When we shop we, consciously or unconsciously, are helping to shape the world around us and make a powerful statement about the kind of world we want.
One of the strongest drivers for shoppers is value for money which for most means looking for the cheapest price. Whilst some have no choice but to buy the cheapest, low prices should come with a warning. If the price looks too good to be true it most likely is. Behind the cheap price will be a sweat shop, workers not paid a fair price for their goods and labour, or British workers put out of a job.
And goods, especially food stuffs, we insist must be available all the year around when ever we want them. So land and water supply in other countries is used to grow items for our markets, goods are transported vast distances at a cost to the environment and to people to satisfy our needs, cattle and poultry are kept locked up to satisfy our insatiable demand.
We succumb to the advertisers wiles and end up buying food that we will end up throwing out, clothes we will not wear, replacing items simply because they are no longer in fashion. We gather endless clutter and deplete our planet’s resources.
Each time we shop we are impacting the world and shaping the lives of others – often people we will never meet or have no knowledge of. We falsely claim that we are too small to influence market forces and excuse ourselves as just victims of the system.
But the truth is otherwise; we do have choices. We can buy fair-trade goods and ensure produces get paid a proper price for their goods. We can buy organic, not because it is necessarily better for us, but it is kinder to the planet. We can buy local and reduce the food miles, support our local farmers, favour the independent retailer over the commercial giants. We can buy in season and reduce the need for so much to be imported. We can ensure we only buy what we really need and not just consume ever more of the earth’s precious resources.
Yes often these choices will cost us more but when it is about the impact on other people’s lives and on this fragile earth, is it not a price worth paying? Either way shopping is a political act. When we spend our money there are always consequences even if we do not see them. Where and how we shop and what we buy, matters.
Human beings are not called to be consumers. We are called to be in relationship one with another. When we shop we need to consider how we impact those relationships, including our relationships with those who may be out of sight but who should never be out of mind.