, animal welfare, reducing the carbon footprint of products or single use plastic packaging? Is there a right and wrong?  It can all feel a bit too much and often there’s no right or wrong but there is a lot of personal choice.

As a team we all have different priorities and we realise that that’s ok, as long as we are making conscious choices.

Here’s what some of the S4TP team have to say on the subject:

Charlotte Hosier

I eat meat free at home, when I do eat meat it is in restaurants and I do my best to eat meat that I know how and where it has been farmed. I buy fresh fruit and vegetables a few times a week to cut down on waste. I look for fruit and vegetables grown as locally as possible and not packaged in plastic. However, living in inner-city London, I find this can be difficult as the smaller size supermarkets seem to stock more plastic packaged fruit and vegetables and convenience foods.

When I am short on time and travelling I find it harder to stay away from single use plastic. At train stations etc it is harder to find food not packaged in single use plastic. The addition of a water fountain at Euston made me very happy! But overall I find staying clear of single use plastic completely really challenging.

One thing that is easier in a big city, is not owning a car. In fact, I have never owned a car and mostly travel by public transport, for longer distances I share cars with family or friends. I buy the majority of my clothes from charity shops and restrict the number of clothes I have to only take up half a wardrobe.

Sarah Milburn

I sometimes find it quite exhausting to be the kind of ethical consumer I wish to be.  I sometimes have to make a decision that doesn’t tick all the boxes – animal welfare, fair trade, environment-friendly, etc.

My partner and I eat meat free usually twice a week, for me it can sometimes be more.  When we do buy meat, we don’t buy from supermarkets – we buy direct from the farm, farms that are local and which have high animal welfare standards, and one of which butchers on site.  Most of our veggies are bought from the farms or from the market stall, and never in plastic.  We take our own paper bags.

Cleaning products for clothes and skin – I always choose not tested on animals first, and then try and buy as chemical-free as possible so that when it goes down the drain it is less harmful to whatever comes in contact with it.  I’ve started buying my soap from a social enterprise in London that employs a visually-impaired workforce too.

As far as possible I try to cut single-use plastic out of our lives – we have a new zero-waste shop in town so that helps there.  This is the part I struggle with most, especially when we just nip to the corner shop….

I don’t buy clothes often – when I do I try to go to charity shops first, that’s usually where I buy my shoes from.  I’ve recently seen a bag you can buy for washing your synthetic materials, you put them in it in the washing machine and it traps most of the microfibres!

I feel good about doing my bit, but it is sometimes very hard work, and when I make a ‘bad’ choice I am often wracked with guilt about it.

Alice Devereux

At University I studied a module about the sustainability of the global food network, a module that I found both fascinating and terrifying. Ever since I have stopped eating beef completely due to its environmental footprint and try to buy food that is locally sourced. As someone who strives to be an ‘ethical consumer’ I am especially passionate about avoiding products which include palm oil. I think it is important that everyone tries to do their bit and this definitely starts with the items we consume. Websites such as The Good Shopping Guide make it easy to see your ecological impact and provides sustainable alternatives to every day products.

Jen Baughan

I remember recently being in the fruit aisle at a supermarket and being faced with the choice of Fairtrade Banana’s wrapped in plastic or non-Fairtrade banana’s not wrapped in plastic.  That’s when it really hit me, we are making buying choices all the time and we all have different personal criteria which dictate our consumer choices.

Food, travel and plastic are probably the biggest issues for me at the moment (although this does change).  I generally try to buy seasonal veg and, with banana’s being the main exception, locally sourced food.  I very rarely eat meat and I think I’m going to try and cut it out completely but for now, if I buy meat I only buy from a butcher supplying locally sourced meat with high animal welfare standards.  Living in Bristol we are lucky to have lots of green grocers providing, largely unwrapped locally sourced food, however time and convenience are both issues for me and I do find myself in supermarkets more often than I would like.

I love to travel and have done a long haul trip this year visiting friends in New Zealand and Vietnam.  I do think that travel is a luxury but also that it’s important in this increasingly connected world however it’s not something to be taken lightly.  Domestic flying has come back on my radar this year.  Seven years ago I promised myself that I would never fly internally.  In September 2017, Solutions for the Planet has launched in Scotland and it has become increasingly difficult not to fly due to time and cost of travel.  As a business we are looking at how we can offset our carbon using Carbon Neutral Now and this is something that we are committing to in 2018/19.  I’ve not yet resolved this inner struggle in a satisfactory way.

I am overwhelmed by the abundance of plastic in our lives.  I have recently started buying hygiene products from Lush who have policies around animal testing, supporting charities, reducing single use plastic and recycling old plastic containers.

In summary…

It’s clear that there’s no easy answer.  At Solutions for the Planet we advocate awareness and action, we all have a responsibility to do our bit and there’s certainly no strict right or wrong.  We’re always eager to hear about way that other people consume more responsibly.  I think it’s fair to say that behind the scenes things are changing.  More pressure is being put on packaging manufacturers, retailers and travel companies to review their environmental impacts as well as the government but we all have our parts to play and we’ve got a big job ahead of us.  What more do you think we can we do?