Thursday, May 7, 2009

May's theme: “EXPLORING YOUR PURCHASING DECISIONS”


Well with all the hype and excitement of the shopping spree tour on my mind, I thought it appropriate that this month’s topic be all about shopping.

On the shopping spree tour, choices were made and purchases finalised quickly. Your “on the spot” decision making was put to the test and your consideration for anything other than whether or not it’s a bargain, was impacted.

In this month’s newsletter though, I want to look at how we can shop in a different way. How we can find out about what certain companies stand for, learn which companies are being boycotted for denying fair wages or which brands are Australian owned and made.

I went to an anti-slavery forum not long ago that brought up the issue of ethical consumerism and discussed how every time we buy something, the money spent endorses a company and its activities. I don’t know about you but nowadays, the thought of even where to start with my grocery shopping sends me into melt down. How do I possibly manage looking at every label to check for Australian made, fair trade, free from nasty preservatives, cruelty free, good company record, recycled packaging, environmentally friendly, G.E free and organic? And keep my shopping time under 5 hours!

Such considerations are on my wish list however “not caring” often seems a LOT quicker, cheaper and easier. I am trying to make responsible decisions so here is how I am learning to manage all of this information by taking it one small step at a time…

This month’s theme: “EXPLORING YOUR PURCHASING DECISIONS”

When I first started exploring the topic of making sustainable purchases, I initially felt overwhelmed. How would I prioritise my values… because I knew that I would not be able to tick “all” the boxes with every purchase? So, for me, the first thing I did was to decide what criteria was the most important and tried to make as many “better buys” as possible by being deliberate with what I bought.

In “The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping 2009”, there’s a lot of information about the environmental and social record of companies behind the brand names that we are all familiar with. There’s also a website www.ethical.org.au that “gives you the low-down on the environmental and social record of companies behind common brand names” and helps you to “shop at the supermarket with a clear conscience!”

When I looked at what was important (and achievable) for my family at this current stage, here’s what I came up with:

1. Try to reduce unnecessary consumption. I have begun by asking myself “Do I really need it?” I write my shopping list and try to stick to it avoiding impulsive purchases.

2. Start with a single item. By choosing just one product on my list to focus on and finding out the related issues and alternatives I can begin to make good habits, one by one. For example by just shopping for as many things as I could online at Only Australian Groceries I discovered that Quilton toilet paper has an AAA rating which means: Australian owned and Australian made from local and imported ingredients. This was a great website to help me see how to support Australian companies as they only sell products from Australian companies. After familiarising myself with some of the brands, it became easier to recognise them when I was in the grocery store doing my weekly shop. Their website is www.onlyoz.com.au

There’s also another online company that I am keen to try called Aussie Farmers Direct which has a free home delivery service providing fresh products that are 100% Australian owned and produced. Their goal is to help the Australian farmer win the battle against the large multinationals by delivering a broad range of products direct to the consumer. By cutting out the middleman, products are delivered faster, fresher and straight to the customers door each morning before 7am with no delivery charges. www.aussiefarmers.com.au

3. Choose food for nutritional value. In last year’s October newsletter I wrote about taking notice of what’s in our children’s food. I looked at identifying some of the “nasty” additives and preservatives and a few simple tips on how to recognise them and reduce consuming them in such high proportions. More info at www.fedup.com.au
Since making adjustments to my family’s diet, I have noticed a considerable improvement in behaviour and sleeping patterns and I know in my mind that I am making wise decisions that will affect the long-term health of my children. Where my budget allows, I will also try to buy organic as well as growing some of our own vegetables in our vegetable garden.

4. Start the day with a coffee! I know it sounds funny but things always seem better after a freshly made cappuccino. I was so excited to see in my ethical shopping guide that the COFFEX coffee we buy had a big tick next to it! Yay! Meaning it’s a better buy with no criticisms and it’s Australian owned. It’s also certified fair trade and certified organic…of course we knew this all along (not).

5. Avoid nasty chemicals. I wrote a blog entry on Nature Direct products not that long ago. It’s filed under “environment-lovingmums”. These products are100% natural, chemical free and non hazardous. They are completely safe for your children, your home, your pets and our environment.

One of the laundry liquids that I like to use is the Green Care brand’. It’s Australian made and owned, grey water safe, contains no phosphates, concentrate (so you use less energy, packaging, waste), in recyclable packaging etc… in other words, it ticks lots of boxes! Better still though, make your own natural cleaning products. For cheap and environmentally friendly handy hints see www.safersolutions.org.au


There are still times when I race to the shops in a flurry ever so quickly grabbing what I need without so much as looking twice at the labels… and most mums I know can probably relate, but the good news is that when you get into the habit of choosing particular brands for whatever reason, you are still becoming more deliberate and purposeful with your money and who it goes to.

6. Set challenges for the future. My goals include saving more water,
where possible (besides our water tank, I don’t feel I do a very good job
at this yet) looking to use more recycled products/ packaging such as toilet paper and computer paper, continuing to buy free range eggs and chicken and only eating fair trade chocolate- there is a website that you can sign a petition at www.donttradelives.com.au/chocguide. This only takes a few seconds to do.

I recall when I started down the road of cutting out nasty preservatives and additives and I suddenly wanted to throw everything out in my
pantry and start again but remember small changes are better than none at all. Start with something easy. Making changes doesn’t mean necessarily giving something up altogether but you can make a huge difference by just 1) reading information, 2) applying your knowledge,
3) smarter shopping and 4) choosing products deliberately.

My reading list on this topic:
Ausbuy, Safeguard Our Future an Australian Owned and Made Buying Guide available at Coles $2.50 or www.ausbuy.com,au
The Official Guide to Buying Australian Made or www.australianmade.com.au
The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping 2009 $5 or
www.ethical.org.au

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