I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about trying to live a more “ethical” life. By this I mean, walking the walk, acting more in accordance with some of my views and principles. This is in no way a manifesto. I just thought if I could do the occasional blog about it, it might help me clarify things.
So: What the f&ck do I mean by living a More Ethical Lifestyle? It’s about the choices I make when it comes to buying goods, recycling & environmental stuff and the things I support by engaging with them (or not), actively or passively. This still sounds a bit academic, so let me give some examples…
Buying stuff. This is probably easiest to define. In terms of food, it’s about buying stuff that’s been ethically produced – no battery farmed stuff, preferably organic fruit & veg etc (although I admit I’m a bit sceptical about “organic” as the labelling is not always regulated, and it’s often an excuse to print money). Furniture that’s been made well and to last (eg: not Ikea!), from sustainable or eco-friendly sources, clothes that aren’t sweatshop or near enough. etc. I’m in a good spot food-wise here, because Switzerland loves “bio” stuff and is very strong on local produce, most of which is excellent, although you do pay more for it – oftentimes A LOT more. Oh well.
When it comes to other products though, it also gets harder. Cosmetics are a big issue that I would rather ignore but I can’t. For want of a better word, the “un-ethicalness” of being a vain woman is kinda scary. Hair dye. Makeup. Plastic containers of goop for hands, face, hair etc. Contact lenses (not gender specific of course, but when I think of the hypothetical pile of used and discarded contact lenses that would build up throughout a regular CL-wearer’s lifetime, it’s pretty gross).
Then there’s sanitary products, the waste/discards from hair removal/waxing, nails (I had acrylic nails for 5 years – lemme tell you, that shit ain’t organic!), junk jewellery. Old handbags. Shoes that you don’t wear because they were good in the shop but they’re actually hideously uncomfortable. Throw-away fashion. Unfortunately on the clothing front – I’m a bit fickle. I like cheap, fun stuff a lot of the time and I generally prefer quantity over quality. So that’s a bit of an issue for me. It’s depressing. Of course, I always put old clothes in the charity bin I’d really prefer not to encourage/support so much cheap tat being produced in the first place.
Problem is, I just can’t see myself going out tomorrow to start seeking biodegradable hair dye, organic makeup or vegetable nail polish. But maybe now I’ve written this, I will try a bit harder. And, again, the expense of pretty much everything in Switzerland is a deterrent to impulse buying for cheap thrills.
Recycling. Luckily for me, this is a no-brainer in Zurich because the city is really well set up for all kinds of recycling. In fact, Stadt Zurich actively encourages you to put out less “landfill” waste by taxing the garbage bags (Zuri Sacks) you have to use and, I believe, even the “landfill” rubbish goes to a biomass recycling plant rather than to actual landfill (Oh and I see there’s even a recycling tram to collect bulky items!). Plus there are paper and card collections every other week, there are bottle banks everywhere and there’s even a separate bin for bioabfall, which includes all kinds of kitchen and garden waste.
Environmental stuff. This is a biggie. For all the horrendous human rights abuses that are going on around the globe, the damage we’re doing to the natural world is just criminal. Policies that involve people can be changed, our behaviour towards others can be changed. If we destroy the environment, there’s no takebacks. I’m not saying I don’t believe in addressing human issues: of course I do. But the environmental stuff is so urgent and crucial right now. It’s a cliche but there’s no point creating a wonderful society of human beings if there’s no planet for us to dwell on, right!? And it’s so often sidelined. I would like to do more to help.
Things I engage with. This is the trickiest one and perhaps what kicked me into thinking about this whole “ethical lifestyle” thing in the first place. And it’s a lot more insidious. Example: The World Cup is on at the moment and Fifa is well-documented as being corrupt, so part of me would like to not engage with anything World Cup related on principle. Especially as Fifa is based just up the road… But, assuming I did that, would it make one jot of difference to Fifa? And I quite enjoy watching some of the matches. So who am I hurting with this highly-principled response? Only myself. And this one is relatively easy, because I don’t enjoy football that much. What about when it comes to giving up something I really love because it’s produced by a corrupt Big Business?
Because, ideally, I would “boycott” all companies and their output that I deem corrupt and/or essentially evil. But that’s almost all of them! I’d have to change my bank accounts in three countries, stop buying most of those cosmetics and vanity products listed above, never eat takeaway food from a global chain, never buy another piece of clothing from Topshop. As well as encouraging my husband to quit his job at one of the Global Big 4 auditing firms etc. Again, it comes down to – how much does acting “ethically” impinge on my lifestyle? It always strikes me how it’s so easy for people to scream against Monsanto, while happily guzzling down a Diet Coke. I can’t believe that on a world scale Coke is much better than Monsanto. All big companies are essentially corrupt – you can’t make shitloads of money without doing some dodgy deals somewhere and screwing the little guy/s somehow.
I don’t have any answers for this. I am probably being too idealistic too think there are any. And, ultimately, I’m a bit too lazy, vain and complacent to change things. But I’ve been thinking about it… and it does bother me.
I suppose an obvious answer is to fight the good fight more – be part of the solution, sign petitions, write letters, give to charity, raise awareness (whatever that means?! I am reluctant to start posting loads of preachy/guilt-inducing articles on Facebook!) Yeah, I’m sceptical about slacktivism – in some ways I think it’s worse than doing nothing because you feel all self-satisfied but what do petitions really achieve? Perhaps I am wrong. I probably need to do some more research.
Anyway – if you have some ideas of (ideally easy) changes that can be made (or petitions to sign ;)) … let me know!
Ha! I thought I’d check the blog sniffing for talk of the news but here this is instead. Love it.
I am completely consumed with guilt too – everything I do is hypocritical. Social media constantly reminds me I could be doing more.
I have gone back to vegetarianism last 2 years but some would argue vegetarianism is equally damaging to the environment for the crop space cleared and pesticides used to sustain it. Vegans also might call me hypocritical. I don’t know.
I have friends who raid puppy farms and free them from evil breeders. Whilst I do nothing.. just tear up at the photos they uncover.
The front page of the Metro yesterday said that footage of shearing sheds recently came to light : Sheep often get their heads kicked in with impatient shearers, throat accidentally cut open, necks snapped as they’re shoved down the chute.. so there goes all my wool purchases.
Every item I buy small or big is besmirched with guilt because I think about the environment that had to be raped to make the product and package it up. Then I cant help thinking about where it’s going to go at the end of it’s life too – in landfill etc. eg buying white goods for the kitchen – almost joyless!
urban glamour as you say with hair dye etc = Can’t cope off the grid.
Anyway, a friend just recently told me to try and let go and just “do whatever you can in your own way without justifying it to anyone”
So I’ll handball that same advice to you. Slacktivism at least promotes social conscience.
Good advice. I still need to do some reasearch as to what I can do. I like the idea of going about it quietly tho. I think that’s what gets me about slacktivism / bleating on social media. It’s a bit too In Yo Face Bitch: I’m doing this and if you’re not, it means you suck. It’s similar for a lot of the motherhood/parenting advice whizzing around. I just don’t agree with the method of the message! Unfortunately it often seems easier to shame your friends who you should be supporting than get off our butts and fight the Big Guys
Can only imagine in the mums would being weathered by constant opining.
(Bleating on social media is the best way to get things across though, but yes people need to make their own decisions… and anyway anyone on my friends list is just preaching to the converted. Hmm. OK ! ARGH! )
I guess I’m more of a put it out there person, I’ve taken to writing a lot of letters to politicians! I’m always interested by the responses (well some don’t bother but most do!) Maybe it doesn’t achieve anything, but to me, saying nothing in the face of actions that I find reprehensible is complicity. I think it’s easier to ignore, but if everyone turns a blind eye then we are all doomed! I don’t think we can rely on media, corporations or government to just do the right thing all the time. A bit of accountability can make a difference.
But you’re right to pick your battles, I don’t think it’s all or nothing. Small changes make a big difference, like I’m doing “plastic free July” and even though I try to be pretty green, I’m surprised by how many coffee lids, plastic forks and bags I’ve refused in the last week or so. Just that reminder to always have a reusable bag, or a reusable cup on hand, it adds up, surely? Then you look around at the shopping centre and everyone’s chucking food/ wasting plastic.. does it count? Maybe not, but doing nothing *definitely* doesn’t.
Maybe you could pick your worst cosmetic evil, like I’ve stopped buying products that are tested on animals. Sometimes it’s a lot of label reading but it’s a small thing I can do to put my money where my mouth is. However, I still don’t check for palm oil, it’s just not one of my things although kudos to those who do! I don’t feel judged by vegans or anyone else doing “more than me” because I think I do a lot with what I have.
I tell my kids “every time you by anything, you’re voting for the world you want”. Sometimes we all vote for the cheap and nasty, but don’t let that stop you from voting for the good guys occasionally.
So maybe watch the world cup, but refrain from the merch ? You’re fighting the good fight by even asking the qs imho x
Agreed- even asking the questions, even being conscious of it is a great thing.
wait, is the world cup over? problem solved.
Did I send you this link before? http://storyofstuff.org/ There’s nothing new here, but she puts it succinctly.
I try to reduce and recycle, but I’ll admit that saving money is probably my main motivator. Behaviour won’t change until things cost more. Things won’t cost more until we reach the brink. The brink is coming probably (very sadly) by the time our kids are grannies. And then they’ll either be wars over what is left or people will finally invest in alternatives. Or both. I like to think that science will save us, but I think a kind of armageddon will occur and things will return to a feudal system when populations are decimated, and then nature will fight back. Some creatures will die but new ones will emerge. I don’t worry myself that I can make a difference at all. If there’s a better choice to take. I’ll take it. I’ll vote for the better person. But you’ve got to live in the world.
Now I’m off to watch some unethically sourced TV!