This post originally appeared in online health and lifestyle magazine The Green Tribe. Check out the original version here.
Every day we are surrounded by ethical dilemmas. Most of us want to live in a way which reflects our values and moral principles. We want to make ‘good’ choices, but living ethically is complicated.
There’s so many different issues to consider and we all prioritise different values. Should you choose organic food over locally produced? Should you buy Fair Trade gifts that support people in developing countries, even though the air miles involved in shipping them isn’t eco-friendly?
Martin Luther King famously said:
“Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.”
Almost everything we buy, eat, use and consume has a string of ethical issues attached, so before you’ve finished eating breakfast you’ve probably faced a host of ethical dilemmas too.
Doing the “right” thing is hard, and it can be even harder just identifying what the right thing is with so many ethical issues to consider. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and the internal conflict causes negativity which is bad for your wellbeing.
So how can you make the ‘right’ choice and live a more ethical life?
Know your values
Living ethically means different things to different people. Our ethical priorities are closely linked to our personal values – if you advocate for animal rights, you might want to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and cruelty-free beauty is probably a priority for you. This doesn’t mean that you think animal rights are more important than saving the environment, but if buying a cruelty-free cosmetic product is less eco-friendly than buying one tested on animals, you might have to choose which values to prioritise.
That’s ok. Don’t let yourself feel guilty because you’ve had to make a compromise. Remind yourself that perfection is impossible and what we’re working towards here is a better life.
Take small steps every day
The first step is to accept that this is a journey, not a destination. Recognise that it won’t always be possible to support every ethical priority at once. Supporting one value, like Fair Trade, might mean letting another one down, like buying environmentally friendly products.
Unfortunately, we often have to compromise. It’s important to strive to live more ethically, not the most ethically. That way, you won’t beat yourself up or feel like you’ve failed, and you’ll be able to celebrate the small victories. This positive affirmation will really help your ethical journey.
Do your research
One thing I’ve learnt on my journey towards a more ethical life is that you need to break old habits. I often found myself buying from certain brands without researching the alternatives, just because it’s what I’d always done. I had an idea in my head about which brands were more ethical than others, but you can’t always believe their PR campaigns.
Unfortunately the only way to get to the bottom of a brand’s ethical credentials is to do your research. Luckily, there’s lots of bloggers, directories, resources and campaigns out there to help you.
Once you’ve decided what your ethical priorities are, it’s important to get clued up. That’ll help you make more ethical purchasing decisions and re-affirm your values in times of doubt.
If you’re trying to live a more ethical life, you’re not alone. Consumers are demanding more from brands as we become more conscious of the ethical and environmental effects of our lifestyles. Communities are building to campaign for change.
Remember that we live in a complicated world. Everyone has an opinion and every purchase we make has an impact. They key to living more ethically is not to get overwhelmed – every good change you make leads to another.
I’d love to hear about ethical changes you’ve been making recently, and the ethical issues you think are important. How are you aspiring to live more ethically?