Monday, June 7, 2010

Good Buy-brations

I'm setting myself a challenge, something I have been thinking about and working towards for a little while now.

I'm working towards being an ethical consumer. It's quite a maze, there is so much to consider; organics, preservatives and additives, fairtrade practices, company corporate stewardship, food miles, price, genetic engineering, blah-de-blah-blah.

It started as a germ of an idea, and like so many things in my life, ethical consumerism just kept popping up in my life; I'd open a magazine and see an article about sweatshops and the fashion industry, organics was everywhere I turned, I'd get a flyer advertising local fruits and veggies and talking about food miles. The clincher was when I discovered a little while ago the Ethical Consumer Guide website. Suddenly, there were no more excuses.

Take for instance the link between the chocolate industry and child slave labour. Once you learn something like that, it's pretty hard to ignore it, and as the website says, Your Dollar is Your Vote. You might think that one person giving up their Fruit N Nut isn't a big dent in the profits of a mega-multi-national, but I am a firm believer in the premise that if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Besides, what if a million people all decided that they were the one person who could make a difference?

As an aside, I see that Cadbury are now advertising their Dairy Milk range as Fairtrade, which I'm sure is a great step in the right direction, but if I'm giving money for that particular product, I'm really giving money to the entire company, the rest of which is not Fairtrade Certified.

In the grocery arena, given that there are so many things to consider,and I often have to make a trade-off between a few products, neither of which are 100% perfect, but for instance, choosing a imported brand that is Fairtrade certified, as opposed to an Australian made brand, owned by international conglomerate with an appaling record, like Nestle. I still have a household to manage on a very tight budget, and sometimes compromises must be made. This is where the Ethical Consumer pocket guide is great, I can whip it out at the shops and use it to help make an informed decision.

It took me a little while to define what exactly I am challenging myself to do; I'm certainly not setting out to only buy organic, or only local foods etc., but I do care about supporting ethical and fairtrade companies, as well as the quality of the food I give my family. I eventually got it into words, remembering the whole Your Dollar is Your Vote premise...

"I'm only going to buy products I feel good about giving my vote to."

I want to make sure I am providing healthy food for my family, as interfered with as little as possible, and containing as few numbers as possible, while at the same time supporting companies that are preferably Australian, ethical and fairtrade.

I was considering making myself accountable to this by blogging about it, and I'd be interested to hear if you are interested in reading about it?

As for the gentic engineering thing, I'm still on the fence, still researching. Part of me says that we have been selectively breeding plants and animals for desirable qualities for centuries. Without "engineering" of genetics, we wouldn't have Labradors, or orange carrots (they used to be purple, you know). But this was all selective breeding that could conceivably happen naturally, taking animals or plants with desirable qualities, and cross-breeding them with animals and plants from the same species with other desirable qualities. Cool. What I'm not so sure about is, for example, taking the genes of the cold-water fish the winter flounder, and inserting them into the DNA of strawberries, so they will tolerate cold better. Creepy.

I do wonder though, if the Frankenstein factor might be worth it, should genetic engineering prove a viable way to combat world hunger. Somehow I doubt it will though, given that poverty and hunger in thrid-world countries has more to do with politics, power and money than the amount of food available worldwide. Especially since genetically engineered seeds are patented and licensed, and the countries that can't afford to feed their people as it is are hardly likely to be able to afford these. Or the despots running the country aren't likely to, given that they amass armies in their own name rather than feed their people as it is.



  1. It's a minefield, isn't it?

    I haven't worked out where I stand yet. I'm still wading through it all in my head.

    My local council is run by the greens and they run weekly fairtrade markets. They have also gone as far as to try and force the local cafes to only sell fairtrade coffee, which I'm not sure I agree with as that open a whole other can of worms.

    Good luck, it sounds like you're on the right track.

  2. Animal rights is my big thing. I went vegetarian for a while and failed, mainly because I'm not a good cook and it takes skill to make good veggo fare night after night. I ended up living off potatoes and got quite run-down. Then tonight I burst into tears in front of the 7pm Project when they talked about overfishing. Real tears with great heaving sobs and snot. I just can't get over how guilty I feel about the whole of humanity sometimes. Ethical consumption is a good place to start.

  3. Way back when I was young and single and somehow had more money, I was meticulous about the products I bought; nothing artificial, no animal produts or testing, etc etc.

    My life hasn't been conducive to the time, energy and money it takes to be meticulous about it... but... I should at least try to start back up again... baby steps I guess.

    Thanks for the reminder.



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