ShoppingGuideimageSince this is a cookbook, and implementing our recipes requires grocery shopping, we wanted to help you out by providing some guidelines and resources that would make your dollars count. There are many things that go into ethical grocery shopping and many questions one can ask, including:

  • Who made it? Are they being paid fairly?
  • Who profits? Are their business practices ethical? Do I want my money supporting this corporation?
  • How does manufacturing or harvesting this product affect the surrounding environment and people?
  • Does buying this product support, devastate, or have no effect on local farmers and small business owners?
  • Is there an active, organized boycott against this particular product or company?
  • What about the bees?

It is also important to recognize in our discussions that shopping ethically is a privilege that not everyone can afford. Having the ability to follow even some of these guidelines (or access stores that sell these products) puts one in a place of privilege. As a result, we must ask ourselves: Why can only a few afford to purchase food that meets with personal morals and ethics? What can we do to change this?

The following is a list of 5 Principles for ethical shopping, re-produced and adapted from http://www.ethical.org.au/get-informed/5-principles/:

1. Every purchase makes an impact… therefore, your choice makes a difference. 

Sometimes it feels as though a small purchase doesn’t really matter. You are 1 person in a world of 6 billion. In fact, it is because each small purchase does have an impact and there are 6 billion+ people that it all adds up to one big difference. It is actually because each of our purchases do count, that we are in the environmental crisis of today. With each conscious choice we can minimize this impact.

2. Avoid unnecessary consumption… ask, “Do I need it?”

Where possible, avoid unnecessary consumption. About 80% of all saleable products end up as waste, on average, within just 6 months. How we buy will influence directly what we buy so it is important to think about the way we spend money. Is the purchase based on need, importance, urgency, or impulse? Do I really need this? How much is enough? Can it be borrowed? Or sourced from a retailer with environmental credentials? Make a preferred shopping list and keep to it. By planning ahead and anticipating the goods and services we will need – rather than making impulse buys – we give ourselves more time to find the most socially and environmentally responsible alternatives.

3. Learn about the issues… but take one issue at a time.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of issues. So it is important to remember to take on just one issue at a time. This week start with one item, say milk, and find out the issues and best alternatives. When you’ve found a ‘best buy’ for milk, move on to another product. If you take on one issue or product type every two weeks, that’s 25 in a year. If it was one a week, that would be 50. It’s easy to see how you can transform your shopping list over time to one that reflects the things you value.

4. Seek out a Best Buy… according to what you value and the options available.

There are no right or wrong purchasing decisions. Instead there are ‘better’ or ‘worse’ purchases according to what you value. A ‘best buy’ for you will depend on what you’re looking for in that particular purchase. (I.e. coffee that is fair trade, or perhaps coffee that is organic, or perhaps coffee that’s roasted locally). Mostly it is not possible to find a product that meets all the criteria that we could choose, so it’s important to prioritize our values. Know that you’ll have to make tradeoffs. Often you may find you have worked out what you value most but then you get to the store to find there’s nothing that remotely meets the criteria. Frustrating? Yep. A ‘best buy’ will be choosing a product that best meets your criteria from amongst the items available. You’ll discover over time the best places to get the items that reflect your values.

5. Make lasting change… celebrate good choices, create good habits, give feedback.

Celebrate good choices. It’s not about ‘saving the world’ but ‘taking responsibility’ where possible for our own impact. It’s sometimes easy to view our good choices as ‘just a drop in the ocean’. Guilt is not a useful emotion. And all change takes time. Remember that each positive difference is just that – a positive difference. It means your shopping list is ‘more ethical’ than before. Share your discoveries. It’s all difficult by ourselves, but when we share what we learn and get excited by our discoveries everyone benefits. Change starts with you but it doesn’t end there. If you find a ‘best buy’, get excited and tell your friends. Perhaps you can encourage those around you to review their approach to shopping. Create good habits. It looks like a huge task to change your shopping patterns, but once you’ve found a best buy, remember it and move onto the next product type on your list or issue to address. It only takes 20 days to change a habit. Remember you’re on a journey. Give feedback. Let those companies know, via letter or email, of the choices you have made. Real change can only come with communication and encouragement. You are not only supporting and encouraging sustainable practice, but also you are exercising your consumer power.

Additionally, here are six applications that can help you shop more ethically if you have a smart phone (http://ecowatch.com/2015/02/23/apps-sustainable-food-shopping/):

1. Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide: With no government mandated labeling of GMOs in the US, the Non-GMO Project is the only third-party verification that certifies and labels products that are free of genetically modified organisms. With the mobile application, consumers can search verified Non-GMO Project foods by type, brand, product or keyword.

2. EWG Food Scores: The Environmental Working Group Food Scores app rates products according to nutrition, ingredient and processing, helping consumers identify products that contain pesticides, additives and antibiotics of concern.

3. Choco-locate: The Choco-locate app helps you hunt down sweet treats by location and flavor preference but also allows users to filter based on products that meet fair trade ethical standards of production.

4. Good Fish Guide: Described as the definitive guide to sustainable seafood, this app created by the Marine Conservation Society shows consumers whether or not a fish comes from well managed sustainable farms or stocks.

5. Certified Humane: This app helps consumers identify products and restaurants that uphold stringent Certified Humane® standards of farm animal treatment from birth to slaughter.

6. Buycott: This app encourages consumers to vote for social change with their wallets by joining campaigns to help a cause by avoiding those products that oppose its ethical standard.