Ethically-made products are generally more expensive for many good reasons and a lot of conscious consumers might not be able to afford them on a limited budget.
Thankfully, there are many simple ways to shop ethically without spending a ton of money. Just think outside the box to easily afford sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free products.
As more and more consumers ask for transparency, accountability, and sustainability, responsibly sourced and ethically-made goods will eventually become the norm and their prices will go down.
To help you make more mindful purchasing decisions as a well-informed consumer, here is the ultimate guide to shopping ethically on a budget.
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1. Buy fewer unnecessary things
For responsible shoppers on a tight budget, there are simple ways to shop more ethically. Shop strategically, do a bit of research, and think outside the box to afford products that are both environmentally friendly and fair without spending a ton of money.
One of the best ways to do so is to reduce the amount of unnecessary stuff you buy every month. The most sustainable product is the one you already own.
The best way to save money and the planet is to buy fewer things. As a conscious consumer, think about the consequences behind each one of your purchasing decisions.
It's time to move away from excessive consumerism to save money, resources, water, and energy. Buying fewer products that you don't necessarily need to shop ethically on a budget.
Adopt a more sustainable and ethical approach to consumption by only purchase what you need, the essentials for your day-to-day life. You can even follow a minimalist lifestyle.
Owning less is a great feeling. And oftentimes, less is more. It's a great way to live intentionally and mindfully.
Buy less and only what you need to increase your budget as well as do good to the planet. If you make a conscious effort to shop for what is necessary, you will create less waste and pollution.
2. Purchase eco-friendly products
Shop for sustainable products made from eco-friendly materials that contain healthy and safe ingredients. Look for items made from natural, organic, compostable, biodegradable, and recycled materials.
Shop for more durable and high-quality items that last longer. Quality construction and materials allow you to use products for an extended period, reduce pollution, and save resources.
Look for low-impact materials when looking for ethically-made goods. It's one of the best ways to be more responsible with your purchases. Ingredients and raw materials contribute a lot to our footprint.
Materials made from natural and organic fibers such as organic cotton, organic hemp, linen, jute, wood, glass, paper have a low social and environmental impact but some of them consume a lot of water, cotton in particular.
Sustainable synthetic fabrics such as recycled polyester, nylon, lyocell, and biobased plastics are another eco-friendly option but some of them add up to global plastic pollution.
3. Buy from ethical brands
Support ethical brands that minimize their social and environmental impacts. Buy from businesses and companies working hard to protect the Earth, animals, and human rights.
Even small steps count to make a difference on a global level. You have the power to drive positive change on a global scale as a conscious consumer by simply carefully choosing what you buy and voting with your money.
You can do a bit of work and research your favorite brands. Find out how and where they make their products, and how they measure their sustainability progress.
Looking for responsible brands is an important step to afford ethically made goods on a budget. As a consumer, it gives you the power to make better choices and positively influence many industries.
If you can't find enough information on a brand's website, or cannot get a clear answer from them directly, consult various other resources such as brand directories to discover the most ethical, sustainable brands.
4. Boycott unethical organizations
Many brands and retailers aim to make the most profit with little care for people and the environment. They use toxic fabrics full of hazardous chemicals and produce their clothes in cheap labor countries under poor working conditions.
Some of them want to be seen as eco-friendly when they are not. They use deceptive marketing practices called greenwash and claim that their products have a low impact on the environment when the large majority of their business activities remain highly polluting.
There are no good excuses why businesses can't offer sustainable and ethically-made goods today. Fight for more social justice and environmental stewardship by boycotting companies that aren't doing their part.
It's time to turn the tide and buy from ethical brands and boycott brands that use unsafe factories, forced labor, child labor, and sweatshop-like working conditions.
Being ethically made means focusing strongly on improving the social aspects around production, such as how the factories operate, how employees are treated and paid.
Ethically made also means, fairly produced, Fairtrade, and socially responsible. It means standing up for workers' rights and ensuring good work conditions for all men and women, especially those living in the world's poorest countries.
Labor rights violations are still very common in many industries, including apparel production. Poor working conditions and unfair wages shouldn't exist anymore.
5. Look for certifications
As a conscious consumer, make sure the products you are about to buy were made under the highest social standards. Everyone has a role to play and can take action to drive positive change.
A great way to check if a product was made ethically is to look for certifications. Certified items are generally better for the environment and guarantee socially responsible working conditions in every step of the supply chain.
Certification standards encourage brands, retailers, and manufacturers to implement policies and hold more responsibility toward the environment and supply chain workers.
Certifications and quality marks are important to ensure that products are manufactured with responsible use of resources and the least possible impact on people, animals, and the environment.
There are so many different certification standards out there that it can be difficult to tell which ones are relevant. Some verify the application of social regulations. Others only attest to environmental impacts.
Some of the best standards to look for include B Corp, Fairtrade, Fair Wear, GOTS, SA8000.
Visit a brand's website and look for these certifications. You should be able to find the symbols on the homepage, the product, or the sustainability page. If you find any of these, it is a good sign that the product you are about to buy is ethically made.
The best certification standards are granted by third-party organizations. Look for them when shopping for ethically produced goods. They are recognized internationally and validate that the company is on track to be more ethical.
6. Avoid animal-derived ingredients
Billions of animals are slaughtered each year to make fur, leather, wool, silk, or down. A lot of animal cruelty happens daily in many industries, especially in fashion.
Animals such as pigs, cows, rabbits, foxes, birds, sheep are enslaved, exploited, subjected to painful treatments, and exposed to dangerous substances with long-term disastrous effects on ecosystems and human health.
Ethical companies avoid animal products and by-products. They are cruelty-free and avoid any animal-derived ingredient in production and don't use animal testing.
Fortunately, more and more conscious consumers choose to shop ethically and avoid any animal ingredients. They understand that high-quality, affordable items can also be animal-free.
Animal-derived materials are unethical and cause irreversible damage to the environment. Animal farming requires an enormous amount of resources, pollutes the environment with toxic chemicals, and contributes massively to global warming.
One sheep alone can produce about 30 liters of methane each day, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, warming the planet as much as 80 times more than carbon dioxide.
To shop for ethically made products on a budget, choose cruelty-free and vegan goods, produced from natural resources without any animal-derived material.
7. Shop for locally-made goods
Buy food, clothes, and beauty products made locally and organically as much as you can. Visit the farmers' market and stock up on delightful, organic, and locally-made products.
By choosing local and organic items over conventional products, you reduce your ecological footprint drastically. Make a conscious effort to look for items that are responsibly and locally sourced and buy in bulk to save money.
You reduce greenhouse gas emissions from production and transportation by a lot when you choose local goods. Support initiatives that favor local manufacturing and material sourcing to boost the local economy and the wellbeing of local communities.
By choosing locally made products, you can help local farmers and workers and empower them to provide sustainable livelihoods for families.
8. Look for products that give back
If you want to shop ethically on a budget, look for products that give back to people in need and environmental organizations. Help fight the exploitation of local farming and working communities.
Ethically made products support voluntary social initiatives that encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.
Social and environmental stewardship matters. Companies should have ethical standards and make commitments to universal sustainability principles and fundamental socially responsible principles.
Support ethical companies that are involved in corporate sustainability or social responsibility initiatives and buy products that give back to local communities.
The most ethical and socially responsible companies donate a large portion of their profits to support charitable causes. They actively participate in philanthropic or charity-based activities, recycling, reforestation, ocean cleanup, and waste collection.
9. Buy and sell second-hand items
Buying and selling second-hand is becoming cool again. It's a great way to shop ethically, find deals, save money, and limit waste. The second-hand industry is rapidly growing for many good reasons.
Finding exclusive items while browsing resale sites or thrift shops is super fun. Buy second-hand goods to promote a more sustainable and responsible way of living and shopping.
Second-hand products are helping the environment tremendously. At your local thrift store, resale shops, or online, you can find used or vintage clothes that save money, resources, and reduce your fashion footprint.
There are many good reasons and opportunities to buy second-hand goods. It's a more conscious way of consuming. It also makes sustainability and ethical shopping accessible to more people.
10. Repurpose and recycle
Recycle any paper, glass, metals, and plastics that you use. Recycling highly reduces the amount of waste going out into the world. It helps you feel good about yourself, improve your self-esteem, and keep a good conscience.
You can reuse, repurpose, and upcycle old items. For example, you can turn old clothes into tote bags or cleaning rags. It's a great way to begin living ethically, save money, use fewer resources, water, and energy.
Upcycling is the process of turning old items into new products that are more beneficial and worthwhile without breaking them down completely.
If an item cannot be reused anymore, it's time to recycle. Recycling is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. It's much more sustainable than throwing stuff in the trash.
All kinds of waste are piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. Recycle used products instead of throwing them away to help against this issue. It preserves natural resources like water, minerals, and timber.
Discarding your old things responsibly as it's highly beneficial to the human environment since you help convert waste into new materials. And shop for products made of recycled content.
Recycling makes an enormous difference on a global scale. It not only saves resources but also supports the local community and businesses involved in the collection, sorting, and distribution of waste.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.