Some pretty interesting stuff here regarding whether or not we're actually shopping with the environment in mind.
Shopping with a Conscience
Duncan Clark & Richie Unterberger
2007, 344 pages
Available from Amazon
The 'e' word is without a shadow of a doubt subjective, morally loaded and often problematic. And it's easy to make ethical consumerism sound laughable by taking it to its apparently absurd logical conclusions. But, while you could spend hours arguing over the subjectivity of it all, semantic nit-picking is not really very good grounds for ignoring the effects we have on the rest of the world. And, while we have all our own specific ideas of what should and shouldn't count as accepted standards, it's probably fair to say that we all aspire to some common idealsÅ It's surely more constructive to ask how these standards can be achieved than to argue over whether or not ethical shopping is an oxymoron.
Babies may account for a small percentage of family biomass, but when fitted with disposable diapers they generate roughly half the contents of a household's trash. A typical baby gets through around 5000 disposables during its diaper days; across the US, this adds up to an astonishing 20 billion each year, enough to cover a football field with a three-mile high pile.
Certain volunteering projects aside, there's no point in deluding ourselves that we're saving the world by going on vacation; but if tourists and travel companies act and operate with an eye on social justice and environmental sustainability, there's no reason the destination countries can't reap more of the benefits and bear fewer of the costsÅ Advocates of ecotourism claim that the sector has contributed a great deal both to conservation and economic empowerment of people in remote regions. However, the term has been tarnished by criticism from a range of commentators. One issue is that ecotourism has no legally binding definition, which means there's nothing to stop an unscrupulous travel agent from slapping the label on any nature-focused holiday, regardless of the damage it may cause.
Be mindful, too, that many of the companies that offer "green" power alternatives are sometimes subsidiaries of larger companies that own nuclear and coal power plants, like Southern California Edison, which offered "Earthsource" through its Edison Source division. And some of the companies with green options are themselves large and notorious financial powers - Enron, for instance, offered a green "EarthSmarth Power" plan to California consumers when that state was open to competition, though it was scrapped just a few months later after it proved unprofitable. Standards across the whole green energy field remain so erratically defined and enforced that vigilant customers would do well to heed the Union of Concerned Scientists' advice about dealing with green electric suppliers in general: "Be skeptical and ask questions."
Compared with clothes production, shoe manufacture tends to be more industrial and hi-tech - something that usually means longer-term contracts and more leverage over labor conditions for brands and retailersÅ [However] There is still not a single company in the Fair Labor Association specializing in non-sporting shoes, so this industry clearly has a long way to go. Right now, just about the only shoe shops that seem concerned with ethical matters are specialists producing non-leather shoes