Keeping Your Purchases Ethical In A Big Box World

Keeping Your Purchases Ethical In A Big Box World

One of the hardest things to accomplish, as an ethically-minded, socially conscious parent, is keeping purchases…well, ethical. We live in a society that currently worships fast fashion and disposable, dollar store toys. Big box chains sell adorable kids’ clothing that falls apart before your children have grown out of it–and considering how fast kids grow, that’s significant. Sure, those leggings were only $5, so replacing the ones that developed a hole along the seam in just a few wears doesn’t seem like a huge deal. But when you consider how little the people who made those leggings are getting paid? It’s a huge deal.

The same goes for the toys kids get in loot bags at every birthday. Parents already spend hundreds of dollars on birthday parties, so the last thing most want to do is spend significantly more on loot bags for the guests. What ends up happening is a plastic bag filled with useless dollar store goodies comes home. The kids freak out with excitement and play with the tiny handheld maze for 15 minutes, and then it’s forgotten forever. They add the adorable animal eraser to their collection and never use it. They leave the tiny plastic figurine on the floor and it gets kicked under the sofa. Every one of those toys was made in a factory by someone getting paid pennies a day, in a third world country.

But it’s convenient. It’s less expensive. And who has the money to pay for more, these days?

What we’ve forgotten, in our exponential growth as a society, is that there is someone making every single thing we purchase or consume. We’ve forgotten that there’s someone on the other side of each transaction, and I don’t mean the cashier or the Amazon delivery guy.

Consuming goods of any kind is a transaction made with the person who made those goods.

That’s right, a person made your child’s toy. Or perhaps several people and a machine. The question you need to ask yourself, then, is what you believe they deserve to be paid for creating it. Do they deserve that eighth of a penny? Do you think that’s sustainable for anyone to live on?

Once you look at those cheap purchases through that frame, it’s hard to justify them. It’s like the rows of various cuts of meat from factory farmed animals that you see in the grocery store. Isolated from any context, you can actually forget those pieces of meat come from an animal that lived. Once you’ve seen how those animals suffered, however, it becomes hard to return to the status quo. And I speak as a meat eater, myself.

Thankfully, the number of companies and businesses that create and sell ethically made products is growing all the time. And the bonus with buying those more expensive goods? They’re made better, so they will ultimately last longer, which means you’re not spending as much as you think. As a society, we’ve been over-consuming for decades, but with the cost of goods driven down by moving manufacturing overseas to places where people aren’t paid what they’re worth, this over-consumption has reached lightning speed.

Supporting local, small businesses and choosing with your dollar is what we can do, as consumers. It seems like such a tiny drop in the bucket, but as more of us make these choices, those tiny drops multiply to become many buckets. That’s how we change the world. One tiny drop at a time.

If you want to see the types of small businesses changing the world who are local to Toronto, make sure you come to the Healthy Moms Toronto Spring Marketplace, happening on Sunday April 15 at Artscape Wychwood Barns.

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