What is Ethical Consumption?

This is the third in the series on consumption. We hope you have found the first two in the series informative and helpful.

This time, we consider ethical consumption.  Ethical consumption stresses the role of the consumer in preventing the exploitation of women and children in sweatshop factories overseas and in the U.S. It also considers the environmental costs of production. These costs include the depletion of natural resources, as well as human costs. For example, when a corporation like Unilever, producer of Dove and Lever soaps, Vaseline Intensive Care lotion, Finesse shampoo, Surf detergent, and Mentadent toothpaste, employs women in the jungle areas of Bihar, India to collect seeds from the sal tree for use in lipstick, the women are deprived of control over what was formerly a resource for their own use.

Consumption in North America today will eventually destroy the environment and is in general hazardous to human health. According to the 1998 United Nations Development Report, 20% of the world’s population consumes 86% of the world’s resources, while the poorest 20% consume only 1.3%. “Not everyone has been invited to the party,” said U.N. administrator James Gustave. “Expectations have gone global but affluence has not.”

Obviously, consuming less on a personal level in the United States does not directly ensure that people in other parts of the world will immediately be able to meet their basic needs.  Changing social patterns of consumption, however, will eventually make a difference.   Once individuals begin to understand how their purchases are connected within a global framework, they can demand new, sustainable methods of production.  Living with fewer “things” and assuring that all resources, including labor, are used wisely and fairly will help create a more equitable and ecological world.

By consuming consciously and ethically we can realistically create change. Being aware of current issues in labor exploitation, environmental conservation, and human rights is the best way to spend ethically. Before buying anything ask: Who makes it? Who needs it? And who profits from it?

Website Source:  http://spot.colorado.edu/~shortk/consumption.html

An outstanding link for additional information is the Center for the New American Dream.  This site covers topics such as Redefining the Dream, Beyond Consumerism, and Collaborative Communities.  It includes an excellent video, “Visualizing a Plenitude Economy.”    Your attention is held by an artist drawing as the speaker presents a new dream, an alternative to our consumerist culture.



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