July 6, 2014

Ethical consumerism in vogue

Last week, I was a member of a panel conducting telephone interviews for a foundation seeking to hire a program officer. In response the request to “tell me something about yourself that I wouldn’t know from reading you resume,” one candidate responded that he actively promoted ethical consumerism.

“Ethical consumerism.” It brought back memories of when I worked on the U.S. Oval and would engage in conversation with a CV TEC employee who was fanatical about the topic.

As she explained to me, ethical consumerism is “the practice of purchasing products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and/or environments damage, while avoiding products and services deemed to have a negative impact on society or the environment.”

The goal is to create a sustainable future for the planet.

While articles on ethical consumerism would have you believe that it’s a recent phenomenon, it’s has actually been around for a while. A colonist protesting the Stamp Act of 1756 by boycotting tea or other British goods was a form of ethical consumerism. Although the term “boycott” wouldn’t originate until the late 19th century, when Irish Home Rule leader Charles Parnell coined the term in a campaign against an oppressive property owner, Charles Boycott.

Boycotts are a common form of ethical consumerism, especially at the social issue end of the ethical consumerism spectrum.

For many who practice ethical consumerism, it’s akin to a religion steeped in guilt. I can see my former nemesis, Sister Mary Agatha, scowling at me now. Are you drinking fair-trade coffee? Is that cup recyclable? How are you going to offset the carbon emitted by the airplane that took you on vacation? How much virtual water is in that shirt you’re wearing?

For the uninitiated, virtual water is the measure of all the water it takes to make the products you use. One website estimates that it takes approximately 715 gallons of water to make a new cotton shirt. It includes the amount of water used in irrigating growing the cotton, the water needed to dilute the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, etc.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • ken_wibecan.jpg Another day in the life

    Each morning I rise from bed, slowly, as is my habit, and sit quietly on the bed contemplating the day that looms before me, writes columnist Ken Wibecan.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR small talk mug 081714 Corner store is no more

    Columnist Gordie Little offers a reminder of the little grocery stores of days gone by.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR skin deep mug 081714 High-end products worth the splurge

    Regardless of the price, writes columnist Felicia Krieg, she would buy the core group of her makeup products over and over again.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • paul_grasso.jpg Tax code needs overhaul

    Corporations may be criticized for exploiting loopholes, but it is the complex tax system that is at fault, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Ideas about soil health changing

    New techniques like no-til and cover crops can make soil healthier than conventional tillage, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Economy may have changed forever

    The Great Recession has reordered the workforce in a way that makes it unlikely it will ever be the same, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg The dark side of fun funerals

    Something strange happened in American culture in the past decade or two: People started planning fun funerals, writes religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR fit bits mug Developing power key to success

    While strength is important, the ability to generate power is required for many basic activities in life, writes columnist Ted Santaniello.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • PPR you had to ask mug 081014 Time to reel in youth sports parents

    Do not scream at a child that he's a loser, at least not in a language he understands, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Treating corporations like people

    Problems arise in many areas when businesses take on the attributes of individuals as mandated by the court, according to columnist Colin Read.

    August 10, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time