Hello, everyone!! We hope you are doing potatoily!!!! 🙂
This month we’ll be talking about ethical shopping! While we have put a lot of emphasis on individual actions, industries produce much more waste that can be devastating to the environment. The environment is also very intertwined with how ethically something is produced, and we’ll be talking about some topics beyond sustainability as well as environmental ones. By purchasing a product, you are supporting the business that created it and fueling its existence. And by boycotting, you are withholding your support and putting pressure on them to improve.
Unfortunately, a lot of more humane and sustainable products are more expensive (otherwise, the others wouldn’t exist), but we’ll cover how you can support them at a manageable price. It’s also good to remember that the reason a lot of eco-friendly products are more expensive is because they’re better quality, and will therefore last longer or be healthier. Removing waste from your life to become eco-friendly will save you money in the long run, and that will help to balance out the cost. However, we understand that not everyone will be able to do everything, but that’s okay! Just do what you can. And if more ethical products gather enough support, they will become the norm! Your influence matters, and so do your dollars.
Environmentally conscious companies
We’ve already discussed sustainable companies, but even sustainably produced products may not be sustainably distributed. Last-mile delivery is the movement of goods from a delivery company’s local hub to its destination, whether a house or store. A lot of the time there are really good eco-friendly products, but the impact from the last mile offsets the positive. A really easy way to find sustainable products is to just add the word sustainable to your search (be sure to research the results, though!). But to make your task easier, here is a link to a doc with a list of eco-friendly businesses. We will be continuing to add to this doc as time passes! This is a community doc, so feel free to leave comments on it with more eco-friendly businesses, and we’ll look into them!
Supporting small and local businesses
This removes emissions from transport and supports small businesses. Small and local businesses are usually more flexible when it comes to packaging and bringing your own containers; they are also an alternative to bigger companies, which may not be as sustainable. It’s also a great way to help people around you, and to support the local economy. Here are some small and local businesses in Ann Arbor, and here are some in Ypsilanti. And here are some alternatives to Amazon.
By researching regulations on working conditions, we can stop supporting things like child labor, dangerous conditions, and so much more. Outside the US, there may be fewer regulations, and people including children are underpaid and forced to work in dangerous conditions. Be sure to look for the Fair Trade certification on products from outside the US, especially for crops such as cocoa, palm oil, and others. Even in the US, regulations aren’t perfect; when buying from big companies that don’t provide information, you can write to them to ask about their policies toward workers. Please note that we don’t have much knowledge about this topic, and we hope to cover it in the future when we know more.
While plants are an eco-friendly source of food and other materials, there are a few considerations when buying plant materials. For one thing, monoculture (the growing of a single type of crop in a large area) can lead to a loss of natural land and biodiversity. A lot of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers pollute the soil and groundwater and harm the other creatures in the vicinity. GMOs also can make plants resistant to increasingly toxic chemicals, which worsen water pollution. To find non-GMO products, either look for a Non-GMO Project certification or a USDA Organic certification. (The latter also prohibits synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and has a few other stipulations.)
Additionally, plants have been shown to feel pain and even form relationships, which brings up the question of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) being unethical exploitation. On the question of whether plants have autonomy, MastermindPotato ???? recommends this documentary.
Non-GMO and organic products are a good step, but they unfortunately don’t guarantee that animals are humanely raised. Raising animals for food is extremely unhealthy for the environment. Here is a chart of the carbon emissions from food (from this website).
Beyond that, they’re often raised in horrifying conditions. While organically raised animals can’t be genetically modified or injected with antibiotics and hormones, they can still be crammed into cages they can’t turn around in, separated from their mothers at birth, and ground up alive, to name a few things. (To learn more, we recommend the book Animal Liberation.) Even “humane” products can have shockingly low standards. For example, the top step on Global Animal Project’s humane scale is “No physical alterations,” and there are no regulations on what can claim to be humane.
The simplest, cheapest, and most eco-friendly way to withdraw support from factory farming is to go vegan. It does, however, take some adjustment, and it requires extra attention to nutrients that non-vegans get from meat, eggs, and dairy. To help with that, we have some recipes on our website, and here is an article on the benefits of being vegan and how to make sure you get the nutrients you need and guide to vegan eating. However, we understand that not everyone can be vegan for logistical or health reasons, so here are some alternatives: Reduce your meat consumption — try a plant-based diet or being vegetarian for a couple days per week; buy from local farms that you can visit; or look for pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed, or humane products that have been certified by a reliable source (more on that later).
Also, be aware that clothes and accessories also usually come from factory farms; we suggest avoiding materials such as fur, down, and leather whenever possible. There are usually plenty of vegan alternatives.
A lot of hygiene and cleaning products and cosmetics are tested on unconsenting animals, who are poisoned and eventually killed. Where a pet owner would be charged with animal abuse, a researcher wouldn’t and might actually be supported by the government. But if products are healthy and natural, testing isn’t even a concern! Cruelty-Free Certified products (look for a third-party certification such as Leaping Bunny, Choose Cruelty Free, or PETA) are always vegan and not tested on animals, and they actually aren’t too hard to find and aren’t always expensive. You can also contact companies you buy from to ask if they test on animals.
Finally, beware of greenwashing and humanewashing — a sorry attempt to lure customers by falsely promising ethical or sustainable standards! We shall be smarter than that!!!! So how do you know when something’s really humane? One way is through reliable certifications such as Fair-Trade Certified, USDA Organic, Leaping Bunny certified, etc. See our guide to labels and certifications to see which ones you can trust, and here is a list of certifiers and their strengths and weaknesses. If a company simply says the animals are “ethically treated” or that something is “all natural” but don’t back up their claim, it’s probably not true. When it comes to sustainability, look for specific information rather than general claims. If you’re unsure, you can contact the companies for more information. Here is a petition to the USDA to stop allowing humanewashing, and here is a website that rates farms based on how animals are treated.
So to wrap things up, when we buy more consciously from more eco-friendly and ethical businesses, we will be helping ourselves and the people around us as well as our planet. We the potatoes shall shape the world to our liking, mwahahaha! Really, though, companies will change based on what consumers want, so we hold much power! We think you’re a potato* for considering such an uncomfortable but important issue.
Here is a video one Potato sent that we thought we should include. It will talk more about the life cycle/story of stuff and will be pointing out a lot of issues that we need to push to change. Hopefully this will bring more clarity to what you want to support in your everyday life. Here it is: The Story of Stuff.
Just a reminder that we have a list of eco-friendly companies and a list of product labels, and please comment or email us with more businesses and any information we might have missed! Finally, here is this month’s checklist. Thank you for being a potato!!!!!!! ????????