I certainly didn’t grow up being mindful of my purchases choices, as an adult I just bought what I needed; the price and the product were probably the only important factors to consider. Over time I have become aware of the power of these small decisions.

Who’s making the products I am buying? What am I  supporting with my money? today I want to write few lines about this important topic.

Our money counts

Every time we pay for products or services, we tend to focus on the end result, the beautiful/useful/great quality/cheap item we are buying or the service we receive from a company, but in reality when we spend our money we are endorsing those businesses.

For example, if I buy a product from a company that pollutes our waterways when they manufacture their products, generates massive amounts of plastic waste or doesn’t care about fair working conditions for their employees, I am indeed supporting all that with my purchases, even if I am not aware of this situation.

Think about it, companies need our money, they need us to buy their products and services otherwise they wouldn’t exist. We collectively keep these companies alive purchasing their products, therefore, our money really counts.

There is a quote from Anna Lappé that says:

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

I think this quote summarises this point quite well. What kind of world do we want? Are we supporting companies doing the right thing? Do we even know much about the companies we buy from?

Here and there makers – store operated as a social enterprise here in Melbourne

Let your values guide you

We are all different and what’s important to me, perhaps may not be important to you. Personal values define us, guide our behaviour, help us define our priorities in life and what we stand for.

Even if we don’t have our values clear and written down in a piece of paper, they are still influencing our decisions every single day.

Knowing what we care about, can make our journey so much congruent because it is easier to prioritise things in our lives. If for instance I know that my health is top in my value list, it would be probably easier for me to stick to an exercise routine and a healthy diet.

So when it comes to being more mindful about our shopping habits, we need to start asking questions about the businesses that are providing the products we buy, and then see if what we find is aligned with our values, with who we are as a person.

If I say I care about women rights but I buy clothes from a cheap brand that manufactures these garments in a developing country and it has been linked to abuses to their women workers, low wages and unsafe working conditions, there is a mismatch there. However, most people simply don’t know that’s the case, that’s where more awareness about this topic is needed.

Rank your values

Another important thing is to rank our values based on what’s more important to us, because often it is hard to find perfect fit products/brands/businesses. Sometimes we have to make a choice compromising other aspects that perhaps are a bit less important. Consider these examples:

  • Organic vs conventional veggies (health, money, environment)
  • Leather vs synthetic materials (animal welfare, environment)
  • Fair-trade handmade product that comes from a developing company and support small communities there vs products made locally (social impact, environment)
  • Processed food vs wholemeal food (money, health, environment, time)

You’ll decide which way to go based on your values, and sometimes they are all important to you, so if you really need to pick something the only way to decide is knowing your priorities.

If you are reading my blog, you probably care about the environment/nature, so it is important to consider how that value is ranked in your lists and how you can align your daily choices to those values.

I understand we can’t control everything, sometimes we just don’t have the information, the time, the money, the energy…. it is certainly not about perfection, it is about trying our best to be more in alignment with what we value.

TED for women

I came across this TED recently and I found it interesting. Diane Ridgway-Cross tells her story about how she grew up in a house where she learnt from a young age to care about the products she was supporting and how that shaped her life.  I enjoyed a lot the stories, some are quite hilarious!

The key message she highlights is the importance of being mindful about the products we buy, the brands we choose to buy and the companies that we buy from.

Three interesting pieces of information she presented:

  1. Women control more than $20 trillion in consumer spending globally every year, and with that spending power comes the opportunity – and, actually, the responsibility – to wield that purchase power in a way that we reward companies and brands that are standing for our beliefs and values and hold accountable those who don’t“.
  2. We as women are 3 times more likely than our male counterparts to consider a company ethics before buying“.
  3. …Women were able to express as many as 10 companies they were officially boycotting – or girlcotting

I liked the fact that she mentions the role we women play here when it comes to spending the money, but also how we can re-shape that, being more mindful about our decisions – I want to believe the $20 trillion number comes from the fact that most of the time women do groceries shopping and other household expenses!

She also talks about how one person can make a difference and how collectively we have power to make changes that matter in this world.

I didn’t appreciate the term “conscious consumerism” because it feels like if we buy from good companies then we are fine, we can continue spending $20 trillion in stuff, we just have to spend it mindfully. Also I personally didn’t connect at all with some of the companies she used as examples.

Anyway, regardless I think it is a good TED that aims to bring awareness about this topic and it highlights the importance of our daily choices.

Shop Ethically

If you are in Australia, there is a great website called Shop Ethically. I discovered this organisation years ago when I attended to a presentation organised by my local council about ethical shopping. At that time it was really an eye-opening experience, I knew very little about this topic and I found the information really useful.

This is what they do:

“The Ethical Consumer Group is a community based, not-for-profit organisation and network, set up to help facilitate more sustainable purchasing practices for the everyday consumer… Our goal is to educate and empower people to make shopping choices that better reflect their values and to use their consumer power to create a better world”

They offer tools to make the decision making process easier. I love the issues page where you can learn about different problems around clothing, food, electronics and more. You can also search for particular companies and brands and they show you information about the business, if it is Australian owned and even give you rating.

Give it a go, it is a great resource!

That’s it for today. Please share this information and let me know in the comments below: Did you know much about this topic? Are you currently buying guided by your values?

Thanks for reading.