Ethics vs. Money: when it's just too expensive

By Leca
@lecanis (16664)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
March 10, 2007 12:42pm CST
I've had this debate a lot in my life, because I'm not a wealthy person, but I very much want to do what's right for the environment, what's right for the people, etc. What do you do when it's just too expensive to buy the products that you know are better for the environment, or free trade products, or shop local as opposed to the big name corporations? I get a lot of pressure to do more for the environment, or the local economy, or poor people in other countries who are being taken advantage of by big companies. And when it is at all possible, I do so. I'll pay a few dollars more for a green product, gladly. However, I am not a wealthy person. And there are times when I simply HAVE to make choices based on important matters like keeping my family clothed, fed, and in our home. So how do you feel on this topic? Do you ever wish you could do more than you do? Have you found ways to do what you should without starving? Should we put the needs of our enviroment and others before our basic human needs?
5 people like this
8 responses
• United States
15 Mar 07
It is hard to do things that are better for ourselves and the inviroment when you are on a tight budget. But there is one thing that I do that is better for my family and the earth. I grow a LARGE garden every year. I freeze and can alot of the item that I grow to use all year. I make jams, and pickles...etc... They always taste better when you do it yourself anyway.lol
2 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
15 Mar 07
Gardening is a wonderful thing! I can't wait to live somewhere where I can have a garden.I think it's a great step in a right direction. Thanks so much for your response!
1 person likes this
@Denmarkguy (1845)
• United States
15 Mar 07
Funny you should bring this up, since this is an issue I often wrestle with. I'm self-employed and don't make much of a living, so stretching dollars is important for me. At the same time, I am also environmentally conscious, and I live in a part of the US (Western Washington) that's particularly "green" and socially conscious. I'm not sure if I do the "right" thing. Sometimes it feels contradictory. For example, I buy organic shade-grown coffee... but in order to AFFORD it, I buy three-pound bags from Costco, which is supporting "big corporate" (although Costco has a reasonably responsible record). Ultimately, it becomes an issue of "making a difference where you CAN." For me, that means buying my clothing second-hand from thrift stores, buying used books and CDs, recycling, re-using. It means bartering, whenever I can find a way to do it. On a broader level, I try to reduce the size of my "footprint," so I can afford to make responsible choices within that smaller framework. It doesn't always work, of course... but it's a start. And I try to remind myself that the fact that I am doing SOMEthing, is still better than tossing up my hands and declaring "I can't make a difference, anyway." This year I am buying a share in a CSA farm that allows members to WORK off part of the price of the share, thus making organic produce more within reach of the less well-off, in exchange for labor. Do my spending habits-- specifically my purchases of second-hand goods-- help, when those goods might have been produced "non-ethically" in the first place? On some level, I believe so. I am taking myself OUT of the "consumption loop," by NOT buying a product that had to be produced, but rather one that already "exists." Thus, nobody has to MAKE a shirt I buy, no land has to be cleared and sprayed to grow that little patch of cotton. Maybe I'm rationalizing...but it feels to me like I am NOT supporting some sweatshop suppplier to Wallyworld.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
15 Mar 07
Thanks for your reply! You make a very good point about buying second-hand. I hadn't really thought about the impact of buying second-hand, and I feel a bit better when I think of that. I do buy second-hand as well whenever I can.
1 person likes this
@MarkyB21 (1545)
13 Mar 07
I try to buy the products that are better for the environment and/or a better deal for workers but, like you, I'm not a wealthy person so I often just buy the cheapest products on the shelf. I keep trying to make little changes to make more ethical purchases and I'm happy doing that - maybe in the future I'll be able to buy only those kind of products but for now my 'little bit' is at least a slight improvement. I try to encourage other people to make better purchases and recycle and I think this will help make a difference too. I think we need to put our basic human needs first (this doesn't include luxury items) but to always consider the alternatives that will help the environment and others.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
14 Mar 07
Thanks for your response! It's so good to hear that I'm not the only person in this situation. I've often felt like somehow I must just not be cutting enough out, but there is only so much you can do. It sounds like you're doing your best too, and that's great. =)
1 person likes this
@Riptide (2761)
• United States
13 Mar 07
I think there are a lot of things one can do for the environment without having to sacrifice. Recycling for example. Recycling won't cost you anything and you can buy enviromentally friendly products that won't cost you much more then the regular stuff. For instance invest in a steamcleaner to cut down on use of household chemicals. It will save you money at the end, because you won't have to buy those harsh cleaners anymore. Use natural products like lemon juice and bakingsoda to clean. Buy your produce at a local farm. That is often cheaper anyway then the supermarket and fresher too.
2 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
14 Mar 07
Thanks for offering some options! As for buying from a local farm, that isn't really an option for me. I don't have the proper transportation to go very far to get food, I'm pretty much limited to what I can walk to or get public transportatioon to. Other than that, you offered some really good tips. Thanks!
1 person likes this
@aissar (414)
• Malaysia
12 Mar 07
People would inevitably go for ethics to appear more environmentally conscious. But personally, I find that to support the cause of environment preservation and protection would only exhaust our resources in the short term. In the long term, however, it pays rewards of its own. Since I'm not living by myself yet, and since I live in a developing country, the question of choosing a greener product over a big company product doesn't even occur. Its the way our economy is run and the mentality of the people that decides the question of whether people would do something to protect the environment. I do my part by recycling though. When I grow up and become rich when I can afford a house, I'm gonna build my own house which is environmentally friendly and green, as in cutting down the usage of electricity through innovative house designs. It's a faraway dream, yet at least I'm THINKING of doing it. Lol
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
12 Mar 07
Thanks for your response! I too wish to build an environmentally friendly house someday. It's a beautiful dream, and every time I hear of new innovations in efficiency I devour the information, just so I'll know when the time comes. =)
1 person likes this
• United States
15 Mar 07
I agree that with somethings it is harder to buy the products that are environmentaly safe. The clothes cost 3-4 times as much as regular clothing, and the laundry detergent is outragously priced! I don't understand why they want to charge more for soap that is good for the environment. If these companies were really all about helping the enviroment, they would charge only the price it costs to make these green products and stop trying to make a huge profit off of peoples good will toward the earth.
2 people like this
@Jemina (5779)
13 Mar 07
Tough question indeed and requires one to think deeply. Sometimes I have to consider a lot of things when buying things but it seldom occurs. Maybe because I don't buy too much. I usually just spend on food. But, yea, just now I realized that when I buy foods I also go for fresh fruits and vegetables than buy preserved ones. I am lucky that here in Thailand it is so much cheaper to buy fresh foods and the market is very accessible. When it comes to clothes and other apparels I go for qualities that don't necessarily have to be branded. I think I can say that I'm a wise spender.
2 people like this
• United States
15 Mar 07
I don't get disallusioned by recycling and green programs... As a former firefighter one way we used to make money for the firecompany it was a volunteer department, and we collected newpapers as a service for the community, I learned what flooding the market with recyclables does to the economy especially when I became a truck driver for the trash haulers. I got to see enough of what we throw out and how we handle our waste, and the fuel that comes off of those big trash piles. We all have to do as much as we can within our personal means, I've recognized that theme running through this discussion and I agree. The real problem is with our government and big business creating products for profit. When the world cares we will have a world that shares. I love the topic and I'm tired, had to rest yesterday... We have to take care of our selves as we take care of our world. Good thoughts...
• United States
15 Mar 07
I like the comments of those that grow their own food or can food from a local farm, when you don't have the land to grow your own crops. Some crops are grown better on farms. One thing is certain, we live and we eat... Money allows us to support our families and if we don't share our resouces we will run into a major problem in the future. Both sharing our resouces and recycling also making energy economically, imagine if every roof had a windmill mounted upon it, and big business paid us for the electricity each house generated, talk about supplemental income?
1 person likes this