Practical Steps for Conscious Consumption

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Guest Post by Emily Hill
This is Part 2 of a 2 Part Series. Read Part 1, I am the Rich Oppressor.

In our global economy it’s difficult to know who made what we’re consuming and what business practices are involved in the supply chain of products we buy. Very few of our purchase decisions are neutral; we can either exploit people or value them and empower them.

So how are we supposed to live? The more we become aware of injustice in the world and our role in so much of it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But just like it covers every other sin, God’s grace covers us. We can be secure in its sufficiency, and in that confidence we can move forward – taking actions to become more just, to become more like Christ. Change starts in our own hearts and is fueled by Christ’s transforming power.

But then it grows in to practical action. We can debate economic policies, laws and international development, and there’s certainly room for that. That’s a good, necessary conversation for long term change that respects all cultures and creates optimal outcomes. However, a good place to start is with yourself. With your own education and purchase decisions.

Here are some tips to start you on the path toward making more just purchase decisions:

  1. Educate yourself about your impact. Go to Slavery Footprint and find out how many slaves work for you. It’s an estimate, of course, but it’s based on actual research. Once you find out the score, you can learn what aspects of your life affected it the most so you can begin to understand how your purchases affect global slavery. There are also tons of other resources online to learn about labor exploitation. Google it.
  2. Explore fair trade and where you can buy fair trade products in your area. Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. There are a broad range of products available fair trade – find out where you can buy them in your neighborhood. It’s not perfect and there’s a lot of practical debate going on in the fair trade community, but it’s a big step forward in economic justice.
    For example, the majority of cocoa is harvested by child slaves in West Africa. However, there is fair trade chocolate available in many grocery stores and online – when you buy fair trade you can be sure you aren’t eating chocolate harvested by slaves.
  3. Learn about ethical fashion. There are several websites where you can research the brands you like to buy – check out Free 2 Work and Chain Store Reaction. You can change your shopping behavior based on what companies are rated well for ethical practices and transparency in their supply chain. Sometimes it can feel like ethically produced fashion is too expensive, but there are ways to make it work!
    1. Buy less. This simple truth is that we all have more clothes than we need. By committing to buy one ethical shirt instead of two cheaper ones, for example, we can make a positive impact on the supply chain and reign in our consumption. If you’re really ready to rethink your consumption, you can look over your whole budget for places to cut or redirect your spending.
    2. Shop thrift. It takes a little work and a bit of commitment, but you can find fashionable, very affordable clothes at thrift stores. Even if your thrift store treasures were made by exploited people, you’ve saved them from the trash and reduced the consumer demand for new clothes.
    3. Try your hand at homemade. This is for the really adventurous. It may be a challenge to find ethically sourced fabrics, but if you sew your own clothes, you always know exactly how the seamstress was treated. Plus, your stuff will be one of a kind.

While ethical products will always be a bit more expensive than less ethical ones, increased demand will help lower the costs. You likely won’t be able to totally revamp your spending all at once, but that’s okay. Positive progress is a process. Do what you can and don’t be discouraged.

Once you start doing research you’ll learn there is still a lot to figure out, that this area is complicated and there is a lot of nuance. Choices are not black and white. Educating yourself and seeking God will help you find out what’s right for you and realize where God is leading you to make changes.

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