Electric wire reel reused in a furniture ecodesign.jpg
  • News ‘My escape is going north’: heatwaves begin to drive tourists in Europe to cool climes, theguardian.com (Jul 02, 2024)
  • News How the small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu drastically cut plastic pollution, theguardian.com (Jun 20, 2024)
  • News Plastic-choked rivers in Ecuador are being cleared with conveyor belts, BBC Future (Apr 22, 2024)

Ethical consumerism refers to buying things that are made ethically i.e. without harm to or exploitation of humans, animals or the natural environment. This generally entails favoring products and businesses that take account of the greater good in their operations.[1] An extension of the idea, doing more with less, overlaps with the first part of Reduce, reuse, repair and recycle.

Community action projects[edit | edit source]

  • promote fair trade and become a fair trade community
  • promote second hand, charity shops and used bookstores
  • promote and take part in Buy Nothing Day and Buy Nothing Christmas
  • buy recycled products
  • organise a Carrotmob campaign
  • find eco product supplies
  • support or set up zero waste suppliers, eg see News item October 7, 2013
  • support sustainable, green or eco-tourism initiatives
  • practice event greening
  • promote closer to home tourism
  • lobby for Government action to enforce the use of bio-degradable plastic bags by supermarkets, or banning plastic bags altogether
  • encourage the use of Reusable shopping bags
  • encourage use and appreciation of local and Community resources

Events[edit | edit source]

Responsible consumerism in climate emergency[edit | edit source]

The science is clear, it's not those fighting to put food on the table who need to fix this mess right? It's the high consuming communities, high consuming individuals who need to act furthest and fastest.
— Tom Bailey, TakeTheJump.org

Huge and immediate reduction needed by the those comfortably off: In the next decade we need a 2/3 reduction in the impact of consumption in wealthy parts of the world. The science, based on independent research to determine where and how global emissions must reduce to ensure global warming is kept to international agreed safe levels of 1.5oC. takethejump.org

Islington Climate Emergency Centre – a movement is growing
Authors: Real Media, Mar 29, 2022

Consumer protection[edit | edit source]

Consumer protection is a group of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights of consumers as well as fair trade, competition and accurate information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors. They may also provide additional protection for those most vulnerable in society. Consumer protection laws are a form of government regulation, which aim to protect the rights of consumers. For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the idea of consumer rights, and to the formation of consumer organizations, which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace and get help with consumer complaints.

Other organizations that promote consumer protection include government organizations and self-regulating business organizations such as consumer protection agencies and organizations, the Federal Trade Commission, ombudsmen, Better Business Bureaus, etc. A consumer is defined as someone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.

Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directly and indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency, but this topic is treated in competition law.

Consumer protection can also be asserted via non-government organizations and individuals as consumer activism. W

Fair trade[edit | edit source]

Fair trade is an organized social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as higher social and environmental standards. This movement requires particular actions of the purchasing managers [1] and other personnel, that is directly responsible for purchasing and can affect the level of green consumering. The movement focuses in particular on commodities, or products which are typically exported from developing countries to developed countries, but also consumed in domestic markets (e.g. Brazil and India) most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, gold and 3D printer filament. The movement seeks to promote greater equity in international trading partnerships through dialogue, transparency, and respect. It promotes sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers in developing countries. W / See also Fair trade debate W

Carrotmob[edit | edit source]

Carrotmob is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California. It uses buycotts (a form of consumer activism where a community buys a lot of goods from one company in a small time period) to reward a business's commitment to making socially responsible changes to the business. Carrotmob also refers to a global movement of community organizers who use the Carrotmob tactic of consumer activism as a way to help change businesses in their communities. In a Carrotmob buycott, businesses compete to be the most socially responsible business, and then a network of consumers spends money to support the winner. W

Sustainable tourism[edit | edit source]

"Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy." Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR (visiting friends and relatives). There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate. W

Fairbnb.coop is an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging. Foremost, it is also a community of activists, coders, researchers and designers working to create the platform to enable hosts and guests to connect for travel and cultural exchange, while minimizing the cost to communities. It is an alternative to commercial platforms.W

Eco hotel[edit | edit source]

Ecolodge Saint-M'Hervé semi-enterré

Eco hotel is a hotel or accommodation that has made important environmental improvements to its structure in order to minimize its impact on the environment. The basic definition of a green hotel is an environmentally responsible lodging that follows the practices of green living. These hotels have to be certified green by an independent third-party or by the state they are located in. Traditionally, these hotels were mostly presented as Eco Lodges because of their location, often in jungles, and their design inspired by the use of traditional building methods applied by skilled local craftsmen in areas, such as Costa Rica and Indonesia.

Today, eco hotels also include properties in less "natural" locations that have invested in improving their "green" credentials. W

Green conventions[edit | edit source]

Green conventions or green meetings are conventions which are conducted in ways which minimize the environmental burdens imposed by such activities. Green event planners apply environmentally preferred practices to waste management, resource and energy use, travel and local transportation, facilities selection, siting and construction, food provision and disposal, hotels and accommodations, and management and purchasing decisions. The practice is known as "event greening" or "sustainable event management".

Green conventions, meetings, conferencing and events are part of an international movement to achieve a sustainable world economy and livable planet. W

Volunteer travel[edit | edit source]

Volunteer travel, volunteer vacations, volunteer tourism or voluntourism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. In recent years, "bite-sized" volunteer vacations have grown in popularity. Volunteer vacations vary widely in scope, from low-skill work cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing high-skill medical aid in a foreign country. Volunteer vacations participants are diverse but typically share a desire to "do something good" while also experiencing new places and challenges in locales they might not otherwise visit. W / See also Volunteer travel, Controversy W Potential volunteers may wish to satisfy themselves that projects involve local communities sufficiently, meet locally idetified needs and are consistent with local community aspirations.

Resources[edit | edit source]

Apps for sustainability[edit | edit source]

Citizens data initiative[edit | edit source]

  • Only 20% of e-waste from 2016 was documented, collected and properly recycled.[2]

Infographics[edit | edit source]

Technology Used to Protect Our Planet from consumerprotect.com

Maps[edit | edit source]

Sustainable grocery stores map

Quotes[edit | edit source]

  • "No political challenge can be met by shopping." George Monbiot[3]
  • "Faced with a choice between the survival of the planet and a new set of matching tableware, most people would choose the tableware." George Monbiot[4]
  • "Anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet is either mad or an economist." D. Attenborough[5]

Research[edit | edit source]

Ecotourism research, Griffith University

Video[edit | edit source]


Other resources[edit | edit source]

  • Buy Nothing Day site through the Adbusters Media Foundation
  • Buy Nothing Christmas, includes alternative gift ideas, for example a set of coupons to print and give to family members that include two free homemade desserts, three back massages, or an evening of child care.
  • Consumer Resources for Buying Green Products on Green Wiki
  • GoodGuide Transparency Toolbar
  • 'Good Stuff? A Behind-the-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy', March 2004, is a free online publication from the Worldwatch Institute. It traces what goes into the production, use, and disposal of 25 common consumer items, including compact discs, cell phones, baby goods, and chocolate, and sheds light on hidden impacts that consumers may be unaware of. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the air inside a typical U.S. home is on average 2-5 times more polluted than the air just outside - and in extreme cases can be 100 times more contaminated - largely because of the use of chemical cleaners and pesticides. Good Stuff is available via worldwatch.org where it can be downloaded for free.
  • Plastic Free Living from Plastic Free July

Campaigns[edit | edit source]


Past events[edit | edit source]

Nov 23 - Dec 3 MAKE SMTHNG Week, 2018: Fri-Mon

Global morality[edit | edit source]

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In Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market As An Ethical System (1998), John McMurtry argues that all purchasing decisions imply some moral choice, and that there is no purchasing that is not ultimately moral in nature. This mirrors older arguments, especially by the Anabaptists (e.g. Mennonites, Amish), that one must accept all personal moral and spiritual liability for all harms done at any distance in space or time to anyone by one's own choices. Some interpretations of the book of Genesis from the Judeo-Christian scriptures appears to direct followers towards practising good stewardship of the Earth, under an obligation to a God who is believed to have created the planet for people to share with other creatures. A similar argument presented from a secular humanist point of view is that it is simply better for human beings to acknowledge that the planet supports life only because of a delicate balance of many different factors.

Spending as morality[edit | edit source]

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Some trust criteria, e.g. creditworthiness or implied warranty, are considered to be part of any purchasing or sourcing decision. However, these terms refer to broader systems of guidance that would, ideally, cause any purchasing decision to disqualify offered products or services based on non-price criteria that affect the moral rather than the functional liabilities of the entire production process. Paul Hawken, a proponent of natural capitalism, refers to "comprehensive outcomes" of production services as opposed to the "culminative outcomes" of using the product of such services. Often, moral criteria are part of a shift away from commodity markets towards a service economy where all activities, from growing to harvesting to processing to delivery, are considered part of the value chain for which consumers are "responsible".

Andrew Wilson, Director of the UK's Ashridge Centre for Business and Society, argues that "Shopping is more important than voting", and that the disposition of money is the most basic role we play in any system of economics. Some theorists believe that it is the clearest way that we express our actual moral choices: if we say we care about something but continue to buy in a way that has a high probability of risk of harm or destruction to that thing, we don't really care about it; we are practising a form of simple hypocrisy. Ethical consumerism is widely explained by psychologists using the theory of planned behavior, which attributes a consumer's choices to their perceived sense of control, social norms, and evaluation of the consequences. However, recent research suggests that a consumer's ethical obligation, self-identity, and virtues may also influence their buying decisions.

In an effort by churches to advocate moral and ethical consumerism, many have become involved in the Fair Trade movement:

  • Ten Thousand Villages is affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee
  • SERRV International is partnered with Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief
  • Village Markets of Africa sells Fair Trade gifts from the Lutheran Church in Kenya
  • Catholic Relief Services has their own Fair Trade mission in CRS Fair Trade

Criticism[edit | edit source]

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Critics argue that ethical consumerism has limited ability to affect structural change. Berkey (2021) has argued that ethical consumerism focuses on individual consumer behavior rather than systemic change can create a false sense of efficacy and distract from more effective methods of creating change, such as collective action and policy reform. Some say the actual effect of ethical consumerism is the preponderance of niche markets, while others argue that because it is difficult for consumers to obtain enough information about the outcomes of a given purchase, this prevents them from making informed ethical choices. Critics have also argued that the uneven distribution of wealth prevents consumerism, ethical or otherwise, from fulfilling its democratic potential.

One study suggests that "Buying Green" serves as a license for unethical behavior. In their 2009 paper, "Do Green Products Make Us Better People?", Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong write:

In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products. Together, the studies show that consumption is more tightly connected to our social and ethical behaviors in directions and domains other than previously thought.

In a 2010 The Guardian article, British environmental writer and activist George Monbiot argued that green consumers who do not articulate their values are part of "a catastrophic mistake," on the grounds that such consumerism "strengthens extrinsic values" (those that "concern status and self-advancement"), thereby "making future campaigns less likely to succeed".

James G Carrier, Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, draws on Karl Marx's concept of commodity fetishism to argue that ethical consumption does not help consumers lead a more moral life, nor does it influence businesses as intended. The goal of ethical consumption at a personal level is to lead a more moral life, and that capitalism causes commodities to be presented in such a way that they are perceived without regard for the labor that is represented by the product, the labor that was involved in allowing that commodity to exist. The goal at a public level is for consumers to use their purchasing power to put pressure on companies to change the way they conduct business. Marx argued that under capitalism, the presentation of goods obscures the people and processes behind their production.

Carrier begins by giving examples of products that have been presented in a way that misrepresents their context. He first points to the images of growers commonly found on fair trade coffee packaging. The image suggests self-reliance and ignores the dependence upon immigrant wage workers who harvest the coffee. Fairtrade coffee is viewed as a direct link to the grower without a middle man. However, there are many parties involved such as the roasters, shippers, wholesalers, and retailers of the product. Carrier also discusses fictitious commodities, which are things that are not produced in the conventional sense, material or not, and can be appropriated for commercial gain. The conceptual categories of ethicality need to be legible to consumers in order for a consumer to be able to participate in ethical consumption. Sellers use imagery to satisfy that need, and the images they use become emblematic and representational of the values of ethical consumers, and in some ways the presentation of these images fetishize the product, and the pervasiveness of such images begins to shape ethicality, as the absence of these images also signifies the absence of those same values. In short: it is difficult to buy ethical products because there are many aspects to commodities that consumers are unable to be fully aware of; fully informed decisions are almost impossible to make. Consumers see the images that sellers use as a means of virtue signaling, and purchase those products with the intent of ethical consumption because they believe that those images have been produced conscientiously to represent conceptual categories of "ethical."

Carrier extends commodity fetishism to include nature reserves because they are advertised and because people are urged to visit the landscapes and animals for a fee. For example, parks in Jamaica show colorful fish and coral growth on pamphlets to attract tourists. These photos fetishize coastal waters by ignoring the other important ecological aspects of the water. In Montego Bay, Jamaica, environmentalists argue that tourism has damaged the park. Run-off feeds into the waterways and sea-grass beds integral to local nutrient cycles are removed.

The strategic direction of the consumer's attention further mystifies and fetishizes the object of consumption. Carrier points out that the moment of consumer choice is emphasized rather than the context that leads people to seek ethicality. He believes that more attention should be paid to how the consumer acquired their moral leanings.

Sustainable consumption controversy[edit | edit source]

"Yet individual initiatives alone do not necessarily help to build strong, healthy communities (although they can free up time that could lead to greater community involvement), nor can they address the structural obstacles to genuine consumer choice the lack of organic produce in the supermarket, for instance. Some critics even argue that, pursued in isolation, individual initiatives can be counterproductive.

"An "individualization of responsibility", as political and environmental scientist Michael Maniates notes, distracts attention from the role that such institutions as business and government play in perpetuating unhealthy consumption. Moreover, to the extent that individuals see their power residing primarily in their pocketbooks, they may neglect their key roles as parents, educators, community members, and citizens in building a society of well-being."[6]

see also: Criticism (of Ethical consumersim)W

See also[edit | edit source]

local information can be found, or shared, via our many location pages

External links

Greenwiki: Greenwash

SourceWatch: Greenwashing


FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Authors Phil Green
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Translations Arabic, Korean
Related 2 subpages, 42 pages link here
Aliases Green purchasing, Consumerism
Impact 4,355 page views
Created December 11, 2014 by Phil Green
Modified March 24, 2024 by Phil Green
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