Awareness of the damage we’re doing to our planet and its inhabitants has increased significantly over the last 5 years. And, with that growth, a growing trend in the way we purchase the things we need. A study by Unilever revealed that a third of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact. But, although this indicates a positive step in the right direction we still have a long way to go, and the biggest thing holding us back is mindset.
5 Years ago, I was far from conscious of the world around me and the impact my actions had on the planet and its people. Now, I can’t bring myself to buy something if I don’t know exactly where it’s come from. That change has been driven by self education, the people that I have surrounded myself with and the horrific realisation of what goes on behind closed doors. However, I know first-hand that making that change was, and is still not, easy, despite what we’re often told. There is a lot of thought involved, constant decisions to be made and endless research to be done. All of which is time consuming and often frustrating. Our world has become so unethical that living consciously is now far from simple.
What really makes living ethically difficult?
What we’re told
There are large corporations in this world that rely on unethical behaviour, unfair pay, unsafe working environments and cheap materials. And, whilst they’re doing everything they can to hide this it’s still happening and the only way it’s going to stop is when demand stops.
As consumers, we have control over demand and therefore have an opportunity to make positive change. The problem is the marketing campaigns, the PR stunts and the language used by many organisations that tricks consumers into thinking they’re buying ethically. For those with little time to dig deep into the background of the companies they buy from, this is a real issue. Time is of the essence and for many these days there just isn’t the time to do the research which ultimately ends in little change due to inconvenience.
Inconvenience is the biggest obstacle I’ve come across and I know it prevents many from taking the first step towards a more ethical way of living.
The phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ has never rung truer. There are those who watched Blue Planet and were horrified by the amount of plastic in our oceans and what it’s doing to marine life, videos are shared across social media, demonstrations are attended and discussions had. But, when there’s a warm day and a picnic in the park is suggested out come the single-use plastic cups, the plastic straws and the packets of plastic-wrapped food without a second thought.
As humans, we are inherently lazy and when it comes to convenience we’re not likely to make things more difficult for ourselves if we don’t have to. So, the question is, how can we make the ethical decisions the convenient decisions so that living ethically can become second nature rather than a chore?
We currently live in a world of trends, fast fashion and throw-away mentality. What we have is never enough and the products we buy quickly go out of style and get kicked to the curb when something 'new and shiny' comes along.
The result of this trend mentality? Plastic microfibers in our oceans, underpaid and badly treated human beings and, for many, a lack of money to spend on the important things in life such as health!
Understanding that there is no such thing as ‘away’ is critical. It’s a concept that once understood can change mindsets and therefore change behaviour.
The reason I hear most often for not shopping ethically is ‘it’s too expensive’. I can’t stand the word expensive anymore. When the word 'expensive' is used value is never considered and the future is ignored. But, buy cheap, buy twice. Most of the time, buying the cheaper option will, in some way or another, be the more expensive option in the long run but this is rarely taken into consideration.
The fundamental flaw in thinking when it comes to living ethically is the assumption that everything we buy should just be replaced with an ethically made version, this is simply not the case. Living ethically means buying less, but buying better. Buying things that you only truly need and that will last for a very long time and provide good value.
Changing the mindset around cost is a great obstacle but one that urgently needs addressing.
We are too often told that living ethically can be easy, we then give it a try and find that actually it’s confusing, time consuming and inconvenient.
I believe the most important thing is for those that have already changed their mindset, and found a way to live ethically that works for them, to remember how they used to think and feel before they made that change. Preaching to those who are unconvinced is not going to help anyone but providing helpful information and coming up with convenient alternatives is much more likely to create a positive change in mindset.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you already live an ethical lifestyle and want to help others or if you're just starting out and want to know more, please leave a comment below.