A few days back I was reading a blog post that one of my favorite bloggers wrote. The blog is High Heels in the Wilderness and the blog is written by Susan Burpee. Susan is a Canadian who writes beautifully. That’s why I like her blog. She’s no BS. She tells a story and tells it very well. She’s not boring. She’s not pretentious. She’s just really nice and that niceness comes across in her blog.
Anyway, the post is Is It Possible to Be An Ethical Shopper. After reading the post, and the links she added within the post and which I read, it got me to thinking.
Thinking about how ethical I’m not—as far as shopping goes. Susan is way more ethical than I am.
Ehhhh. I may not be an ethical shopper, but perhaps if the sustainable clothing made by “ethical” companies brought their price points down, maybe more of us would be ABLE to be more ethical in our consumerism.
Allow me to give you my view on this…
When I lived in Manhattan, oftentimes I passed the School for Ethical Culture. The school always intrigued me because I thought to myself “Who the hell needs to go to school to be taught ethical behavior or ethical culture?
Honestly, I used to really think–“Why is there a school for Ethical Culture”?Being ethical and ethics have always interested me. I looked up a couple of “proper” meanings of the word and got …… involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval ethical judgments, as well as …conforming to accepted standards of conduct ethical behavior.
Now, in my simple-minded way, to be ethical is to do the right thing. Am I being kind? Am I being a decent person? Am I trying to be a better person? Am I making an effort to be socially aware? Do I have a good work ethic?
Yes. And in my simple and ethical way, I’m also polite–but like Ed Helms, don’t test my politeness!
Ethics is just a part of one’s value system. As a mother, I may not have ever been perfect and boy I have more faults than the Sierra Madre mountain range. But, I taught my children values and meshed in with the values are ethics. My three kids have stellar work ethics, they are ridiculously socially aware, they all volunteer and exhibit far better ethical behavior than I do.
Well, we are the way we are because of our values and ethics!
Be that as it may, I am very particular about my work ethic. When I was working, my ethics were excellent. I did the job and followed through to completion. I stayed to finish a task. Oftentimes I didn’t take a lunch break, I arrived early every day and did my best to stay out of office politics.
And these days ethics in business is practically an oxymoron!
But back to everyday ethics. Before throwing out any old clothing, I will give those clothes the once over and wash and iron them before taking them to the Goodwill for resale. I would say that’s trying to be an ethical person.
Surprisingly, my cosmetics and skincare shopping are more ethical than I imagined. I was actually pretty happy to find that many of the items we put on our faces are made here and in Canada!
I was happy to see that Vivant Skincare and….
…Skinactives are made in the USA. You can see that I use this a lot by the shape of the jar.
A great Canadian import..
As is The Ordinary’s products!
At $8.00, Hard Candy Primers, which are made in The States, are an excellent value and buy..
Praise be to God. Fenty’s Trophy Wife is made in Canada!
Now this is interesting, the photofocus foundation from Wet n Wild is made in the USA, but filled in Mexico!
My favorite eyeshadow palette from Mally is made in China–but the quality is great!
Urban Decay’s Naked 2 Palette. Made in USA, assembled in the Dominican Republic and the brush that is included is made in China. In my ethical behavior, I no longer purchase products from Urban Decay simply because the company is NOT ageing friendly. I received the most patronizing email from them and will never again buy anything from this company. I feel they are not ethical in their recognition and respect of older women.
But shopping for clothing is where my ethics change. Granted. I will only purchase my sandals from Rondini in France. This is more about brand loyalty than my ethics. I love the fact that the sandals are custom fit and made on the premises, rather than the mass-produced kind of many designer and not designer brands. For about the same cost as a pair of Tory Burch made in a third-world country sandals, I can have a far superior pair of footwear.
One of the collection of my Rondini sandals. A very ethical family-run company. I’ve been spoiled and even if I can’t make it to France, I can order these.
Same with Repetto ballet flats. I’m extremely brand loyal to these beautiful and comfortable flats that are made in France, even though I should be more in tune with the fact they are sustainable and ethically produced.
And less than Tory Burch flats too. Repetto produces a quality shoe that is ethically made in France.
Regular readers of this blog are well-aware that my favorite clothing store is J. Crew. And a great number of the clothing from J. Crew is made in China. It’s not stopping me from shopping there. The brand fits my style. The brand fits my taste and I can always get a great article of clothing for a very, very purse-friendly and inexpensive sale price. Perhaps the reason the prices can be sold so low during sales is that the clothing is made in China and other countries.
My J. Crew Tippi Sweaters–not made here! Does that mean that every single buyer of J. Crew clothing is an unethical person? Hell no it doesn’t!
I’m also not adverse to fast fashion. (I’ve recently written about my penchant for hi/low fashion). In fact, fast fashion is a godsend for women, both younger and more mature in age, who cannot afford pricier clothing.
A very inexpensive fast-fashion Chanel-inspired jacket. From a fast-fashion mail order site–Shein. And I love this jacket and will wear it with no shame!
These are the women who may be working for a larger corporation that hasn’t given out monetary raises in years because they are so hell-bent on putting money into their upper management’s pockets due to the big tax cuts they will receive. Who’s ethical here?
These are the single mothers—working on a salary that doesn’t afford proper medical care for her or her children. She needs to spend more on food and shelter for her family. Why would a woman in this situation be considered unethical if she isn’t buying sustainable clothing? Perhaps it is the politicians who take the medical care away who are unethical.
Do you remember Carol Burnett’s Charwoman character? She was so human and despite the exaggerated costume, real. And there are millions of women in America who make a living cleaning and are not well-paid. I know this because my Irish grandmother worked as an office cleaner for years and was never paid what she was worth.
Not everyone can afford to be an ethical shopper.
AG Jeans–made in USA, but look, the jeans are also made of imported Fabric and globally sourced components–what is that about? FWIT, I am a fan of AG jeans and only make my purchases at Nordstrom rack when they are on deep discount–it the only way I can afford them. The other two brands are inexpensive and made in China and the quality and fit is excellent! Just sayin’
And another thing. All these articles about why we should be shopping more ethically-hey, in our very own American backyard people are overworked for minimal wages. Businesses are allowed to make staff feel guilty if they don’t work 50, 60 hours a week whilst giving only five to ten vacation days a year. Is that an ethical way to treat employees?
Talk to me about being a more ethical consumer after corporations become more ethical in their practices–especially their ageist practices.
An ethical quality of life is more important to me than the way I shop.
I want to wake up to a completely ethical government and society first and foremost!
I’m sorrynotsorry for my views on this particular subject but I ran across this article from the site Racked: Ethical, Sustainable Brands You Can Really Trust and it got my goat. Now, I don’t know about you, but there is no way I am spending $35 on a pair of drawers to cover my ass and lady parts. Perhaps the brand Anekdot should be more ethical in making a more affordable pair of underpants.
Anekdot has some beautiful underwear but there is no way I’ll spent $35 on underpants–even if they are spun with gold, I’m not spending it!
And please—I know tons of women in our age demographic who adore Eileen Fisher clothing. Sustainable perhaps but I refuse to walk around in those sacks of clothing that cost way too much money. Not now. Not ever. Never! The brand may speak to many women but to me is says “Don’t buy me.”
Eileen Fisher has a huge and loyal fan base. I’m sorry, I am not feeling these clothes. They are baggy, boxy and totally unflattering. I sometimes thing some of these clothing companies are cashing in on”ethical”–is it ethical to make a woman look like a burlap sack?
Ethical brands may cost more—but the majority of folks, especially now, cannot afford to spend $165 on a pair of denim jeans. And many who do put themselves in credit card debt. Is that ethical?
Same with my “hair”. Turns out I’m not a very ethical wig shopper because the wigs I purchase are either made in China or Indonesia.
My hair. China and Indonesia. The hair is a touchy subject…
And I thank the good Lord for online wig vendors like Divatress and Hair to Beauty for keeping the costs of my inexpensive hair down. The ethical thing is that these inexpensive wigs are giving women back their confidence and self-esteem. You just need to know where to buy the goods. Come to me an I’ll tell you where!
And in my most humble opinionated opinion, it’s more ethical to buy my cheap synthetic wigs than to give my business to a mumbo-jumbo company that sells false promises of growing hair through their overpriced treatments, shampoos and conditioners. These companies are completely unethical by taking advantage of the vulnerability of women who still have hope that their hair will grow back more lush and beautiful than it ever was. They use aggressive tactics and harass people to buy the product. I know. I’ve been harassed by these people. They ain’t ethical!
Don’t even get me started on the unethical practices of the people who sell Monat. I’ve been harassed and bullied on social media by more than one of their representatives. I wouldn’t care if this stuff grew ten feet of hair overnight–their unethical treatment of consumers is disgusting!
No. I’m a realist and will not let one of those unethical companies take one cent of mine. I’ll be unethical in my wig shopping instead. And it is because a great number of us women cannot afford to also spend upwards of $500, and into the thousands on wigs.
And even though most of the wig companies that do sell extremely expensive wigs are sustainable and ethical in practices, the average, middle-class and working-class woman cannot afford to spend thousands on wigs. We have no choice but to veer into that naughty territory. But, we can purchase from reputable sellers—and that’s what we do!
Let’s be more ethical in our judgement. Just because someone may like fast fashion, or more affordable clothing or more affordable anything for that matter, doesn’t make them an unethical person.
I truly believe that nobody is unethical on purpose. No. Just. No. The whole process of ethics is a cross between a spider web and a Pandora’s box. But a lot has to do with the Benjamin’s (that’s cool people talk for dollars)!
Consumers don’t try to be unethical in their shopping practical on purpose. It’s the purse strings that speak. So perhaps it’s time for those ethical and sustainable companies to lower their prices on the goods—and we can all be ethical!
Thanks to Sue for allowing me to ping-back her blog. She really is a great writer and if you haven’t read her blog, head on over to the wilderness and have a look-see; but wear your heels. You’ll really like her!!
You know, I’m not the biggest Rolling Stones fan, but this song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, is one of my favorites of theirs. It’s true. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you’ll get what you need. That pretty much sums up my ethics when it comes to shopping!
Then we all know that the Trump line of most everything was made in other countries. Not making America great or anything like that.
Exactly Tony. He’s the biggest liar of all time!!! XOXXOXOXO!!!!
That’s for sure! When I think of ethics I immediately think about how UNETHICAL Trump and his family, and some of those staff members in the White House are! UGH
Well taking my cue from Nr.1 child who is extremely smart but also autistic, I would ask what does anyone mean by “ethical” there is always a moral maze and always a political/cultural prism for how we distort or make judgements – one acceptable or morally appropriate judgement may seem right in one historical period but we learn, we change, we alter the way we think etc and before you know it – that “ethical” judgement we clung to no longer holds. Where DO we buy clothing from? at the moment I read “dont’ buy from China” – but surely those factory workers have to eat, yes I may be doing the morally/environmentally reprehensible thing buying from there – but if we want to flog our goods to them it seems hypocritical not to buy theirs. Our global economy has us tightly connected. Also, in the UK we are often told not to buy from Israel, well call me a bad person but I have bought from Israel (some of the most amazing artisans sell their goods via Etsy live there – are they each and every single one responsible for their countries politics? And how do we judge their countries politics when we live in such safe and comfortable countries without their fears and vulnerabilities as part and parcel of our everyday lives? Likewise, am I singly responsible for Brexit just because I live in the UK and that idiot May is steering us to disaster?…). Whatever we do there is always some wee smug person ready to judge – I prefer to ignore those sanctimonious ninnies and focus on what is acceptable to me, but I am open to change, that change comes from reading and considering and thinking not from some holier than thou halfwit in a pair of $35 knickers or likewise. A lot of this current “ethical” bleating is bullying in any other name – buy this, dont buy that, dont speak to those people, thanks but like you say – try and be good, and try and think for yourself and try and see the person is the greatest mantra we can pass on to our kids, I think that is more than ethical enough
sorry, ranting – long response but yeah I don’t buy someone TELLING me what to think because they have something to sell
Rant on Juliet. Rant on!! Did you see that May is actually defending Trump. This is so awful on every level. Two countries that WERE great on the verge of disaster–and meanwhile the fashion industry is using bullying tactics to tell us HOW to buy. Nope! bye bye!! I agree with you tenfold! XOXOXOXO!!!!
I love your comment about Eileen Fisher. I couldn’t agree more. All those clothes say to me is, “I have given up.” I’ll keep my skinny jeans and cable sweaters thank you very much.
Jane. I’m so glad you agree with the Eileen Fisher thing. What is that style of clothing all about? There is nothing feminine or beautiful about her clothing line. I’m with you on the skinny jeans and cable sweaters!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
I just don’t get why the clothing is SO SO pricey…yes some are from nice fabrics but still…a tee is 125.00?? Jackets starting 300.00 plus? I agree they are generally baggy and not flattering…I try to remember “Just because it fits does not mean I should wear it”…even if I could afford EF clothing which I cannot and if I could afford to pay that kind of money it would be for other clothing lines.
You mentioned The Ordinary…did you see that Sephora is now carrying a few of their products on line? I tried to purchase the primer in the Michigan AVe. (Chicago) Sephora and learned it was on line only and there is a waiting list… I put my name on the wait list given your positive experience with this line.
Nancy. Did you try going on The Ordinary’s website to get the primer? You may have better luck. Yeah. NO Tee is worth $125. Period. I don’t get that overpriced point either. I swear the markup is ridiculous!!! XOXOXOXO
I’ve been trying to figure out why people like Eileen Fisher? It holds no appeal to me at all. Recently I had on a sweater dress and someone said, is that Eileen Fisher? HELL NO! It has more shape to it than her sacks do.
Vava! Right????!!! I can’t understand the appeal at all. I’m always amazed at just how many women have an almost cultish adoration of the brand. Ugh. Overpriced and non-attractive clothing. I’m with you! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Loved this column! Since you brought up the topic, what are some reputable sites to buy cheap wigs? I don’t know where to start! Thanks for your advice.
Hi Leah: Here you go: Hairtobeauty.com; Divatress.com; Hairsoflyshop.com; Locobeauty.com; Glamourtress.com; Samsbeauty.com;
all are very reputable vendors and have great customer service!!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Oh Catherine, we are so on the same page with this. In the UK there is the same journalistic snobbery about being and buying ethical, which actually, if you followed everything these usually young journos want you to do, costs tons of money. And so many people turn up their noses at buying in the cheaper shops on our High Streets. But these so-called ‘better’ shops, they ALL (apart from the ethical brands) they all manufacture either in China and Bangladesh. And I’ve watched documentaries where clothing manufactures have emphasised that all brands beat them down on contracts to the lowest cost possible so that they have to drive their workers. And here I’m not actually sympathising with the factory owners, but if you dig down and really try to find out what’s going on, you realise that clothing manufacturing has huge unsavoury issues that could make us the consumers throw up our hands and say, what are we doing, buying….! And then we go full circle and ask so, what is available? And it’s clothes that cost way, way too much. That, natch (!) leads me on to say, thrifting is by far the most ethical thing we can do! Geez, Catherine, it’s tough! But I think, just be aware, buy slightly less, de-clutter, take the de-clutter bag to a charity shop, do a little campaigning, and then relax, make a cup of tea, drink a coffee – and read a blog or two, like yours, which always brings a smile to my face 🙂 xxx
Hi Penny! Wow! Everything you said is just so spot on! And speaking of costs and snobbery–When I was a young kid–mid 1960’s to early ’70’s before Polyester came to visit, all the clothing was made of natural fibers and the costs was so evenly spread that people with lesser paying jobs could afford clothing on an equal par to those of a more higher income level. Am I right?? I don’t like the way our world is changing. Everything is to an extreme. We need the middle ground back!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
I’m SO with you on this, I hate being made to feel guilty when I can’t afford to pay half my weeks income for underwear . I guess those companies do try to keep the prices down but wow! Stella McCartney is trying to lead the way but in my dreams and back to the Thrift store,
Off topic but something you just gotta address. Here in U.K the stunning young Cara Delvinge, 25 years old and looking like a beautiful 14 year old boy has been chosen for, wait for it …the Face of the the new Dior anti-ageing range Capture. More words fail me, over to you Catherine.
Hi Jilly! None of us should be made to feel bad if we can’t afford expensive panties. That’s why I go commando when I wear jeans. I had no idea Stella McCartney is trying to lead the way for lower costs because her designer stuff is ridiculously expensive!!!
Oh..I’ve addressed the Cara Delivigne thing in this post “Don’t Let The Dior Hit You On The Way Out” I think you’ll like it!! XOXOXOXOXO
Thanks for the mention, Catherine. Great post. Lots of ways this discussion can go, eh?
Hi Susan!! Hey, any time for a mention on a great blog post! But it’s true the subject is just so intriguing and can go in all sorts of direction!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
I love Sue’s blog! I’m so glad you read it as well.
The topic of ethics is so fascinating so complicated but so important to discuss and consider, I’m just glad people are starting to really include in their decisions.
BTW, did you know that Sephora has started selling The Ordinary products?
Hi Bridget. Oh God–Sue’s blog is greatness and so much better than most blogs out there! You certainly hit the nail on the head with that. Ethics IS fascinating and complicated. Yeah. I’ve been hearing a lot that Sephora is finally selling The Ordinary products. It’s about time!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
Probably the most ethical shopping is to shop your own closet first. After that, it is a jumble of choices and competing “ethics”. Very complicated. Personally,I might buy that pricey underwear because hand-made by a few seamstresses making more than minimum wages is A-OK with me. Yet shipping from Germany seems wasteful so I wouldn’t. Eileen Fischer doesn’t usually work well for me (narrow with boobs) but Everlane sometimes does. In truth,I am picky and only buy a few pieces a season. I purged so much because joy wasn’t sparked but having this pared down wardrobe does make me happy. So in the end,I suppose mindful buying IS a thing for me. Preachy buying is a PITA for everyone.
Great thoughts Varya! I do shop my closet simply because I love my clothes. “I have nothing to wear” isn’t part of my vocab–in thatI essence I’m unusual. But–the reason I do love my clothing is that I buy wisely. Also–I do believe that whatever the person’s budget, people do buy mindful for the most part. I so agree with you that preachy buying is a PITA for us all!!!! XOXOXOXO
You wrote,”I do believe that whatever the person’s budget, people do buy mindful for the most part.”
We are going to have to agree to disagree here. I don’t think most people buy mindful any more than they eat,read,vote (don’t get me started on the Mad King) or yammer “mindfully”. To be so engaged all the time is exhausting and hard. (as we say round here, “battles must be picked”) Let alone all the advertising that is thrown out there to make constant consuming seem like a panacea for all one’s “issues”. I do think that those of us lucky enough to reach a certain age and stage,get better at shutting down the noise and knowing what works for us.
Oh you so hit the (un)ethical nail on the head with this post. I have a son studying ethics in University and we have had various discussions about bloggers ‘promoting’ products that they have been ‘gifted’ and then providing a link which gives them a kick back. His take was that if the blogger is honest with her readers and states openly the product was provided in exchange for an honest opinion and she gets a little something from the link (should the reader choose to use the link and not go to Amazon) then that’s fair. The blogger has done some work and provided an opinion it’s up to the reader to press the link. But I asked him what about the blogger who just links up with stuff ie beauty products. Doesn’t give an opinion just links that provides basically a passive income. His comment was that it’s technically ethical to do this but why would someone link their web site to a product they might not use in real life…so reader beware. My opinion is that if a blogger links me to a site in the hopes of a kick back she better know that product and have tried it or uses it herself.
Also if I have to use my time to check out the product I am going to go directly to the store web site or Amazon. OMG there is one blogger (I have since unsubscribed) who constantly links to THE most expensive stuff. No comment on if she has actually used it just ‘YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS!!” DON”T GET ME STARTED ON EILEEN FISHER!! Arrgh those baggy clothes. No she does make a nice pull on pant (in petites yeah) but for >240.00/pair I don’t think so. I found a similar fabric and style for 1/4 of the price (Nygard) and they wash like rags! Forget cost per wear or what ever justification the blogger divas are using to flog this stuff. I swear if I read one more mid life blog promoting 1200.00 purses and then a link to Nordy’s or Saks I am going to vomit.
There is one ethical thing I would like to remind your wonderful readers of though. Testing on animals…yeah its still happening. Watch the big companies that say they don’t do animal testing…yeah well they might own other cosmetic companies that do animal testing..look for that rabbit on jars, tubes, packages. There are a lot of ethical make up companies that do no testing on animals go, with those products. I notice your Skinactives jar says cruelty free. Hooray! Ethics wears many faces and shopping ethically doesn’t just apply to avoiding products that contribute to human suffering.
Hi Momcat! Oh I would LOVE to have a conversation with your son. You should have asked him about the Instagrammers who “buy” followers and likes. I swear its the most unethical practice of all time. Go to Instagram and check it out. You’ll see bloggers with Instagram accounts who have like 15K followers and they are following 75 people back. It’s such a horrific practice and all in the name to get “brands” to work with them.
I think I have a good idea of the blogger you are referring to. I used to love her blog so much and looked forward to it and slowly the blog evolved into nothing more than the links you speak of. I don’t read that particular blog anymore. It’s just not my thing anymore. I want to read a “story”. If someone has links to brands that pay, more power to you, but give me a story to read. Give me details.
I still get upset that I can’t expand into “branding” my blog, but I stay true to myself in the fact that you guys can bet your asses that anything I write about I use. Even when I’m gifted, I will use that product for a good month before I review. Whatever happened to honesty and integrity?
Oh..the Wet n’ Wild is also cruelty-free. Now, Estee Lauder has bought a great many cosmetics companies and Lauder is NOT cruelty-free, and that’s where it gets complicated. I think under some of the Lauder umbrella brands are still cruelty free but why would those brands merge with Lauder. Oh what a web we weave!!!!!
But ethics is such an interesting topic–don’t you agree?? XOXOXOXO!!!!
Wow I did not know about the Instagram scam! Sad isn’t it? Not that I am a member but if you go on the PETA web site they have the list of the animal testing cosmetics companies and the non testers. Blew my mind because I have never met a rabbit wearing eye liner so why? Like they used to use male prisoners to test female fertility medication on, why?? You want to test female oriented drugs use female volunteers, you want to test eyeliner use a human volunteer. If the products have that potential for damage who wants them?
Yeah. That Instagram scam is something else. It completely destroys my belief in honesty. Besides that, the filters that IG’ers use is just so deceptive. But that buying of followers–it’s freaking criminal to me and is proof that as a society, people cannot be trusted.
I so agree with you on the testing. Use females for makeup and drugs geared to women, not animals!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!
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Agree with you completely. So called ethical/organic products are expensive compared to similar products. I remember at a trip to IKEA over 12 years ago when the checkout assistant told me they had eliminated bags for purchases to help the environment and I couldn’t help responding with – seriously you make disposable furniture. Of course no plastic bags is a good thing but please don’t give lectures when your company created a company based on cheap disposable products.
I see some of your points. A better term I should and have been using is conscious consumer. I really think about buying an item. I question if I need it and I think about ways I can get that item. I pay secondhand (especially with clothes) and I do support ethical living because I care about the people behind it. I have spent money on ethical products but the idea behind conscious consuming to buy less but spend more. Buy something to last. I do understand that people can’t afford to buy ethical but there are some affordable ethical companies and sales as well and only buy what you really need. It sounds like you were talking about people who say they are ethical by buying ethical products but that’s it. I personally have my morals and I’m motivated by my faith to live ethical by how I act and live my lifestyle.
Hi Jackie. Your last sentence said it all!!! My ethical behavior stems from the great values my parents gave to me and my siblings and I’ve passed down to my own children. Those are the most important ethics!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!