Think Before You Shop

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” Anna Lappe

The tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh last month was a harsh reminder of the relationship between First World consumer demand for cheap goods, and the devastating consequences for factory workers in the Third World. Many westerners point the finger at the factory’s landlords, but our demand for products at cheap prices is driving this machine. Ultimately, we western consumers are partially responsible.

So how can we, as part of the cause, become part of the solution? How can we begin to steer this beast in a different direction? Here are a few ideas.

Buy fair trade when possible

If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, choose to buy only fair trade (it is often the same price as all the other coffees on the supermarket shelf). If they don’t sell fair trade at your local cafe, ask them to. Look out for other fair trade items at the supermarket, and buy them. The more we increase demand for them, the more our supermarkets will have to supply them.

Fair trade food can be expensive – but the reality is that this reflects the REAL cost of food – where everyone receives a fair wage. If you cannot afford fair trade, you should question whether or not you can afford to own the item. If you go for the non fair trade item, you are helping to drive the underpaid labour market.


Buy New Zealand Made 

Clothing (and other items) made in New Zealand are not cheap. But again, that reflects the true cost of the item. Going for the more expensive item may just make you think twice before you buy yet another item that you don’t actually need.

Just don’t buy that thing

When we buy that cheap top, we are so removed from the implications that it has on another human being’s life and livelihood, that we don’t even think twice about it. If the shoe was on the other foot, and your very life, and the survival of your children depended on where your counterparts across the world shopped, you would be desperate for them to think before buying yet another thing they hardly needed or wanted.

Shopping less serves a double purpose. Too much stuff makes us stressed, so the less stuff we have to look after, the less stressed we’ll be.


As Mums, we are big contributors to consumer spending – we are often the ones who buy the groceries, the clothing, and other consumables for our families. Imagine the change we could make if we all became just a tiny bit more fired up. We don’t have to all be out there pounding the streets with billboards, but we can ALL do SOMETHING. If we start demanding more fair trade options, and hesitate before marching into another fast fashion shop, maybe slowly, we can actually make a difference.

I for one, am going to try! I’d love you to join me in trying to make a small difference from your corner of the world.


4 thoughts on “Think Before You Shop

  1. This is an interesting one for me, coming from a Mum who was indeed and still is a shopaholic I have learned the joy of retail therapy. But I certainly have a love hate relationship with it. Love doing it, then regret and feel guilty about my actions in this day and age, when there is more information about the impact of these choices and behaviours. My first reaction to your challenge was to go underground and be a passive non-responder. But, after two sips of tea, I think I have some questions to add to the mix. Questions that I need to answer for myself but the perspectives of others may help us collectively find our way out of what has become a habit.

    When I think about my own need to shop, I realise it’s often a habit rather than a true need. The need underneath the behaviour – is a desire to do something nice for myself, to see and touch and hold and try on things that are beautiful to me. I want to lift myself out of my routine daily life and feel a bit more special. There must be a million other ways to do this but the shops are right on the doorstep, screaming for us to come in. So they snag us by default. Maybe I just need to take time to brainstorm a bunch of other ways that I can find my bliss that doesn’t involve traipsing around the stores.

    • You’re so right Bern, my guess would be that most women (in particular) shop out of habit and as a default “pick-me-up” mechanism, lured by the ever more enticing marketing that tells us that we can be more beautiful/glamorous/cool (or whatever “look” we’re going for) if only we buy just one more thing. I’m as guilty as the next person of falling into that trap.

      I have definitely found it helpful to reflect and journal on what it is that really feeds my soul, as I know that shopping really isn’t it.

      I also find it useful, while I am looking at a particular thing I want to buy, to think to myself “One day this will be clutter that I’ll have to get rid of”. This little mantra makes me think extra hard, as while I’m loving the freedom of having less stuff, the decluttering process itself is hard work, so the less accumulated clutter the better!

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