Resetting attitudes on ethical and sustainable purchasing

So we all know that 2020 was a shit-show but there are some positives to come out of it. Ignoring COVID-19, Brexit and the general state of the country, we can take a more considerate, localised and communal approach to 2021.

What’s more, we should take a sustainable and ethical approach in doing so. Small changes that add up to big shifts in banking practice, employment and spending is the key here – it’s not that difficult.

Going ethical in 2021

It’s not hard to go ethical: there are a number of companies and websites out there that help you understand what’s important and help you position where you want to be – you just have to search. For example, Ethical Consumer, a generally paid offering, has a wealth of free and open advice available showing you what’s hot and what’s not in the ethical and sustainable world – it’s also one that I tend to value over others as it covers a wide range of areas (where possible) for household names.

Other websites exist of course, and I would absolutely recommend doing your own research on brands you trust. Apple for example has a strong persona of being ethical and sustainable but if you read deeper, you’ll find rioting in India over unpaid wages so they arent as squeeky clean as hoped.

Top tips

  • Figure out where your personal “ethical line” is and work with this.
  • Do not assume a company is ethical because it says so
  • Make the compromise you can live with and do not create a negative space for yourself.

With these three things in mind, you’ll be able to decide which brands to use and which not to as well as when to do so. Don’t buy an ethical phone, such as Fairphone if the performance of a Samsung Galaxy S21 (due out in 2021) is what you need. It won’t work and you’ll likely end up swapping anyway and creating more electronic waste resulting in sustainability issues.

Going sustainable in 2021

Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. Some of the ways to be more ethical and sustainable in 2021.
Reuse, Reduce and Recycle

Sustainability can be a little trickier but ultimately the answers are out there. Outside of the standard option to recycle you can also make small changes to better the environment with energy too. Where possible buy secondhand too. You don’t need the latest phone but if you do, wait a few months and buy secondhand.

Recycle more

We upped our recycling game in 2020 and the two weeks between council collections was too long and we had a very full recycling bin. It’s important to note we also went out less and had more things delivered due to the pandemic, but we learnt a lot.

Simple things such as checking the label to see what is and what is not recyclable and ensuring your local collection can take it are the things to do. Taking it further, collect plastic bags and recycle them at your supermarket for free, batteries can often be recycled at supermarkets too. Use your recycling centre when possible – they’ll take a range of things, but you’ll need to check on your local council website.

Buy used

We went new on as few things as possible and secondhand on a lot. You don’t have to look far to discover secondhand options with Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and a number of other used market apps and websites. Take precautions and ask as may questions as you need to. People want to sell things and if a few extra questions annoy them then move on, it’s probably not been looked after.

On the used markets, we’ve found that during the pandemic some sellers (and buyers) are not keen to meet in person and ask for bank transfers etc. We’ve always insisted on Paypal and use “Pay for goods and services” as this has protections for you and the buyer which “Send to friends and family” does not. This does mean you’ll likely need to up the amount you send via Paypal to cover the fees but it is not too much and there are plenty of calculators out there to figure this out.

Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with.

Anything electrical, try and see it working in person. You’ll need to PPE up of course but without this hands-on experience you may not see operational issues that pictures/ images cannot show.

Tips with buying secondhand

  • Ask the questions you need to ask
  • Use Paypal Pay for goods and services if doing Paypal
  • Use PPE even if other parties aren’t
  • Try anything with moving parts, especially electronics for software issues, before buying wherever possible
  • Don’t take risks you’re not comfortable with

Change energy and services for good

The cheapest is not always the best for the environment so looking around is an idea. Renewable energy companies are common and making the most of them is easy. They also come with better service due to smartly designed user experiences for web and app – although this may have changed so do research for yourself.

Ethical Consumer has an excellent list for Energy providers and is at the time of writing, free to view. It can be found here:

What have we done?

All of the above is great but what have we done? Here’s a short list of those that come to mind in 2020.

  • Recycled a lot more at home (read the label!)
  • Bought used where sensible to do so and where not, only used ethical/ sustainable brands
  • Moved to reusable “around the house” products such as cotton pads, batteries and cleaning cloths, sponges etc
  • Donated as much as possible to charity – and when not possible to do so…
  • Took as much as possible to the recycling centre near us.
  • Moved from a 95% renewable “plan” to 100% renewable with our energy provider
  • Turned off at the wall more – leaving lights on, tech on standby and generally using stuff that’s not needed is silly and pays off with lower bills too!
  • Kept the thermostat down in favour of adding layers of clothing or blankets (old school warmth)
  • Had less baths and quicker showers
  • Change banks to those that do not trade in Arms, Fossil Fuels and other ethically grey areas.
  • Researched and got quotes for using green homes grant to make sure we’re doing all we can to reduce our impact on fuel industry (i.e using less) as well as keeping bills down
  • Used our cars only for journeys that required it – this was easy during a pandemic
  • Ate less processed and manufactured foods in favour of healthier and less packaged goods. This has been a little harder with the pandemic as plastic wrapping products seems common at the moment…

And as the year progresses, we plan to:

  • Move mobile networks to something like EcoTalk who seem to give back to nature (further research required)
  • Grow our own vegetables – with seasonal crops and staggered growth to save on wastage (which needs planning…)
  • Buy locally more to support local businesses that are working to put back into the local area
  • Move more household products to sustainable or reusable businesses such as Smol
  • Only upgrade tech where necessary. We’ve some contracts expiring this year, such as mobile phones, broadband and others so we’ll be researching this heavily as the agreements are often long.

So there you have it, every little helps and we should all start making change for good. If you’ve read this far and have tips and suggestions do let me know.

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