Ethical Consumerism

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by groph, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. groph

    groph SS.org Regular

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    I just got to thinking a little bit about ethical consumerism, or the practice of having an ethical basis guiding the purchase of goods, also "dollar voting."

    Vegetarianism is an example, sure there are the stereotypical high and mighty vegetarians but it's also possible that you don't want to support the meat industry due to its environmental damage and treatment of livestock. So, you don't buy meat, you don't support the industry with your money.

    Not buying clothes made by children in Southeast Asia is another, as would "supporting local business" by avoiding big-chain stores like Walmart.

    I just want to know what your thoughts are. Consumerism/capitalism is pervasive so it's nigh impossible to escape it fully and it's all too easy to implicitly accept questionable ethical practices carried out by certain businesses/industries by not paying attention to what you buy.
     
    JeffFromMtl, Durero and Bigfan like this.
  2. pink freud

    pink freud SS.org Regular

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    I try to keep it in mid, for sure.

    Even things like chocolate you have to be careful about.
     
  3. m3l-mrq3z

    m3l-mrq3z Banned

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    Don't give a fuck. Consume. Really.
     
  4. MythicSquirrel

    MythicSquirrel #menswear

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    I always try to take in to consideration where my clothing is made, especially if I'm going to pay a premium price. The quality.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Vinchester

    Vinchester SS.org Regular

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    Well we can start by using less plastic bags when shopping.

    As to selective buying, the choice is yours but there's a lot of business operations going on in the supply chain, and I doubt choosing your purchase based on involvement by certain factories would have little impact. Unless your effort makes it into the news then corporations would notice.

    But then again, personally I think American urban planning where in most of the country you have to drive to go anywhere is the ultimate wasteful practice. I'd support more public transportation.
     
  6. Vhyle

    Vhyle Jackson Shill

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    Not buying gas from Citgo, in order to make sure your money doesn't go to Hugo Chavez, is another prime example.

    It's boycotting, of course, but that falls under this subject.
     
  7. groph

    groph SS.org Regular

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    Yeah. As much as I hate it when people instantly snap to conclusions like "Oh, you're not buying clothes made in Cambodia, what, are you trying to save the world?" or "I see you participated in a rally, what, are you trying to save the Natives?" no, you're probably not going to "save the world" by practicing ethical consumerism. On an individual scale it's probably not going to have much of an effect on anything unless everybody bought the same way, voted the same way, thought the same way (democracy would be kind of pointless if this were the case), etc.

    Really, it's just using the existing rules of the system in a misguided effort to change the system (if you in fact are trying to make a difference) because you're still using currency, you're still supporting a business, therefore still supporting private property/wealth ownership; you're still playing the game, you're just rooting for the underdog.

    Even things like "green products" that have been made "environmentally friendly" just become another marketing gimmick. Coffee can sell better if people know it's fair-trade and the grower in Columbia got paid 75 cents an hour rather than 65 cents an hour.

    Basically this, this is philosopher Slavoj Zizek talking about "cultural cahpeetahleezhm" and he touches on some things totally related to ethical consumerism

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpAMbpQ8J7g



    EDIT: What he talks about is a lot broader in its implications but to sum up what he does say that has to do with this thread - in the act of buying something, like Starbuck's Coffee, with its ethic of fair trade, environmentalism and so on, you are absolving yourself of any wrongdoing as if you bought normal evil coffee like Tim Horton's because of that feel-good sentiment. You, as the consumer, have the power to opt out of the buying process but you're not - you're using the rules of the system that perpetuates global poverty, child labor, human rights abuses, etc. in an attempt not so much to fix anything, but to cure your consciousness.
     
  8. Trespass

    Trespass AEADGBEA

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    Wrong answer.

    The meat industry is freaking out right now, trying to figure out how to market to the 18-30 demographic. Meat sales since 2000 have reached historical lows, and continue to fall.

    Abstract from a related paper:
    There are a few articles I've read on this, but I can't seem to find them right now.

    *Bias: I've been a near-vegan since 2007. In reality, I couldn't care less what you guys eat.

    ----------

    I like the related concept/slang of slacktivism:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacktivism

     
  9. m3l-mrq3z

    m3l-mrq3z Banned

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    The moment you realize you are a citizen in a country that is part of a civilization that has been built uppon the suffering and the exploitation of countless human beings and the ressources of other countries is the moment you realize that buying this kind of bags, wearing those clothes, buying fair-trade bananas isn't going to solve anything. If anything, it will make you feel less bad. In the long run, you can't change the way our world works.
     
  10. DSilence

    DSilence SS.org Regular

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    I've always tried to vote with my dollar & pick companies that I would rather give my money too, or support s local business, Its hard to avoid completly as alot of larger corporations are tied to eachother, but a little research helps. Read The Story of Stuff if this interests you. Its a good read. Computers and electronics are the hardest to find eithical manufactuers, they are just so concerned with pumping out new models & making older models redundant as soon as they can, virtually forcing you to consume even if you do try to get the longest life out of your things. Huge subject though & some people just dont give two shits but what can you do.
     
  11. phugoid

    phugoid SS.org Regular

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    And all this time, I was going to the grocery store with my Superman cape to save the world with a bag of fair trade coffee. :lol:

    Things don't have to be black and white in order to make sense. There are questions of degree. I often choose to buy a product that I believe is slightly better for the planet, and slightly better for the people who make it. I'm not expecting to save the earth single-handedly, nor to lift the whole third world out of misery. On their own, my choices have no consequence. But I am aligning my actions with my beliefs about how I think the world should be.

    Most importantly, I am teaching my children what I think is right by example. The world often changes slowly, as the old generations die off and new mentalities become commonplace. I grew up unaware of social/environmental issues, but my children won't.

    It's also possible to balance these choices with the realities of my daily life, and not become a tiresome zealot about it. For instance, using public transport wouldn't be practical for me right now, though I've made a point of it in the past. I do bring the kids on the metro just for the sake of teaching them what it's all about.

    The biggest problem with a balanced viewpoint is that it doesn't lead to vigorous arguments with other people.
     
  12. DSilence

    DSilence SS.org Regular

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    Agree with this, fair trade is almost a marketing gimmick now, but from what I have been told, in the case of coffee anyway is that fairtrade isnt that great either as the farmers don't see the money straight away. Im not totally sure how it works but the same goes with cages eggs vs free range, apparently the birds are just as messed up & can be kept in the same poor condition except they are not in a cage? So I dunno, question everything :fawk:
     
  13. flint757

    flint757 SS.org Regular

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    If it is mass produced then questionable practices were probably used and nearly everything is mass produced or uses parts that were mass produced.

    I'd say instead of focusing on the product side people should pay more attention to where they actually shop.

    I shop at big name stores, but if people are concerned with ethical consumerism then Walmart should be an absolute last resort. They destroy entire communities just by merely existing. My needs typically outweigh my concerns though.
     
  14. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    Yeah, I try to use my dollars to "vote" for what I support. I don't get super involved with it, in terms of looking into the supply chains of the products I'm buying, but when something presents itself to me I do it. For instance, years ago when the senior people at Palm left the company and formed Handspring I found that unethical, because they were basically just stealing the technology.
    There's a restaurant in my town that has been here for 10 years. Two years ago another restaurant opened on the same block with - get this- the same name. I won't eat at the new one because they're just trying to capitalize on the success of the first one.
    And then I don't buy any Samsung stuff right now because I think they stole IP from Apple. (I don't want to get into a big discussion about who Apple stole from, etc. here, though, so let's keep it on topic.)

    I think it's really difficult to do fully researched ethical consuming, or fully researched ethical investing, and there are a lot of gray lines, but I also think the world changes by individuals sticking to what they believe in and doing what they feel is right.

    And I always think of this awesome quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead:
    "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have."
     
  15. Watty

    Watty Naturally Cynical

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    I think that this sort of thing is ridiculous. At the end of the day, your capitalistic choices will support one thing or another that you would be decidedly against. Whether it be the treatment of the animal whose flesh you eat or the carbon footprint of the factory that made the "hybrid" engine driving the tractor on the "green" farm. That said, why bother trying to effectively boycott something bad when you inevitably support something as bad or worse? Now, I don't say this in terms of "support the place who exploits children, etc," but most of the stuff we consume is supported by industries that do "bad" things, and we never know about it. So even avoiding it when you can really isn't solving the problem and it shouldn't necessarily be clearing your conscience.

    My friend is on a diet kick having to do with this idea and his reasoning for it baffles me. He'll eat at Qdoba, because they have an entirely vegetarian option for their burritos, which is cool. However, I don't understand why he feels okay eating there as the veggies are sitting right next to a platter of stewing meat that probably came from a CAFO in the mid-west. I'd never really bothered to get his insight on this, but the point is pretty easy to see when you think about it. I don't claim to be against the "consumeristic" view of food in this way because I know that it's never going to change until the population is reduced. We shot ourselves in the god damn foot as soon as we developed the means to not have to farm our own food. Whining about the cow's feelings whose life only existed for the express purpose of feeding people eating at Mickey D's isn't going to change anything, and it certainly isn't going to make me adverse to eating it. Whether the chicken in the salad had 1' square in which to roam or 4, it's still a fucking chicken that was hatched to feed you.

    As a result, I figure the only folks that can really claim to be supporting something "good" are those people that say, go into law and fight these issues. When you make a conscious effort that can actually get somewhere and have a chance at changing something, I think you have an immense resolve that should be applauded. But when you simply refuse to eat somewhere because you don't like where they got their food, you're not doing anything to solve the problem. Heck, being that you now go to a different restaurant, you might be making it worse, if not only because both places have a carbon footprint, "unethical" food sources, etc.

    Edit: \rant
     
  16. groph

    groph SS.org Regular

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    This does all seem to turn back to the problem of market-driven economies and the logics of capitalism and the brilliant ways in which capitalism can survive under adversity e.g. "Marketing practices unethical? Make them ethical and then advertise how ethical you're being, people will love that shit and buy more of your stuff!"

    It's like we're living under "if it can be sold, it ought to be" and ethics takes a backseat. It's very, very interesting to me knowing how people can buy something knowing damn well that there's foul play involved in getting the good to the store, we'll keep talking about coffee and how the guy who grew the coffee is struggling to support his family while the heads of the companies who buy from him are raking in millions a year.

    I guess something can really be said about the "distance" there is between us, the consumer, and Mr. Alvarez, the coffee grower. Even though globalism "makes the world smaller" we still don't have much of a connection to some of the goods we buy. When we buy meat, we see slabs of flesh packaged in plastic being sold at a grocery store. Clothes, we see finely woven bits of cotton or whatever material, we're surrounded by finished products and their corresponding advertisements and we're alienated, at least in varying degrees, to the whole process of production. Through television commercials I can get a glimpse into the poverty of the third world - decades past I'd have to actually go there myself to see it, but again that's still the only glimpse I get. And to go even further, the glimpse I do get is one that's been very planned out by a television commercial production team that's been designed to send a certain message about a certain part of the world (i.e. the "third world" as we understand it over here), leading me to believe that life in Africa is basically a bunch of starved children standing around dirt streets crying and swatting flies.

    Basically what I'm getting at is that there exist barriers that obscure knowledge of the production of goods, the indirect connection between different corporate bodies is an example. It's tough to have an ethic guiding your consumption when you have to invest significant time and energy into researching the backgrounds of everything you buy - you don't have that kind of time because you have to do your part to keep the system running. We all have to make a living somehow, that's true regardless of how an economy is structured, but under capitalism we're basically given one option as to how to satisfy our material needs. That's super old-school Marxist sounding and it's definitely arguable that the "real world" is a little more complicated than I'm letting on but I still think it applies to most working people.
     
  17. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal SF2 > Everything

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    I take issue with people who advocate and preach ethical consumerism, here's why and I'm open to be corrected if possible:

    A) Ethics are entirely subjective, I think we can probably agree on that point. The problem that arises here is the age-old question in moral-based philsophy which is, "who says what's ethical practice and what's not ethical practice?" How do we agree on what kind of consumerism is ethical and what isn't? And most importantly, how do you separate rhetoric from fact when it comes to measuring the impact of an "unethical consumer choice?" Or an ethical one for that matter?

    B) I'm an average joe, that being said i don't know how many ethical consumer choices I would have to make in a day, week, month, year, etc. for me to have any offsetting impact to the unethical practices in question that may be linked to the products I purchase. I don't have access to that kind of information when i buy a guitar, or a pair of jeans, or deodorant or whatever. And i don't think I'd be going out on a limb when I say that I'm pretty certain that a lot of people don't know either, so why is ethical consumerism a factor in our lives when it's not well understood? Is it a bandwagon trend for people to jump on to make themselves feel better? Yes, I think it is so, without a doubt.

    C) When it comes down to it, if I want to buy something that I want, 9 times out of 10 my want for that product will outweigh most of the unethical practices that I hear might be linked to that product. My only soft spot is animal cruelty, which my opinion is a very firm "fuck you" if animals are abused in anyway linked to any product here's looking at you South Korea and Japan which takes me back to the first point I made - Ethics are subjective. As long as it's that way then people, well people like me at least, will do what's in their best interest minus their own biases taken their own set of morals. And can you blame them?
     

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