10 Tips for More Ethical Shopping


Buying used goods rather than new wherever possible, reduces both the use of natural resources in their manufacture and transport, and also waste. Ebay, charity shops, car-boot sales etc are all great places to buy used items, and if you don’t like the sound of second hand, just call them vintage or antique.


Most of us like to think we’re ‘doing our bit’ for the environment by recycling, but the process isn’t complete until someone buys or uses the recycled material. This is what waste managers call ‘closing the loop’, the shift from a linear economy where resources are used and then discarded, to a circular one, where things are reused. Look for common recycled items like paper, toilet rolls, bin bags etc, or type in ‘recycled gifts’ for more creative recycled goods on the web.


The idea of disposable goods is fairly new – before the age of globalised mass production things were designed for utility, aesthetics, durability and affordability, but now many items are designed for short-term convenience and cheapness. Our thresholds of what we consider worth our time and effort to fix have changed as a result – we still repair cars, but no longer shoes or most clothes. Buying more durable and repairable items both uses less resources over their lifecycle, and typically is considerably cheaper in the long run.


Buying locally produced goods avoids the impacts of long distance transport, and also helps support local jobs and communities, which in turn limits people’s need to travel for employment. There are often also advantages in fostering a sense of community and building relationships between producers and consumers. Distantly produced goods may also have non-obvious environmental or social impacts (such as sweatshop labour or pollution), that locally produced goods do not – as it would generally be more obvious if they did.


Rich world supermarkets have lost much seasonal variation of food, with many fruits and vegetables being available all year year round, thanks to global production. Food imported from around the world not only has far higher energy footprints, but also tends to have significantly more packaging and preservative/pesticide content, to maintain freshness and appearance. Buy returning to a seasonally varied diet we can avoid these impacts, eat a more varied range of food, and also reconnect with natural cycles.


Buying Fairtrade helps support communities of poor commodity producers, who are typically at a significant disadvantage to rich world merchants and consumers, who can usually dictate price to such an extent that many producers struggle to make any profit, or lift their communities out of abject poverty. Fairtrade originated in the 1980s as a way of giving rich world consumers the choice to pay a little more in order to support poor producers, improving living and working conditions, promoting better environmental standards and raising levels of social awareness.


Organic certification of foods or other goods means a limited and restricted use of chemical products (like fertilizers and pesticides) during production, and in the case of livestock imposes high welfare standards and restricts the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and similar. It is also argued that organic foods and goods typically have lower energy inputs and are more beneficial ecologically, due to the way they are grown.


Obviously not all chemicals are harmful or damaging, and most products for sale in rich countries should have passed safety standards, but on a precautionary basis it still appears to be sensible to limit our exposure to unnecessary chemicals – such as air fresheners, scented cleaning products, harsh cosmetics and toiletries and volatile compounds in paints, fabrics and finishes. Even if you’re not especially concerned about any potential health impacts, the production of such chemical components require resources and energy, and can involve other hazardous processes and substances.


It’s a fact of life that some companies operate in a more ethical, environmental and socially responsible way than others. It’s relatively easy to check whether the company we’re buying clothes, laptops or chocolate from is also profiting from less acceptable practices like arms exports, labour exploitation, unethical marketing or corruption. Many companies produce CSR (corporate social responsibility) reporting, but it’s often more revealing to look at ethical comparison websites, or publications.


It’s not rocket science – stop spending money on junk. Just buy less.

Photo from Wan Chai, via Flickr

Green Fashion

Guest post by Mrs Green, who lives with her husband and their daughter in semi-rural England. You can follow her family’s adventures towards achieving zero waste or read about green tech, parenting and natural health over on Little Green Blog

Many of us love to indulge in a little clothes shopping, but how do you balance your desires with your ethics?

‘Disposable’ fashion items can have devastating effects on the planet and the people who make them.

If you love clothes shopping and want to keep up with the latest trends, here’s how to keep your conscience intact whilst flexing the plastic.

Green Consumerism

‘Green’ consumerism is a bit of an oxymoron. The most ethical form of consumerism in my book is none at all, so here’s where you have to learn to separate your wants from your needs; not easy in a consumer-driven society. Don’t fall for the latest fashion that will be outdated in a week and don’t choose cheap fabrics that never flatter you.

So many people shop for an emotional ‘fix’; when they’ve had a stressful day at work, an argument with their partner or are feeling unattractive. Buying a new item will give you an emotional boost for an hour or so, but then you’ll be back to square one.

Take an honest look at your shopping pattern; are you buying through want or need?

Less is More

When you make a purchase, buy fewer clothes of better quality and don’t be lured by disposable fashion or the latest trend.

Better quality, classic cut clothes lasts for years and you’ll feel great wearing them. There are many designer brands that use organic or recycled materials and you can also support UK trade rather than mass-produced clothes in sweatshops.


Cotton is one of the most widely sprayed crops on the planet, accounting for around 25% of all insecticides used globally each year. However man-made fibres are often derived from oil, a non renewable resource.

It makes sense then to choose natural, organic fibres such as organically grown cotton or other materials like hemp and bamboo. Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable crop, with the farmer getting up to four harvests per year.

Hemp needs virtually no pesticides at all and is a very resilient plant. Moreover hemp is grown in the UK so its carbon footprint from transportation is minimal.


Cheap fashion can mean difficult and dangerous working conditions for people across the globe. Labour Behind the Label is an anti-sweatshop group campaign that supports garment workers’ efforts worldwide to improve their working conditions.

They raise awareness about which brands are using sweatshops in order to enable consumers make an empowered decision.

According to the latest ‘Good shopping guide’ the top 3 high street brands for ethics are New Look, Seasalt and Zara with French Connection, Gap and Primark at the bottom. For jeans they suggest Calvin Klein, Easy and Falmer whilst we should leave Lee, Levi and Wrangler on the shelf.

Vintage Fashion

If you think charity shops are full of granny’s cardigans; think again. Some charity shops are fortune enough to be donated end-of-line designer consignments or even high quality lost property!

If you find the right area, wealthy locals often pack their designer donations off to a good cause.

British Red Cross have some vintage clothing and designer shops, while TRAID is a charity shop who hand pick vintage and designer clothing for their stores.


End of Life

Over 1 million tonnes of textiles are thrown away every year, often because people simply get tired of things, outgrow them or change their mind.

If you have clothes in need of a new home, consider donating them to your local charity shop or at least put them in a textiles bank. If they’re still wearable, one of the latest trends is ‘swishing’.

SWISHING involves getting your friends together with their unwanted clothes, and having a clothes swapping party! They are great fun and you can update your wardrobe with no cost to you or the environment.

These ideas have just scratched the surface of looking stylish while being ethical.

What are your tips?

Guest post by Mrs Green, who lives with her husband and their daughter in semi-rural England. You can follow her family’s adventures towards achieving zero waste or read about green tech, parenting and natural health over on Little Green Blog

Photo by Art Comments, via Flickr

8 Tips for Buying More Sustainable Fish

Today, June 8th, is World Oceans Day – a good day to think about what we can do to halt the devastating collapse in world fish stocks.

1              Educate Yourself

Improve your understanding of the over-exploitation of the world’s fish stocks, and what must be done to prevent their collapse. Selfridge’s is working with the WWF, Greenpeace and others to champion Project Ocean, which aims to raise awareness of the threat to world fish populations. Watch the film End of the Line and read the accompanying book. Stare at naked celebrities. Look at an infographic of the extent of the decline. Read why Stephen Fry, Richard Branson, Jeremy Paxman and others are supporting Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal’s Fish Fight against EU rules.

2              Consult a Sustainability Guide Before you Buy

Not all fish species are currently under threat. Consult one of the variety of available guides to see whether a particular fish and source is considered sustainable or endangered. Guides include Channel 4′s Fish Inspiration or The Marine Conservation Council’s Good Fish Guide.

3              Look For the MSC’s Certification Mark

The MSC’s certification mark shows the fish is sourced from a sustainable and well-managed fishery, with transparent chain of custody to ensure traceability. Watch the MSC’s explanatory video.

4              Ask Where and How the Fish was Caught

Ask your retailer where the fish is from, and whether it is sustainable. Several UK supermarkets have sustainable aquaculture policies in place, Greenpeace currently consider Waitrose, M&S and the Co-Op the best (Greenpeace report).

5              Avoid At Risk Species

Species under pressure include swordfishsharkskatesplaicetuna (except skipjack), monkfish and marlin.

6              Be Careful with Popular Fish

Salmon, cod and tinned tuna are the most popular fish in the UK, and due to their popularity they are under particular threat and we need to choose carefully.

7              Be Careful with Farmed Fish

Several commentators, including Greenpeace, have some concerns regarding intensive farming of a variety of fish species, due to the use of fish meal foodstuffs, disease and pollution issues. Increasingly herbivorous fish such as tilapia are farmed in the UK, which do not require fish based feedstuffs, and are generally considered to be more sustainable.

8              Be More Adventurous with Fish

There are over 50 species of fish caught within UK waters, most of which are not considered under threat, such as herring, pollock, gurnard, coley and especially mackerel.

Photo by Fiona Wilkinson