10 Surprising Ways Ethical Shopping is Good For You
Why shop ethical?
You already know that ethical shopping helps to change the world. That every pound we spend has the power to drive another stake into the earth - positively impacting other people, animals, and the planet itself. We choose cosmetics which are not tested on animals. We shop Fairtrade to support workers in developing countries. We boycott palm oil to help save Orangutans and the rainforest in which they live.
Of course, this is in itself enough – that’s why we do it – but it’s always good news when there is a personal payoff too.
In fact, ethical shopping has some serious personal perks. Perks that are good for your body and soul. Perks that are immediate – right here, right now. Perks that can seriously impact your wellbeing – financially, socially, emotionally, and even spiritually.
Perk One: Your Health
The first perk is your health. When you shop ethical you are avoiding the dangers of exposure to harsh chemicals which are coming at you from every corner. A greener car will have you breathing easier. An allotment will give you nutritious veg. These are well known facts, but be careful with the smaller stuff that you take for granted.
For example, you may think there’s nothing wrong with the candles you buy in the supermarket, but chances are there is. Most high street candles are made with paraffin wax, which creates benzene and toluene when burned – both known carcinogens. Yuck. In fact, the toxins released are identical to the ones found in diesel fumes!
Ethical fragrance strips it right back. Try Made By Coopers paraffin-free and lead-free candles and atmosphere mists - no chemical fillers, harsh preservatives, artificial colours or synthetic fragrances - just 100% natural essential oils.
Perk Two: Saving Money
There is a common perception that shopping ethically is expensive. The other side of the coin is that you can actually save money when you shop ethical. Because your purchases will last longer.
Mindfully-made clothing is well made clothing and always outlasts cheap, disposable fashion. And when it’s time to say goodbye an ethical business may offer you a way to recycle. One of my favourite initiatives is Urban Goddess’s collaboration with the Salvation Army; the clothes that are still wearable go to people in need, the ones that are not wearable any more go to a fabric recycling facility which help produce blankets for homeless people.
Perk Three: Personal Empowerment By Empowering Others
One of the emotional perks of ethical shopping is the feeling of empowerment. Buying a new dress feels personally empowering - setting you up for success in a meeting, or perhaps for going on a date. But buying into a company’s mission and cause – knowing that the purchasing decision you made is both creating immediate change, and planting seeds for future change – also gives you a kick that might just give you the edge in that meeting, or have you shining on that date.
Always a dog lover, I love the fact that every time I buy a pair of SoloSol yoga pants, the sister founders – Trina and Charlene – give a portion of the proceeds to BARC - the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Center for abused and neglected dogs – every dog is rehabilitated so they can be adopted.
I also believe in being human kind and love that £1 from every Bliss Cloud sale is donated to The Karuna Trust, a non-profit Buddhist charity. Inspired by Buddhist values, it exists to end caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality in India and Nepal.
I get a special kick when I discover that, as an ethical shopper, I am empowering my sisters – other women running small-scale ethical businesses like Trina and Charlene at SoloSol. I know several mums designing chakra bracelets at their kitchen table while their children are at school. The more purchases we make, the more we are supporting the creativity of female makers; the better they do, the more of a hand up they can give other women.
Perk Four: A Deeper Connection to People
Another perk of being an ethical shopper is a wonderful sense of connection to other people. This can happen in a few ways. Suddenly you are part of a ground-swell of like-minded people who’re making the same choices as you. Congratulations – you’ve found your tribe.
You may start simply by sharing what the ethical business is creating on social media and using common hashtags to find like-minded folk, or you could make it official by becoming an ambassador – like my good friend the singer, composer and BAFTA award winning Sarah Class, who is an ambassador for the charity, The World Land Trust. Who knows what you may be inspired to create in such a role. One thing is for sure, it will be an adventure. Check out her earth song I Will Fight on YouTube, introduced by no less a force of nature than Sir David Attenborough himself.
Brand owners who are committed to social sustainability often talk about the difference they are making to their makers – check out their website, follow them on their social, or sign up to a newsletter to get the inside track on the difference your purchase made. It was so inspiring to see Free Spirit founder Christina Gill sharing pictures of the dress making tutorials she gave to disadvantaged Indian girls on her trip to India earlier this year.
Perk Five: A Deeper Connection to Nature
One of my favourite things about ethical shopping is that I get to experience a greater connection with nature, which is extra special when it’s an area of outstanding natural beauty. I love that maker Helen Round uses harvested rain water from her Cornish garden to wash the screens for her beautiful range of hand printed linen cushions.
I live in the Norfolk countryside and one of the things I love best about the summer is seeing bees swarming the lavender in our garden. How thrilled was I to discover bee-keeping mother-daughter duo, Tanya and Esme? Literally meaning healing through the bee, 'Therapi' is based on the miraculous therapeutic properties of nature’s most incredible elixir: honey. Certified organic by the Soil Association, these amazing women blend raw honey from their hives in the Cotswolds with active botanical extracts to create pure, vibrant skincare that always seems to restore the health and vitality of my skin, no matter how tired I am.
Perk Six: A Deeper Connection to Place
One of the great perks of ethical shopping is that you place a higher value on what you have bought. When you understand the provenance of what you buy – who made it, where it came from – it takes on more meaning. Even the smallest of purchases become something to be treasured.
The hairs on my arms were standing on end when I first heard Emma Leafe’s story. She’s the founder of UME incense sticks, and she explained that she was inspired to create the brand after several of travelling - exploring temples, tea houses & sacred places around the world. The incense is made according to the Art of Incense, one of the four ancient arts of the East along with Flower Arranging, The Way of Tea, & Calligraphy. The herbs she uses come from as far afield as South-East Asia, Indonesia, Korea, China, Tibet, South America and Arabia. Every time I light a stick of her incense I recall her belief that borders are only a creation of the mind.
Perk Seven: Opening Your Career Path
Have you considered that shopping ethically means you are opening up your own career path? The more successful ethical businesses there are, the more choice of ethical careers open up to all of us. Who wouldn’t love to work for a B Corp (using business as a force for good) like Lily’s Kitchen – the only pet food company in the world to qualify? I did some freelance brand strategy work for Henrietta, the founder, and I can tell you that doing a presentation with an adorable border terrier lying on your feet has an empirical impact on both meeting enjoyment and productivity!
Perhaps you will be so inspired by Henrietta, and other examples of what’s possible you will, like me, be inspired to create your own business. I work with sixty ethically driven yoga brands, created by makers who have been inspired by their yoga practice and the yoga principle of Ahimsa (to do no harm) to create yoga pants, yoga mats, and handmade malas (amongst many other things) for the yoga community. Many of them travel regularly to their place of production – forming close relationships with their makers and creating life changing partnerships.
Perk Eight: Get the Performance You Deserve
There is a prevalent narrative that you have to choose between performance and sustainability. When I asked the sales assistant in LuluLemon whether their yoga pants were sustainable she told me that, while they were “working on” sustainability, they didn't want to sacrifice performance.
This kind of choice is simply not necessary. We sell StarSeeds yoga pants which use a super-cool yarn impregnated with waste coffee grounds to absorb sweat – fittingly called the Flat White and the Aeropress. Our beauty brands have won major awards, despite being entirely made by bees and/or 100% organic. Several of our makers use bamboo to make clothing because, like cotton, it’s naturally breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin. Unlike cotton, however, bamboo fabric allows moisture to evaporate into the air quickly. So when you sweat, you won't stay wet.
Perk Nine: An Uncluttered Home, and a Plant Growing on the Kitchen Windowsill
Another perk is a very practical one. We may think we would like to have the problems of Vogue’s Beauty Editor Kathleen Baird-Murray, who confessed in a recent article that her day starts with flattening huge numbers of beauty product sample boxes into a bulging recycling bin. But seriously, as she says, who wants a full bin or a basin chock full of silicone suds? And who wants to fill up their cupboards with plastic and boxes?
While the beauty industry does continue to struggle with the packaging that makes up 70% of the industry’s waste, companies like REN are leading the way - making a bottle from 100% recycled plastic of which 20% comes from the ocean – collected by TerraCycle which sorts waste thought to be unrecyclable.
But my favourite packaging innovation comes from the good old world of clothing – the gifts bags that slow fashion label Starseeds plant with almond shells, and the hang tags they make of plantable seeded paper.
Perk Ten: Being Part of Something Bigger Than Youself
Finally, as an ethical shopper you experience a sense of a higher purpose, of participating in something bigger than yourself. You may “just” be buying a yoga tank, but you are also creating a better world. For example, choosing a Powered By Yoga tank means you are buying W.R.A.P certified - a sweat-shop free product with ethical work conditions.
This sense of higher purpose doesn't always have to have a majorly dramatic cause. Sometimes there is pleasure in the seemingly ordinary. Whenever I slip on my Asquith yoga clothes I think of the Turkish women who made them – I picture them on their sun-soaked terrace, amongst the pots of herbs, gossiping over their lunch break, making plans fuelled in small part by my purchase.
And it’s this, the sense of the positive contribution that ethical shopping can make to all our lives, that moves me to act on a daily basis.
Sign up to our newsletter and receive 10% off your first order, events & exclusive subscriber only events here
is a yoga advocate and writer with three yoga books to her name, including the beloved travel memoir Yoga School Dropout. She writes regularly for the national press, has authored over 150 guides to types of yoga and yoga poses, discovered nearly 250 proven health benefits of yoga through her painstaking classification of 300 clinical studies, and collected more than 500 personal testimonials to the real life benefits of yoga. She is also the creator of our yoga shop – YogaClicks.Store – handpicking yoga brands that are beautifully made by yogis committed to environmental and social sustainability.