This I Believe: Ethical Consumerism

Catelyn - Fort Worth, Texas
Entered on September 17, 2010
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I was six years old when I became a CEO for the first time. My mom had organized a neighborhood yard sale, and I deemed myself the only entrepreneur capable of delivering fresh lemonade, cold enough to make dark water spots on our customer’s khaki shorts from the trickling condensation. Being my first business venture, I did not realize the cost associated with the supplies: sugar, spoon, pitcher, ice, cooler, table, chair, sign, markers for sign, tip jar. Thankfully, my mother invested in my company without hesitation and supplied said needs. With a sparkle of joy in her smile, she watched me from behind her own make-shift cash register as I embarked on the timeless journey of supply and demand.

Living in small town, U.S.A., we were blissfully ignorant of where the products we bought came from. Life was good, and my parents worked to make it that way. They were middle class, college graduate adults, able to drive their cars full of gas on the paved roads, in accordance with socially constructed traffic rules, to the local grocery store, where they purchased whatever they needed for the lowest price. I grew up with chocolate chip cookies, plastic toys, and the cutest clothes in the latest styles. My mom had beautiful diamond jewelry, and my dad grilled burgers. The American dream seemed to magically appear on shelves in grocery stores without having a previous life before being put into our shopping cart, and we never had a reason to question it.

The rules of supply and demand are simple. You have a product. Someone wants some of your product. They’re called a customer, and they, along with your competition and the amount of product you have, determine the value of your product. That being said, we as customers have a substantial amount of control over our products. If we want cheap and quick regardless of living wages, we make it happen. If we want to be ethical consumers, ensuring our producers are being treated fairly for their service and products, we can make that happen, too.

Beyond economic theory, what I’ve learned from growing up in a nation where I can get by with never knowing where my stuff comes from is that we must always value the producers of our products more than the products themselves. In valuing producers, the farmers, the seamstresses, the cocoa bean collectors, the coal miners, the sugar cane field workers, the animals, the plants, we put their well being above our convenience. Adopting such standards is not an easy task. Due to my convictions, I buy groceries from farmers trying to live a more sustainable and humane way. I buy chocolate from cocoa collectors who get a fair wage for their labor. With every dollar, I increase a demand for ethical products. These are my beliefs on ethical consumerism, and I have no choice but to live accordingly.