We all want to do good, don’t we?
So many people around the world are suffering. And the planet itself is in pain from the pollution we pump out everyday.
But how can we make a difference?
We’re just little families living our own little lives. We don’t have the power of a government or a massive company or the UN or something. How can we possibly change anything?
Well you know what?
We do have power, every one of us. Huge power. And that’s the power of our purse.
Sounds cheesy, huh? Or naive. But it’s not.
The Power Of Our Purse
Consumer spending accounts for a whopping 70% of GDP in the USA. How we spend our money makes all the difference in the world.
We can spend our money in ways that slash toxic pollution. We can spend our money in ways that bring skilled jobs back to our towns. We can spend our money in ways that stop child labour and modern slavery.
It’s our choice. And our choices add up.
Imagine, we switched just £1,000 or $1,000 a year as a family into more ethical. eco friendly products. $1,000 doesn’t sound so much.
But if 1,000 people in our neighbourhood use the power of their purse its $1 million and:
- 10,000 people citywide = $10 million
- 100,000 people regionally = $100 million
- 1,000,000 people nationally = $1 billion.
That’s $1 billion doing good in the world without a massive change in our lifestyles.
And you know what? These days, we all have another awesome power that can really get this eco friendly, ethical living ball rolling because we are all influencers on social media.
Our influence might seem small but it adds up in a quite unbelievable way …
We Are All Influencers
Let’s say you make one little ethical shopping switch and tell your friends about it on Facebook. And 10 of them, think “oh cool I’ll do that too.” And tell their friends about it.
And then 10 of their friends make their switch. And you’ve got 100 people changing.
They tell their friends. And suddenly 1,000 people shop differently. And when they each influence 10 people to change too, it’s 10,000.
And then our social influence goes crazy.
Because when 10,000 people influence 10 friends, 100,000 people shop differently. And when 10 of their friends join in, a million people use the power of their purse to do good!!!
And that – you have to admit – is powerful.
But then the BIG question is: what are these eco friendly, ethical choices? How can we shop differently to do good in the world?
Well I’ve got 12 biggies for you here, including lots of practical tips, for how you can actually make easy switches in everyday shopping .
You don’t have to change everything at once, you can start small but you do NEED to tell your friends what you’re doing because then the power of our purse truly is world changing.
12 Sustainable Living Tips
1. Enjoying Life Clutter Free
OK first things first : enjoying life clutter free IS the single most powerful eco friendly and ethical living choice we can all make.
I mean think about it.
Our homes are crammed full of crazy clutter making us miserable. We never wear or use or enjoy half the stuff. So let’s stop buying it.
If we all channel our inner Marie Kondo and live clutter free we will slash pollution instantly.
AND – and this is enormous – free up the power of our purse to change the world further.
Because once we stop buying so much, we have more money to spend better.
2. Gorgeous Vintage
Each time we use the power of our purse to buy gorgeous vintage or preloved or just plain old second hand we …
- Reduce the mountains of raw materials we’re pillaging from the planet
- Cut toxic emissions from factories
- Limit landfill waste
So always snag your bargains second hand!
We’re rubbish for trashing the planet aren’t we?
But don’t despair because some totally brilliant brains have invented unbelievably clever recycled products to make use of our waste.
There’s sandals from car tyres, super stylish belts from fire hoses, wash bags from truck tarpaulins and everything from kids’ toys to coats, socks and more out of plastic bottles.
Each time we buy a recycled product we :
- Reduce raw material pillaging
- AND limit landfill.
I’ve got a big list for you of fab recycled products. Do remember to share your finds with friends so they can cut waste too.
4. Lovely Local
Massive amounts of our clutter and our food are schlepped miles around the globe to us billowing clouds of toxic fumes behind them.
Transport is the BIGGEST pollution baddie.
We need to turn things on their head and shop local more. And when we do, something else amazing happens : we bring back local jobs.
So look out for everything you can to buy locally and cut those food and clutter miles Think: fruit, veg, juice, beer, dairy, bread, soap, cleaning stuff. All the things we buy often.
Ask neighbours for tips and share your own.
I’ve managed to switch to:
- Bread, soap & beer made down the road
- Fruit & veg grown within a 100 miles
And by changing washing up liquid I’ve used the cash I spend doing dishes for a triple good: cutting toxic waste AND transport fumes AND creating green jobs in a city that needs them.
Simple choices but super powered.
5. Fair Trade
Now obviously we can’t buy everything locally.
But when we do buy internationally we don’t want our hard earned cash to be used to finance child labour, modern slavery or appalling employment conditions, do we?
The fashion industry is hugely guilty here. Still.
So use the power of your purse to choose Fair Trade brands that ensure makers and growers earn wages they can raise a family on.
I’m working on a big list of Fair Trade brands but check out these : Patagonia, People Tree, Thought and Nomads.
And yeah, they cost more because they’re feeding families properly, but we can afford to pay more when we don’t buy crazy clutter.
6. Super Skilled
The more-more-more clutter industry destroys skilled work as well as the planet.
Satisfaction and pride in making things with our hands is essential to who we are as humans. The joy of skilled work has a massive impact on the mental health not only of individuals but of families and communities.
So when we say no to cheap clutter and choose wonderful things made on a smaller scale with skill we’re not just helping the planet, we’re helping the planet’s people.
This summer, I used money saved on clutter to treat myself to some amazing jeans, now made again with skill and pride in the little Welsh seaside town where my dad grew up.
The pleasure I felt in that purchase was different. My money didn’t disappear into the stuffed pockets of bankers; it will help sustain skill and pride in that little Welsh town.
My jeans came from somewhere – not anywhere – and wearing them I feel a connection with that breathtakingly beautiful bay where my family lived for generations and where the dolphins still dive in the harbours.
It’s a special place.
We CAN use the power of our purse to support people – not machines – living sustainable lives in all the world’s special small places.
Eco friendly products can cost more.
And we definitely pay a premium for organic. But we’re only just starting to understand how powerful organic purchases are for the planet.
Buying organic food and cotton doesn’t just protect wildlife from toxic chemicals. It actually saves our soil and our soil is dying.
This is doubly disastrous because healthy soil absorbs CO2 we pump into the atmosphere over producing and schlepping clutter around.
So using money we save on crazy clutter to pay for organic milk or butter or chicken or veggies or socks or vests makes a double difference.
We can’t all afford organic all the time or even most times but each organic choice changes things, telling the market: we want to do good.
8. Non Toxic
We can save cash by cutting out toxic products.
Our kitchen and bathroom cupboards are overflowing with plastic bottles full of toxic stuff that poison wildlife and waterways AND are really rubbish for us humans.
We don’t use half of it. Or need most of it.
I slashed my spend on cleaning stuff by buying reusable cleaning cloths that meant I could stop buying a whole load of toxic cleaning products. I could then afford great eco friendly laundry liquid that was a bit more expensive.
It IS a virtuous circle. Buying less toxic clutter :
- = less factory pollution
- = less shipping pollution
- = more cash saved
- = more money to spend on eco friendly, ethical, non-toxic products.
AND it all means more power to our purse.
So let’s all quit buying toxic stuff we don’t need and spend our cash on good stuff.
If you’re in the USA use this guide to non-toxic products or in the UK try Ethical Superstore or Big Green Smile if you can’t find locally.
Natural products are good stuff. Generally.
Hemp, linen & wool for example can be made into all sorts of amazing products …
- Using low energy, skilled production
- Without petrol or nasty chemicals
- Or toxic waste
- And are totally biodegradable
We’re also discovering they have amazing natural thermostatic and anti-bacterial properties so they don’t get as smelly as synthetic and don’t need washing as much.
And you know what? They just work better.
I saw this for myself on holiday in Orkney this summer. It was windy. Very windy.
My fancy brand semi-synthetic sweater did NOT cut it. My Scottish sweater – knitted with Scottish skill in natural Scottish wool – came out tops, keeping me snug in the squalls.
So use the power of your purse to go natural – and avoid nylons and polyesters (unless recycled) – it’s an easy eco friendly option.
10. Water Friendly
With one caveat. And that’s water.
Some natural crops – like cotton – use huge amounts of water. And cause land to dry up.
Bamboo is widely marketed as an alternative. And bamboo crops do use much less water. But that bamboo is converted into a synthetic fibre and that process can be very toxic.
The real problem of course is the amount of cotton grown to support the crazy clutter industry. We can all save water by :
- Buying fewer clothes
- Passing on those we don’t wear
- Hunting down gorgeous vintage finds
- Choosing recycled cotton products
- And buying organic cotton, when we buy new, from brands who are recycling all the water they use in production.
11. Zero Waste
Everyone’s talking zero waste suddenly.
And with good reason, right? The harm caused by plastic waste in our oceans is heart breaking.
We can help with a big NO to plastic packaging.
But the really destructive waste is ALL our unused clutter – see #1 – AND all those disposable products we use once and chuck away, whether plastic or not.
So we can make a big difference to the world by buying use-and-use-again products. I’ve got a handy list for you of zero waste products that will help the whole family stop chucking stuff – AND your cash! – away.
12. Small Independents
More and more of us truly want to use the power of our purse to shop ethically.
So big brands are hopping on the bandwagon and are starting to sell organic, natural, zero waste, fair trade and recycled products.
It sounds good, huh? But there’s a problem.
Big brands make their real money from flogging us a mountain of crazy clutter we have neither time nor space to use or enjoy.
Big brands make their real money from churning out that machine-made-mountain wherever unskilled labour is cheapest and schlepping it round the world.
Clutter, poor pay and transport fumes are NEVER an eco friendly, ethical way to shop.
So we best use the power of our purse to help our planet and its people when we buy ethical products directly from small scale, independent growers and makers and stores.
And that way, real people enjoying sustainable lives get our cash and NOT the money machine.
I hope these tips help you use the power of your purse. For more ideas read these:
- 30 Zero Waste Products
- Simple Clutter Free Living
- 75 Brilliantly Recycled Products
- 101 Things To Quit Buying
- Plastic Free Living For Kids
- A Zero Waste Christmas
Photo: Cotton shopping bag by Marco Verch & string bag by rawpixel.com under Creative Commons 2.0
Bob Kihslinger says
We liked your article so we posted in our newsfeed. Keep up the good work!