Ethical consumerism refers to the role we play as consumers and the impact our daily life has on the environment to help our society become more sustainable. Some examples include being conscious of how much we are consuming– buy what we need to decrease waste and landfill; supporting local ethical companies; and boycotting irresponsible companies such as those who sell battery eggs. As consumers we have a great deal of power in our pockets.

Being environmentally conscious has lead to reusable bags in SA. Other areas which support this cause include recycling programs, purchasing organic food and using environmentally friendly products around the home. There are many health benefits in changing your purchases as well. For example using environmentally friendly cleaning products means less harsh chemicals are absorbed into our bodies via your skin and/or lungs. Studies have shown that using a household cleaning spray, even as little as once a week, raises the risk of developing asthma. Green cleaning products do NOT contain chemicals of concern such as:


Heavy Metals (can cause neurodevelopmental damage in children, and cancer).

2-Butoxyethanol (damages red blood cells causing anaemia, may also be a carcinogen and neurotoxin).

Phthalates are found in the fragrances in cleaners (increases risk of asthma and allergies in children).

Alkylphenol ethoxylates (potent hormone-disrupting chemicals).

Some of the old cleaning product recipes are becoming popular as people who make their own know what goes into them. The most popular being bicarb soda and vinegar. Buying organic means we ingest less chemicals, we have increased nutrients, and fresher local produce. Some studies into pesticides even at low doses can increase the risk of cancer. Children and foetuses are most vulnerable as their bodies are still developing. Exposure at an early age may cause learning difficulties and behavioural disorders. Growing some of our fresh veggies at home can also be a great way to educate our children on eating seasonally.

Organic or free range eggs/meats are also good for us. Some conventionally grown livestock are fed GMO feed coated in pesticides, given growth hormones for faster growth, are often given unnecessary antibiotics to prevent any possible disease, and some may have no access to the outdoors. Aside from the health benefits of eating free range, the quality of life for an animal who never sees the sun or grass is rather sad. Whilst I eat meat because of its protein and vitamin benefits, it is important that we sometimes reflect on where the animal came from and the quality of life it had before.

Our level of consumption is another area of focus in ethical consumerism, buying what we need to reduce landfill. If you are someone who tends to cook too much, take the left overs to work the following day or maybe look into having a compost bin or chickens at home to break down the food into reusable fertiliser for the garden. The other thing to consider when purchasing, is the amount of waste that goes into single serve packaging, when items are individually wrapped. This
contributes greatly to land fill as well.

Buying fair trade means it is fair for the workers and better for the environment.
Easy tips to become an Ethical Consumer:
Before you buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. You may want the latest model mobile phone to keep up with the times, but does your old one still work?

Borrow, swap or buy second hand. I love it when my friends are having a wardrobe clean out. It often means I end up with some great new outfits.

Recycle or reuse materials. Things aren’t made like they used to be. You just need to look around my office and see our furniture which looks great and is made from recycled timbers.

Grandjean, P. and P.J. Landrigan, Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals. Lancet, 2006. 368(9553): p. 2167-78.

Smith, A.H. and C.M. Steinmaus, Health effects of arsenic and chromium in drinking water: recent human findings. Annu Rev Public Health, 2009. 30: p. 107-22.

NTP (National Toxicology Program), NTP Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies 2-Butoxyethanol (CAS NO. 111-76-2) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Inhalation Studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser, 2000. 484: p. 1-290.

Bechi, N., et al., Estrogen-like response to p-nonylphenol in human first trimester placenta and BeWo choriocarcinoma cells. Toxicol Sci, 2006. 93(1): p. 75-81.