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The ethical shopping guide

Opt for Fairtrade products

When you choose to buy Fairtrade certified products, you’re helping to empower farmers and workers to improve their living standards, the welfare of their community and our shared environment. As well as the Fairtrade Minimum Price, which kicks in when crops fail or market prices crash, Fairtrade farmers and workers also receive an additional Premium to help their community invest in essential services such as education, sanitation and health care. Fairtrade’s standards and practices also promote sustainable farming to protect biodiversity and the environment, deliver training for women so they can participate and lead, secure worker rights and build climate resilience.

Whether you want to start incorporating Fairtrade into your weekly shop, or perhaps you’re looking for ethical gifts for friends and family, there’s a huge variety of Fairtrade products to choose from – from chocolate, to wine and coffee, to tea and honey, even gold! When it comes to shopping more ethically for clothes, buying less and buying better is more important than ever. That means if you are buying new, choosing sustainable fabrics made in safer factories, with better eco-credentials and fairer employee wages.

The easiest way to spot a Fairtrade product is to look for the FAIRTRADE Mark – note the capital ‘F’ – which confirms the product has been certified by Fairtrade International. For more information, visit

Consider going vegan

“By consciously choosing vegan items – whether it’s food, drink, textiles, make-up, toiletries etc. – you are staying clear of products that are free from animal products and free from products that have been testing on animals,” says Francine Jordan, spokesperson for The Vegan Society. “The production of meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment, from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved from farm to fork. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. It’s well known that a plant-based diet requires only one third of the land needed to support a meat and dairy diet. With rising global food and water insecurity due to a myriad of environmental and socio-economic problems, there’s never been a better time to adopt a more sustainable way of living. What’s more, getting your nutrients from plant foods allows more room in your diet for health-promoting options like whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables, which are packed full of beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals.”

When shopping, look for products that bear the Vegan Trademark. And you might also like to consider signing up to The Vegan Society’s 30 Day Vegan Pledge. For more information, visit:

Shop for plastic-free beauty products

Reducing your plastic consumption is a simple way to shop more ethically. Friends of the Earth recommend switching from plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and handwash to solid bars which do the same job. Bar soap tends to last much longer and is therefore more cost effective. Choose bars that come with minimal packaging and are free of palm oil. Ditch plastic disposable razors in favour of a long-lasting reusable safety razor, which only requires changing the blade regularly. Choose a compostable bamboo toothbrush over a plastic one. You can even get replaceable bamboo heads for electric toothbrushes. Avoid plastic wet wipes and instead opt for either reusable washable cloths or genuinely degradable/compostable wipes. Never flush wet wipes, even biodegradable ones, as they contribute to blockages in the sewage system called ‘fatbergs’. For more tips on how to reduce your plastic consumption, visit

Choose organic!

“Organic is better for the planet,” says Clare McDermott, the Soil Association Certification’s Business Development Manager ( “It’s designed to respect nature and to enhance the health of soils, water and air. Organic farming is leading the way on sustainability, avoiding harmful pesticides and artificial fertilisers, promoting better welfare for farm animals and wildlife.”

Clare adds: “There’s so much more to organic than just food and drink! Look out for the Soil Association symbol on beauty and wellbeing products to be sure you’re supporting businesses that don’t test on animals or use controversial chemicals, parabens and phthalates, synthetic dyes or fragrances.”

Supporting your local organic farmers is another way to be a more ethical shopper. Clare explains: “Enthusiasm for veg boxes has rocketed over the past year as more of us looked to find options for home food deliveries, yet there’s so many more benefits to subscribing to a fruit, veg or meat box. You’ll be joining a community of amazing citizens, farmers and organisations who are making sure the way we farm and eat is better for our health, better for nature and wildlife, and better for the climate too.”

Look for refillable cleaning products

Just like some cosmetics, other day-to-day household cleaning products can be found in refill form. Refilling washing-up liquids, laundry liquids and all-purpose cleaners has never been easier! Friends of the Earth recommend trying soapnuts, which are an ecological alternative to laundry liquids and detergents. They act as a natural washing detergent, and better yet they literally grow on trees! Go plastic-free when it comes to kitchen sponges and cleaning brushes. There are plenty of plastic-free sponges available on the market, and wooden cleaning brushes make a good alternative to plastic ones. They may be a bit pricey but try to consider beeswax food wraps to cover food instead of clingfilm. If you’re vegan, you can also buy vegan wax food wraps, which work just as well.

Retailer tip

“Making the decision to shop more ethically is great, but it can be a bit overwhelming at first,” says Rachel Parker, the owner of An Ethical Life in Colchester. “I would recommend that customers ask for advice in store as we are always happy to offer help when it comes to choosing ethical brands and products.

My tip to customers would be to start with one thing at a time, like getting refills of your household cleaning products rather than buying new ones. Also, rather than trying to go completely vegan, start by having one meat-free day each week and then gradually increase it. Start with small changes that are sustainable.”

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