Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Socially Conscious Consumer and the Dollar

I endorse green products. I endorse hybrid vehicles. I endorse purchasing fair trade products whenever possible to help ensure that farmers are paid a decent wage (wish I got paid for these many endorsements!) I attempt to buy organic whenever I can. I compost and even kept composting worms for a while (until they froze to death in the winter).  I understand that my choices as a consumer can change the landscape of the marketplace in positive ways, conserve our environment and provide sustenance and income for impoverished families. Shopping responsibly and compassionately really can make a significant difference.  Consider Project Red, a movement that donates money from "red product" purchase to AIDS relief efforts in Africa.

The problem is that shopping this way is significantly more expensive. My grocery bill from Safeway, where I buy Nestle products and pesticide infused produce is 50% cheaper than my bill from a socially conscious store like Whole Foods, Mother's Market or PCC.  While being committed to shopping in socially conscious ways, I am also committed to spending less. Savings on a grocery bill can be given to the Aid and Assistance Fund at church, go to help purchase backpacks for less fortunate students at my kids' school, or be sent to my favorite non-profit organization in South Africa, Ithemba Lethu.

I pose this question to you, my sage, articulate, readers.  How do you shop compassionately yet save your pennies?


  1. Good Lord....I'm wondering the same thing! I'll be checking for the answers because this out of work green girl is looking for the answer! My last blog post talks about the shopping crunch too!

  2. I'm right there with you. This is one of my daily struggles. I want to be green, and I want to keep the hormones and pesticides and garbage out of my house, but the paychecks only go so far. I try to balance being thrifty where I can (toilet paper, paper towels, store brand soda) and going organic on produce and free range on meats. I try to shop locally as much as possible too.

  3. I know! It is more expensive for sure. And watching Oprah today, now I'm convinved I must buy cage-free eggs and free range meat. More money!

    I try to remind myself that it is worth the sacrifice.

  4. I refuse to shop at Walmart and buy food at McDonalds.
    It can be hard, but I remember the people that are making my purchase are getting below poor wages and I know it's a sacrifice for me to pay more that's worth it. My kids ask all the time why we dont eat at Mickey D's and I explain a million times why. My hope is that as they grow older they will buy with a conscience.

    When it comes to organic foods and such. I do what I can. I always buy organic dairy.....but everything else goes in stages depending on how much money we have or if it's on sale. If you need to penny pinch, which most of us do. Switch off every purchase or so. We need to support those that are putting good products out there (so as demand rises prices will drop) and doing it every once in awhile is better than not doing it at all.

    Besides that....tell all your rich friends to buy organic and green so thier demand will rise and prices will drop for the middle class.

  5. I generally stay away from processed foods and packaging (that includes shopping bags). And shop local as much as possible, including growers' markets and farm stands. That's good for the environment, good for the pocketbook and makes for good eatin' too. When it comes to making "smart" choices, it's a good idea to check out the science behind all the claims and concerns.

  6. Uh, we eat beans. Lots of beans and frozen veggies where we can because it's cheaper-and we're cheap. Then we can buy fancy things like oh, organic wine.

  7. Shop your local farmers' market!! You get a superior, exceedingly fresh, and generally conscientiously grown product, which hasn't been shipped, trucked, and flown around the world, and then covered in wax to make it look pretty. If you're short on dollars, consider trading - is there something you can grow, bake, craft, or build that your local farmer might trade for his/her product? Farmers trade among themselves all the time!

  8. Local farmers markets are a great choice! The food is grown locally so less car/truck emissions, a lot of organic choices and the prices are fair. It is fun to cook with what is in season and the people at the market usually have great ideas on how to prepare them. As far as saving money to give to our friends in Africa we eat out less, and try to stay content with the clothes on our back:)

  9. It's definitely a challenge to be a conscious consumer. We try to live simply which helps limit our consumption. Like Jen, we will not shop at Walmart and stay away from stores/brands that have been linked to child labor (Nike and the Gap, for instance). But even that's difficult because you don't always know what kind of labor is being used for the clothes on your back. So we try and buy clothes only when we need them (needless to say, we aren't trendy dressers) and give places like Value Village a shot.

    I struggle with my food purchases. We always buy organic milk and eggs but not everything I buy is organic. I can't afford Whole Foods or PCC and even our local farmers markets are pretty pricey. So I pick and choose and do the best I can with our resources. I try to limit our meat consumption (free range is so expensive) and make a lot of things from scratch.

    Oh, you might be interested to know that the farmers market in the U District is open year round, just in case you didn't know! Great post, btw.

  10. It IS hard to watch grocery spending when you're trying to be green, buy organic and get a variety of meals... I usually try to get fresh local veggies at the farmer's market, and they are much cheaper than the grocery store. I also thankfully shop at SuperTarget for top quality products and they are cheaper than my local Publix.


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