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One of the most common questions I get asked on a regular basis is “How do I get started shopping ethically?” It is easily the most common question I get asked. Today I wanted to answer that question. Normally each week I interview someone like an entrepreneur, CEO, non-profit director, community leader, or just an incredible person who is trying to make a positive impact, not only with their personal life, but also with their career. My goal is to show you that no matter what you do for a living, you can make an impact wherever you are. But this week is episode 210 which means it’s time for another solo episode, and I have some questions that many of you submitted that I will be answering today!
No! Don’t feel like you have to get rid of everything you’ve bought previously that isn’t ethical. If you want to “Marie Kondo” your stuff, I have talked about ways you can ethically dispose of the things that may no longer “spark joy” for you.
5:27 – Which category is “most effective?” Is there a particular item that has a better or bigger impact than others? For example, should I start with ethical denim vs. ethical jewelry?
There are a few ways to look at this. At the end of the day, it’s more about intentional, little by little choices and understanding what your morals or your values add up to. If you’re somebody who wants to shop ethically and you’re also environmentally conscious, ethical denim may be a great place for you to start.
When I started shopping ethical brands, it was also important for me to look for companies making a difference in the area of human trafficking. I started with companies working directly to combat human trafficking by supporting human trafficking overcomers.
You have to figure out what is an area that you really care about, or a topic you want to really tackle.
Another place to start is taking a look at what products you already purchase in greater quantities. Start with that product. If you love shoes, you can start by changing out which types of shoes you buy and the companies you by shoes from. It could be beauty, or skincare, or jewelry, not only for the environment, but for clean ingredients as well.
I have another podcast episode on this exact topic, Episode 120, which is all about tips for shopping ethically on a budget. The short answer is YES! You can shop ethically on a budget. Shopping second-hand is arguably the most ethical way to shop and it’s really affordable. Check out Episode 120 for a more in-depth look at this and 6 tips for shopping ethically on a budget.
8:59 – How do I know that a brand is really ethical? How do I know they’re not just “greenwashing?”
Would you believe I have another episode about that? Episode 110 also goes into this topic of how to tell if a brand is truly ethical.
When in doubt, always contact the company. Reach out and ask specific questions like whether or not they have a 3rd party auditor, where they manufacture, what kinds of auditing they do of their factories, whether they work with certified organic material, if they monitor where they source their materials from, how they check their supply chains, etc.
There are very specific questions you can ask companies. If they can’t give you a definitive answer, there may be reasons for a little bit of a red flag.
There are brands that green wash and lie about these things, but you can do your due diligence to not shop with them. We will make mistakes along the way, but this is about progress, not perfection. Little by little, these choices really do add up.
10:39 – How do I get my family or husband on board?
This question came up a lot! My husband and I have talked about this on the podcast. I have so many conversations with him about shopping ethically that he understands that I am passionate about it, though he may not be as passionate about is as I am.
He also has very different buying habits than I do and only shops for himself once, maybe twice a year at the most. He buys something and wears it until it is hanging on by a thread. That’s an ethical way to shop too.
There are areas he’s also changing his own buying habits. He’ll check with me when he needs to purchase something. Just recently he needed some new gym socks and asked me if I knew of an ethical company where he could purchase his new gym socks. Turns out those are now his favorite gym socks and he wants to order from that company all the time now.
Having a conversation and communication is key. Understand that there are times when husbands might just not be on board and it might take time.
I also watched the Netflix documentary called “The True Cost” with my husband, which opened up an opportunity for us to have a conversation around these topics as well.
I talk about this stuff with my kids all the time. My daughter is 7 and my son is 4. My son doesn’t really understand yet, but my daughter does. Now she’ll ask me if a company is ethical and she can understand and discuss it with me to an extent.
There are age appropriate ways to have these conversations with these kids and explain why we care about the planet and other people. You can explain that there are children their age that have to work in factories to make toys and that kids their age shouldn’t have to do that. It’s a great way to open a conversation about ways we can advocate for those children.
15:52 – How do have these conversations with my teenagers?
Since I don’t have teenagers (yet), I reached out to a friend of mine who has a teenager who is the type of young woman I hope my daughter grows up to be like. I asked her mom how she got Emma on board with this.
Her teenager’s nature is to want to make sure that no one is hurt. It steers her away from wanting anything not ethically made. It’s important for other parents to find out what their teens care about. Emma cares about dogs and small children, so it upsets her to hear that children are working instead of going to school. She hates bullying, so they talk about how trafficking and the unethical treatment of people is related to bullying.
It’s about finding what your teen cares about and help them see how it might relate to unethical practices in business.
17:25 – Is it ethical to wait to shop an ethical company only when they run sales?
There’s likely a variety of opinions on this but in general I would say no. Brands (especially ethical brands) that run sales typically do so to clear out previous seasons or older products to make room for new products.
The majority of the businesses I know that run sales run them very intentionally so that there is still a way for them to pay artisans. When they have excess inventory, they’ve already paid the artisans in full, but simply need to clear the shop to make way for new product.
Sales can also be a gateway for people who want to shop ethically, but don’t have the opportunity to do so when items are full price.
19:31 – How long did it take you to transition to shopping ethically?
I started this process back in 2011 and bit by bit, slowly started to change my buying habits. It’s not something I overhauled overnight and became an expert in. I’m constantly learning, changing, and adjusting. It’s become a process.
You don’t have to change everything or learn everything overnight. It really can be a little by little intentional process each day.
20:37 – Do you always shop ethically for everything?
The answer is, of course not. I’m sure there are people who do, but to shop ethically 100% of the time would be very difficult. I’d love to get there one day.
If I can’t buy it from an ethical company, I’ll try to buy it second hand. If I can’t buy it from an ethical company or second hand, I’ll try to find a local small business to buy from.
Sometimes there may not be an ethical option. My daughter is obsessed with Barbie this year. I was able to find some items second hand. I felt OK knowing that whatever Barbie brand items we buy for her will be well-loved and used for years and years to come until we pass it along to another family to use.
My goal is not to judge other peoples choices, but decide which ones are the right fit for me and for my family and share the information so that others can make the right choices for their family.
You can also join my Purpose with Purpose Facebook Group to continue learning more about shopping more ethically and intentionally.
3:44 – “When you buy from a company like a fair-trade company or a small business, you really are making an actual difference…one small purchase might be worth 10 hours of dignified work.”
7:10 – “I think that for you, you have to figure out what is an area that you really care about? What is a topic that you really want to tackle?”
10:28 – “Will we make mistakes? Yes. But this is about grace, not perfection. Progress not perfection. Little by little, these choices really do add up.”
18:31 – “The majority of the businesses that I know that run sales, run them very intentionally and so it really is an opportunity for them to pay their artisans…at the end of the day, the artisan is still getting paid their full wage…”
Thank you to our partners of the show:
Did you know I have an ethical brand directory? That’s what Chelsea used to start finding products for her boutique almost four years ago! Now, Amma’s Umma carries over 50 intentionally sourced brands and is the perfect one stop shop for all your gift giving needs. As a thank you to the Still Being Molly community, she is offering 20% off with code SHOPWITHMOLLY. Head to shopwithmolly.com for all the details.
At GOEX, we believe in the power of purchase. We use a simple t-shirt to connect our customers with their apparel makers. GOEX customers sustain fair wage jobs that liberate workers from poverty and empower them in their families and communities. We are proud to be a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation. Shop sustainable, eco-friendly t-shirts and sweatshirts with purpose today at goexapparel.com.
I want to introduce you all to a company I believe in that helps you more conveniently purchase with purpose, SimpleSwitch.org
Simple Switch is an online marketplace for ethical and impactful shopping. They let you shop online for more than 3,000 products ranging from everyday essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, to special gifts like journals or jewelry. Every product has a positive environmental or social impact, like planting trees or fighting human trafficking.
Simple Switch is offering a discount exclusively for our listeners. Check out the marketplace on simpleswitch.org and get 20% off your first order with code PURCHASEWITHPURPOSE at checkout!
After 2 years of global impact, Simple Switch is raising money to grow the company and make ethical shopping our new normal. You can learn more about that campaign at IGG.me/simple-switch
The Lemonade Boutique
This episode is sponsored by The Lemonade Boutique, a women’s clothing with a cause store. Featuring ethically made and fair trade items from over 10 countries, every item is made by women facing extreme challenges such as trafficking, poverty, and more. Your purchase empowers women to take life’s lemons and make lemonade. Shop at THELemonadeBoutique.com. Listeners of the Business with Purpose Podcast can save 15% by using code PURPOSE15 at checkout.
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