I swear to you that I tried to find a more sexy prop than a tin of lentils, but I’m on holidays and completely out of my routine, so the pantry cupboard is pretty grim. Soon Johanis will be scrounging scraps out of my new indoor composter (unrelated: should I be offended that the brand recommends the indoor composter for the ‘elderly and enfeebled’ — what about those of us who are just lazy and a bit afraid of the dark?).
In any case, the 2013 edition of Shop Ethical!: The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping ($8.95AUD) arrived for me in the post today. It’s a booklet that I ordered from one of my favourite websites, the Ethical Consumer Group, for whipping out of the depths of my handbag when I’m pondering the cheese section in my local supermarket. The guide contains a list of common supermarket products and brands, with company and parent company ratings on the basis of issues like palm oil, overfishing, animal welfare, child labour, genetic engineering, multinational ownership, tax justice and packaging.
Easy peasy, right? *NERVOUS LAUGHTER*
I’m so used to shopping without thinking — grabbing what is on special, what has the prettiest packaging, what my mother used — that the idea of putting so much thought into my everyday purchases is pretty overwhelming. Sometimes I’d like to go and hide in a cave I’ve constructed out of mass-manufactured white bread glued together with a multi-national corporation’s high fructose corn syrup spread. In fact, I think I do hide in that sort of cave most of the time (metaphorically rather than literally speaking, although if I do actually build such a cave I will definitely post pictures) and it’s only since I’ve been engaging with guides like Shop Ethical! that I’ve been popping my head out now and then.
At least Shop Ethical! is ordered in a manner that helps me to make purchasing decisions quickly; thank the Lord for colour-coding, illustrations, indexes, symbols. I can flick through the guide to ‘Cottage Cheese’ and see that Bulla is an Australian company that has been assessed as having a positive ethical track-record, whereas Dairy Farmers is owned by the Japanese company Kirin, which has been critisied for genetic engineering and animal testing. At least that one’s a no-brainer for me.
Of course I’m an entrenched consumer (HELLO STUFF I LOVE YOU), so I identified with the guide’s focus on finding a practical way to create positive change with our supermarket shopping. Shopping this way can be confusing, resource-intensive, and more expensive, but I’m slowly learning ways of circumnavigating some of those issues. It’s also sometimes frustrating because I’m often choosing what I believe to be the lesser of two evils (with the knowledge that I’m probably failing a lot of the time), but I’m just mindful that every purchase I make works to endorse a company and the things that it does, even if that’s not what I intended.
Shop Ethical! is also available as a smartphone app for $4.49AUD from the iTunes App Store and the Android Marketplace (which I’ve featured in a previous post on how I research a company’s animal testing status). You can also search for brands on the Ethical Consumer Guide website. Very soon, I’ll be giving away a copy of the 2013 edition of Shop Ethical!: The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping (SO GLAM, YES?) to a reader — and hey, I may even sweeten the deal with some goodies from People Tree, Blue Q, and Korres.