I’d like to change the world.
The case for ethical consumerism
Preface: this time of the year is very important to me because it is a time of self reflection. With hearing stories about my mother’s pregnancy as we approach my birthdate and, the moments looking over both my accomplishments and failures, I reflect on what has worked so far and what needs to be improved. The piece you are about to read gives attention to my decision to divest, boycott or in any way oppose unethical consumerism and the forces that promote them in exchange for a smarter ethical consumerism. Enjoy!
Since last I could remember, there has been a case for ethical consumerism. From the push for regulatory practices during the industrial revolution to the ban on goods by whole governments to the green campaigns promoted by NGOs all over the world; the message has been the same, consumerism can change the world. It is through consumerism that Ford Motors developed bringing with it new processes, the highway and the metropolis. It was also consumerism that grew our economy after the Second World War; it build our middle class. This consumerism that gave us the smart phone and boxed wine has taken us a long way, but it has given us much more than we can chew.
This consumerism has given us adverse health and environmental problems from the contamination of waterways to the many seen and unforeseen effects caused by overuse of antibiotics and consumption of GMOs. It is also this same unregulated consumerism that promotes the unfair treatment and enslavement of laborers, especially of child laborers in sweatshops offshore. This consumerism allows dictatorships to thrive in a surveillance age and turns the cheek on the suffering of some because it is done for the “well-being” of the overall. The list of atrocities committed on a daily basis for the sake of our consumption as global citizens goes on, but the thing is, it shouldn’t have to.
As citizens in this new age of digital-ism and of the democratization of information we should be able to do more. Organizations throughout create campaigns against this unregulated consumerism and against the forces that help to propagate it. They tackle the unethical practices and give us alternatives but it is up to the consumer to act on the foundation that has been laid. We have the power to change the world but it requires action, it requires movement in the personal sense and will power. It requires you.
It starts with first acknowledging that consumerism isn’t necessarily an evil but that unregulated, not by the government but by you the consumer, it can exist as one of the biggest oppressors to mankind and the environment as a whole. The steps that follow include discovering where one falls in this consumerism ladder and then understanding the steps to moving up or down. The first step was simple for me, as a graduate of psychology it’s a bit hard to view anything as inherently evil, but the second step took a while. It’s not that finding ones place as a consumer is difficult but it’s the coming to terms with the idea that it very difficult to not find a product at home that hasn’t contributed to oppression.
I started in the kitchen and opened the fridge and didn’t cringe a bit because I’d been eating responsibly for a few years now; organic may be more expensive but illnesses related to consuming inorganic plastics is far more. I then continued to the laundry/detergent drawer and found the first culprit, Clorox. I moved the bottle to the side and found two more Lysol and Windex. These household products are part of the list of brands and companies that test on animals. I won’t share any photos or videos of how they do this but unless you believe that torture is alright then I have to help you understand that using products from brands that do torture, is the same thing.
I moved onto the bathroom right down the hall and there they were, Glade, Tide, Arm & Hammer and Aveeno; all brands that do testing on animals. I had changed shampoos to the non-SLES/SLS kind (OGX®), that was a sign of relief but it didn’t stop there. On entering my bedroom I decided to do an inspection of more personal products and realized that Coppertone, ChapStick, Vicks, BENGAY, and Febreze were also part of that un-ethical alliance. Looking at my workbench I noticed that Post-it, Scotch (3M) and Trojan were also there. So many of the personal items I use either on a daily or very frequent basis were part of the crew of animal testers, a practice that I have continuously stood against in theory but up until now not in practice.
The scariest part wasn’t knowing that I had been using these products but trying to figure out how I would substitute these items. The thing about consumerism is that because of advertising, big brands have established soft monopolies where you, the consumer, are more than likely to purchase a product from the same brand without ever thinking about alternatives. I got out my laptop and began to research brands that have ethical practices in place; brands that do not test on animals and found an amazing list.
See, changing the world isn’t as difficult as it may seem; a little bit of research here and there and we can all be ethical consumers.
This taking responsibility over what brands and products we use or consume isn’t just limited to the household but also into what we wear and who we buy services from. I would have to write something separate on each issue but would like this to be a introduction to my experience in ethical consumerism.
Genuinely, I would hope that you embark on this journey with me and begin educating those around you to take a stand against these unregulated, unethical companies so that they may change their practices or be replaced by companies that do value ethics.
— BD Feliz