8 ways to shop more ethically

Long time readers may remember that many of the positive changes I am trying to make – around which this blog is based – were nudged along by my Day Zero List.  One task from this list of my 1001 things to do in 101 days was to make 5 ethical swaps.   As I began writing this I thought I had been slacking and had one left to go but I realise I also switched my e-reader so I can tick this one off.  Brilliant!

In this – the third and final part of my easy ethical changes series – I’ll share with you the swaps I’ve made for this task plus a few other ideas I’d like to try.  I’ll need you all to help hold me to trying at least one!

Swaps I’ve made:

1. CDs: Musicstack
I’ve started buying CDs through Musicstack (Ethical consumer rating 13) wherever possible  instead of Amazon (Ethical Consumer rating 2).  I bought CDs for my brother’s birthday through music stack and they came very quickly. The only thing was the payment method was a bit strange as you have to wait for the individual seller to contact you with the payment method but this doesn’t take long and seems secure.

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2. Music Downloads: 7Digital
Where I am just downloading music I’ve been using 7Digital which actually offers a very good range and price. 7Digital has an Ethical Consumer rating  of 12 instead of Iplayer’s 6.

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3. Books: Better World Books
Better World Books are great as not only can you easily buy second hand books but also they fund literacy charities with the profits.   They have an Ethical Consumer rating of 14 instead of again Amazon’s dismal 2 and they are really easy to use.

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4. Energy Supplier: Good Energy
This is probably my favourite swap.  I thoroughly recommend Good Energy.  The supply our electricity (they do gas too we just don’t have any to our flat).  The price is good and their service has been excellent.

I had been thinking about this one but we took the plunge early after terrible service from EDF who tried to change us a huge bill because they read our meter wrong.

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5. E-readers: Ebook Reader or Nook
I am a big fan of e-books.  I know that’s a matter of contention but personally having so many books just on my phone whenever I need them is very convenient.  Plus trying to read last night with a torch because my partner was asleep was more of an inconvenience than it was fun like when I was a child.

In my general attempt to wean myself off of Amazon – and their tax dodging and poor treatment of staff – I therefore had to find an alternative app.  The Ethical Consumer rates actual e-reader devices and book sellers and as I use an e-reader app rather than actual device I consulted both.  E-books.com rates quite well (13/20) so I downloaded their app but it can be a bit glitchy on android.  So flick between that and Nook which at least scores 9 instead of the Kindle’s 2.5.

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Future Ethical Swap Ideas

1. Change your bank
This one comes top of the Ethical Consumer’s top tips.  Money has a huge influence on society and like any tool can be used for good.  Keeping your savings in a more ethical bank can still provide you with interest whilst also funding green energy for example.

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2. Reducing Palm Oil consumption
Palm oil usage is very much on the rise.  However the industry is linked to mass deforestation and therefore climate change as well as animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses.   The Ethical Consumer has a Palm Oil free list which may help but the issue hasn’t gained enough mainstream attention to have too wide a range of products.

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3. High Street Shops
Here’s a fairly easy one to finish off with.  The Ethical Consumer have a list of top high street shops.  Where you can why not try swapping to M&S, Lush, the Co-op, WH Smiths or John Lewis?

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The Effectiveness Debate

You may have noticed that of the three elements of my blog the Ethical Consumer side perhaps gets the least attention.   Perhaps this is because I find Effective Altruism guiding more and more of my actions like shopping and my veganism.  And Effective Altruism does call into question some Ethical Consumer concepts.

Is it more effective to buy things cheaply on Amazon but donate the money saved to an effective charity for example?

I was very pleased that when I went to hear Peter Singer speak that someone asked this very question.  I think the answer was pretty sensible.  If the less ethical choice saves you a lot of money then you probably should donate instead.  But if we’re talking a few quid more to buy CDs somewhere more ethical then you probably do more good using your buying power vote to influence company behaviour.  We also need to be honest about what we do with the money anyway.  I know I am guilty of thinking to myself “I’ll buy this cheaper Primark product because the difference could be x number of deworming tablets” but I don’t actually then remember to donate the difference.

What do you think?

What ethical swaps appeal to you?  What have you done already?  Where do you stand on ethical shopping verses saving and donating?  Answers in a comment box please!

In case you missed it check out 10 Ways to Save Money and Lives

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