Money is a “vote” which we exercise every time we go shopping. If we stop for a minute to think about how wisely we are using this influence, we can help plant seeds towards a better world, one purchase at a time.
However, choices are often not that straightforward. Consumers often feel confused and frustrated by the enormous amount of choice they are surrounded by. “Should I be buying local, organic or Fair Trade, and what really distinguishes those terms?” is a question we often find ourselves asking while trying to become more ethical shoppers.
FLOR (Fair Trade, Local, Zero Waste, and Responsible) plans to break down these ethical dilemmas by providing essential information on ethical shopping provided by a community of experts – people already living an ethical shopping lifestyle. We had the chance to speak to Ivana Florencia Oven, the founder of this organisation, about what FLOR is and how we can make more ethical shopping decisions.
1. How did you became interested in ethical shopping?
Actually, four years ago I was not even aware of this concept. I started to change my grocery shopping habits when I found out about the impact animal products have on the environment. At the same time, I was organising Chocoliana - the chocolate festival in Ljubljana. The president of the Fair Trade Cooperative in Slovenia contacted me so we could work together at the chocolate festival, and she was the person who introduced me to the idea. Since then, I have worked with her on other projects that involved other ethical shopping concepts like zero-waste, reuse, recycle, and second-hand. I got deep into the subject of learning how to reduce our impact on the environment, on our health and the economy, on animals and people, and especially our consumer responsibility towards modern slaves and child labour.
2. Can you explain your philosophy on ethical shopping?
The goal is to start step-by-step. Don’t worry about being perfect – that’s almost impossible to achieve. By the time you reach your goal of perfection, you might have changed your mind about what is ‘perfect’. Perfectionism will stop you in your path towards ethical shopping. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Even if you are making mistakes, it probably still means that you are making 80% of the right decisions. You just need to have the willingness to change your habits. They say that you need 20% of energy to achieve 80% of success and 80% more energy to achieve 99%. Imagine what the world would be like if we simply used that little bit of energy and changed our habits by 80%.
3. How can we assess our shopping patterns to move towards a more ethical path?
It starts by being aware of what you buy. We usually buy things either because they are part of long-term, die-hard habits or because of short-term trends. Maybe you learned it from your parents, or maybe you simply followed an advert. The first step is to check why you are buying what you are buying. Ask yourself, “Do I really need it? Which need am I trying to fulfill?”, and when you have identified why you buy what you do, you need to find out if there are any other alternatives out there. For example, for things that are not food, you could ask yourself, “Could I borrow it from a friend? Could I reuse part of the product/package?”. Then you start noticing what your shopping habits are, and which alternatives you can take that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
4. Which resources would you recommend to people who want to move towards a more ethical shopping path?
I would recommend that people approach their local organisations and communities because each region has different issues to solve and offers different alternatives. These organisations will also be the ones with more information about local products and their origins. The next step is to research the things you want to know more about. This is an individual process, and we all have different shopping preferences and habits, so you should start with the most natural step for you.
5. Explain what your FLOR project is about. What is its business model?
FLOR was born from collaborating with several sustainable organisations here in Slovenia. I learned that while all of these organisations were doing a great job at raising awareness of sustainability, you couldn’t find all the concepts about ethical shopping together in one place . As we know, moving towards a sustainable consumption path takes time. Most of the information is not readily available and it takes lot of time to find the right advice. The idea is for FLOR to facilitate the transition towards ethical shopping as the go-to resource platform for those who want to know more about the ethical shopping lifestyle, by creating a community of people who already practice this way of living. In this way, people can learn directly from ‘ambassadors’ of ethical shopping. For example, the ambassadors would upload ethical products with some essential information about them; then if someone wants to buy a new phone, dress or even some pasta, they can just search for it and get the alternatives available near to them that will fit their lifestyle and FLOR’s ethical criteria, as well as information about why it is important for that product to be ethical and how we can recognise similar products.
We will be hosting an ethical shopping workshop at Mediachange HQ; if you’re interested in attending don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org