Making a gradual shift to buying less and thinking more. How I'm giving it my best – and how you can do the same.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts you’ll know that I’ve been discussing how to be a more ethical designer and how that looks for me. But what about the other areas of our lives?
I try hard to make careful choices and gradually over the last few years have made a subtle shift into buying less and thinking much more about the things I do buy – where they come from, who made them and their environmental impact.
‘Every buying decision you make has the power to change the world a little, and you should be aware of this. It’s how you start wielding that power for good’
SMALL STEPS TO BEING A MORE CONSCIOUS CONSUMER
Renewable Energy Switching your energy supplier is an easy one. I work from a studio at home which is now run on electricity from Bulb who supply 100% renewable energy from solar, wind and hydro. They also support charities and social enterprises tackling the climate crisis head on. There are several other companies in the UK such as Ecotricity, Octopus and Good Energy who also offer renewable energy.
I’m lucky that I don’t have to commute for work and can mostly use email and video calls to keep in touch with my lovely clients but of course there are times when I do need to pop to meetings and then I take the train or the car. As we live out in the sticks I also use the car to take my daughters to School. Last year our old VW finally died so after doing lots of research we bought a little secondhand electric hybrid. I love watching the battery charge up as I drive and we save quite a bit in petrol too. Of course I would love a fully electric car and we’re working towards that… although I’ve been thinking about getting an electric Cargo bike for the school run. Hit me up with your recommendations :)
Full disclosure: we do own another car which my husband sometimes uses for work. It’s a bit of a diesel monster but we plan to replace it as soon as we are financially able!
Eco-friendly Phones Generally when it comes to tech, the most ethical approach is to consider if you really need something new. Apart from using it to keep in touch I use my phone to take photos everyday so it’s the one piece of kit I do update fairly regularly. When I got my current phone, I bought a refurbished iPhone from Envirophone and I changed my mobile network provider to Ecotalk who use profits from customer bills to buy land and restore British wildlife habitats. They will be offering broadband soon too which I’ll certainly be taking a look at. Another really good eco phone option is Fairphone who have created a more sustainable smart phone and are B-Corporation certified.
You can read more about eco-electronics in my post Ethical Electronics.
Why not make a super quick switch to using the Ecosia search engine. I now use it on both on both my phone and computer. Ecosia is B-Corporation certified and uses income generated from search ads to plant trees at over 9,000 sites around the world. They also promise not to track your activity or sell your data.
Preloved Buying secondhand can be a great ethical option. I shop for furniture, tools, books and toys for my daughters and sometimes clothes for me. By buying something that has been used before, you are reducing its carbon footprint by extending its life – that doesn’t take in to account the way it was produced in the first place (conditions of the workers, processing of materials etc) but it is usually a more sustainable option.
There are times I need (want) to buy new so then I try to look for transparently ethical companies or those that ‘give back’ and I like to support small business and independents as much as I can. There are lots of great online shops offering ethical homeware and gift ideas – I love Aerende, Wearth, and The Future Kept and my favourite tea mug is made by Jessica Cooper who donates 15% of the profit from each mug to Nurture Project.
Note: Whether you're shopping for electricity, electronics or mugs it’s worth checking out a company's environmental policy and beware of green washing – some like to talk very loudly about one or two of their products that are ethical or sustainable whilst conveniently keeping quiet about others that aren’t!
ETHICAL(ISH) When it comes to being a conscious consumer I’m certainly not perfect and I can always learn more and do more. If I can choose ethical I will, but that’s not all the time. Sometimes I make decisions based on convenience and sometimes I just can’t afford the most ethical or sustainable option (an electric car for example), but that’s ok. I’m trying and I’m taking steps in the right direction. In the words of Jen Gale:
“The whole ethos here is sustainable(ish)… small tweaks and changes that create change and make a difference”
Just to add. I am aware that I have privilege and am fortunate to be in a position that cost doesn’t always have to be the leading factor with buying decisions. Sometimes it does cost a bit more to make ethical purchases and I know that not everyone has that choice.
READ MORE For more talk on being a conscious consumer check out my post Ethical Electronics.