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10 Ways to Become a More Ethical Consumer

10 Ways to Become a More Ethical Consumer

Consumerism is an important part of the economy, but if you wish to remain ethical while making purchases, it is vital to consider implementing a few key ideas. Remember: each time you shop, you’re voting with your dollars. In other words, you can truly make a difference in your local community and the entire world by keeping ethical practices in mind.

1. Check Labels

One of the biggest hurdles that an ethical consumer needs to overcome is learning how to carefully check labels. Sadly, many of the clothing items that are for sale right now in your favorite stores were made in a sweatshop overseas. You can avoid perpetuating this disturbing violation of human rights by ensuring that your clothes were made in countries that do not have sweatshops (such as the U.S. and Canada). There are also several companies, including Fair Industry, Cottonfield USA, and Red Dog Sportswear, that utilize ethical manufacturing practices. Alternatively, you can purchase clothing from a secondhand shop to help the environment.

2. Ensure You Are Buying the Real Thing

Another big issue that consumers face is learning how to tell if they are buying a counterfeit item. Although most people assume that these items will only be found on street corners, the reality is that there have been many stores caught selling illegal merchandise. High-end items are often counterfeited, so it is wise to look at consumer guides to learn how to spot a fake Rolex (for example). Keep in mind that illegal merchandise is typically made in sweatshop conditions. When you combine this knowledge with the inferior quality of these items, it is quite simply never a good idea to buy one.

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3. Investigate Store Labor Disputes and Other Issues

Labor disputes can be a big indication of whether or not a business shares your interest in ethical consumerism. For example, Walmart has a long history of labor disputes and employee strikes, so it makes sense to carefully examine all of these issues to determine whether or not you feel comfortable shopping there. In one recent instance, several Walmart stores were closed without warning. Many employees alleged this was due to a disagreement over payroll. If you look closely enough, you will find similar news about a long list of stores. Analyzing this information can help you make ethical decisions.

4. Consider Shopping at a Co-Op

Co-ops are operated with their own built-in democracy, and this makes it much more likely for their employees to be treated fairly. Although most people think of a grocery store when they hear the phrase “co-op,” the reality is that there are co-ops in a wide array of businesses, including appliance manufacturing. One prime example is Mondragon Corporacion Co-operativa, which has become one of Spain’s largest industrial groups without cutting wages or instituting sweatshop conditions. When you shop from co-op sources, you also support fair wages.

5. Support Local Stores with Locally Made Goods

If part of your ethical concerns involve reducing your carbon footprint, then it is imperative to begin turning to local goods that are sold by local merchants. For example, consider what happens when you shop at a farmer’s market instead of a chain grocery store. Most of the fruit and vegetables that are sold at a grocery store were shipped in from all over the country and, in some cases, all over the world. On the other hand, a farmer’s market will sell similar items that were grown nearby. The reduction on carbon emissions from transportation alone makes the local goods a much more ethical choice.

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6. Shop at Stores That Align with Your Ideological Principles

Are you aware that every store you shop at has ideological principles? Whether it’s taking a firm stance against equality or donating money to a specific politician, each business has an impact on their local community. With this in mind, ethical consumers carefully examine their local and chain store choices before spending any money. After all, failure to do so could help a business that is committed to promoting a cause you don’t believe in.

7. Walk Away From Items That Aren’t Ethically Made or Sourced

This is often one of the hardest things for people to do, especially when they are new to the idea of ethical consumerism. However, if you don’t take a stand for your beliefs by voting with your dollars, you are essentially throwing your support behind practices that violate your personal ethics. You may need to stop buying your favorite brand of jeans or pick a new favorite restaurant, but this will have a positive impact on the world.

8. Always Bring Your Own Bags

It is convenient to use the store’s plastic bags for all of your purchases, but this continual practice is damaging the environment. By simply buying your own cloth bags or reusing old plastic bags at the grocery store, you can reduce your carbon footprint by an average of six pounds per month. If every consumer took this action, we would experience a noticeable improvement in the environment and a massive reduction in waste. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 5% of plastic grocery bags are reused right now; however, each of us has the ability to make a difference.

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9. Reuse Things as Much as Possible

Another way to support the environment, while also making sweatshops less profitable, is to reuse things as much as possible. For example, you can wash out sauce jars and turn them into storage containers. This will keep you from buying storage containers and will prevent glass jars from ending up in a landfill.

10. Take a Stand Against Unethical Practices with a Boycott

Some people believe that boycotts don’t work, but all of the evidence proves that this thought process is incorrect. Darden Restaurants experienced the difference a boycott can make first hand when their profits plummeted in the second quarter of 2012 after the company indicated they did not support the Affordable Care Act and would cut hours as a result. After the impact of the consumer backlash became clear, Darden’s CEO decided to change the company policy and embrace Obamacare. This highlights the power of taking a stand for what you believe in by voting with your dollars.

Conclusion

With a little practice and some research, you’ll be able to begin shopping with ethics and the environment in mind. You can even extend these practices to special event shopping such as looking for Christmas gifts, which may inspire others to become an ethical consumer.

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Featured photo credit: irinamozelova via morguefile.com

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Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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