My 7 year old daughter asked me yesterday what the word ‘ethical” meant. Admittedly it came out as ‘effical” with her two front teeth missing but I was still impressed she was asking a question I had no idea about at the same age. I used the egg purchasing decision as an example she might relate to – free range chickens versus battery hens. I think I got the message across but also checked my latest copy of “The guide to ethical supermarket shopping” compiled by Nick Ray and Clint Healy (produced by the Ethical Consumer Group) so I am better resourced with examples next time the topic arises!
Now in its 4th edition this practical, pocket sized guide provides information on the environmental and social record of companies behind the brand names of common supermarket products. For example, when I looked up Rev Milk, I learnt it was owned by Italian company Parmalat who was involved in one of the worlds biggest corporate scandals in 2004. Also, my beloved Vegemite is owned by USA Kraft Foods, a company that has been involved in product recalls over genetical engineering in food and poor human rights records. Food for thought.
You will be also glad to know the iphone app “Shop Ethical” (2nd edition) has just been launched this week at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne! So next time you’re out at a supermarket buying bread, milk and cereal, be sure to make it an informed buy. Author Nick Ray was kind enough to answer a few questions AND offer State of Green readers 3 guides as giveaways.
1. What was the incentive to create the guide to ethical shopping? The guide came out of a lack of information on the wider impacts of our everyday purchases. We saw a T-shirt that said ‘Your Dollar is you Vote – who did you vote for today?” and realised we didn’t know. So began a personal pilgrimage to find out where my money was going – which companies, activities and systems behind the scenes was my money supporting. This has involved many years wandering the supermarket aisles reading labels and joining dots in the ‘who owns who’ mission of discovery.
2. How does the 2011 edition differ from the first edition? This is in fact our 4th edition, the first being in 2008. We’re pretty happy we’ve sold over 75,000 guides since that time, showing a growing awareness in people that they want their purchases to reflect their values and are seeing the difference that their buying choices can make. This 2011 edition has an expanded ‘Supermarkets in Australia’ section, a new section on global agribusiness (the hidden companies behind our food), and a new centrespread chart that summarises the major issues.
4. Are you planning supermarket tours for 2011? We are running two ‘Shopping with a Conscience‘ workshops in Melbourne in February as part of the Sustainable Living Festival local events program. The first is our regular introductory workshop which includes a supermarket tour, and the second is a train-the-trainer session for people interested in facilitating a workshop in their own area or with your own groups. You can find out more at www.ethical.org.au/swac.
5. Anything else planned for 2011 you’d like our readers to know? We run regular Meal and Movie nights, and are presently setting up a movie library to allow others to run similar sessions themselves, and an annual Household Action Challenge where we go hard on an area for a week, such as eating locally or going zero waste. Also we’re planning a clothing edition of the guide for later in the year. People can find out more on our website and sign up for our monthly ‘ethical update‘ e-bulletin.
Thanks again Nick and all for all of your hard work and research!
To be in the running to win one of three guidebooks, tell us why you would love to win this Guide – Just enter your comment in the “LEAVE A REPLY” box below (keep scrolling down and if you are a subscriber please click on title to access!). Entries to be submitted by 7pm Wednesday on 23 Feb 2011, and winners notified on Facebook and by email.
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