What to do with # 6: shopping?
Till you truly drop!
December 10, 2013
The shopping season is on! There has been Thanksgiving, Sinterklaas ( a Dutch celebration), and now off course, the biggest of all are waiting at our doorstep: Christmas and New Years. But what about the shopping? Is it sustainable? Where can you buy sustainable products? Are they fair?
So, first the state of the art: many people (maybe even you?) buy stuff at the big shops and/or some local stores because they look nice, you wanted to give it, s/he wanted to have it, or the like. Off course many are looking at the price before purchasing it, but usually not more than that. Not looking at environmental impacts, and or social / fairness levels of the products. However, purchasing such 'bads' does little for those who produce it and does often bad to the (local/global) environment. For instance: when purchasing coffee or tea, generally the price is not fair for the producer: it has earned much less than it should. In addition, it may have used chemical fertilizers and other environmental bads which harms the local and the global environment through such practices to increase its crop yields. So worse comes to worse, the local producer comes in a downward spiral where s/he has not enough income and therefore, have little to spend on food , or better, living a good life in general. And chemical fertilizers have to be bought at often high prices, but the producer may not know alternatives and so the social and environmental conditions of the local and global environment deteriorates.
So what are the other options? Well, first of all, a true price should be tagged to all products good or bad. A methods is currently being developed by the True Price Foundation, based in the Netherlands. A true price incorporates the environmental and social goods and bads into the price a consumer eventually pays. However, the producer should have to pay that as well, so the local, smallholder benefits from it, or not. In addition, through the true price, an incentive should be given to change its practices such as no use of chemical fertilizers to using alternative means. In addition there are other certification schemes which try to be fair for the local producers and environmentally friendly such as Fair Trade and the Forest Stewardship Council certificate for wood (FSC). But a true price would probably really make a difference on a larger scale, because it would also include the real price of bad products, and not only of the good ones.
But a global true price and all products is still music of the (near) future. What can you do as a consumer today? Well, you could start buying fair-trade products, organic products, less meat for the festivities, local produced products, and the like. Off course you should first consider whether that certain product is really necessary to buy. After all, the first sustainability mantra is: reduce, reduce, reduce. Furthermore, you could look for alternative ways such as trading at a local market: exchanging and sharing products and services with others, giving away etc. Off course these ideas extend to the festive weeks, since you could start a local market / economy by doing this. But that is a topic which I will depict on in a later blog.
For now: by any means, enjoy the weeks to come, with warmth from your home, family and friends, keeping in mind that one thing in life which is really important is at hand: sharing time with your beloved ones.