My passion for ethical consumerism began at the beginning of this semester, after I re-watched Food, Inc., an important documentary on the way food is produced in the United States. This film is filled with startling visuals and statistics that really make you question the food industry and basically everything that you have ever allowed yourself to eat.
I wanted to find a way that I, a poor college senior, could do my best to become an ethical consumer. I started off by looking into buying products with less packaging... or at least packaging that could be recycled (I am a HUGE proponent of recycling and I actually worked with my university's Environmental Club to help us get single stream recycling on campus last year). I also tried to watch what I eat, especially in regards to meat. Although I had not become a complete vegetarian, I limited the amount of meat I ate, and I completely cut out red meat, especially seeing as I did not really like to eat it that often in the first place. Now, I stick to a mostly vegetarian diet with chicken and turkey a few times a week.
Just a few weeks ago, my roommate/ best friend had to watch Food, Inc. for a class she is in and she decided she wanted to become an almost vegetarian. Since both of our families still eat meat, we decided not to cut it out completely; this way, when we go home for breaks, we will not react badly to eating meat and we will not cause too much of an inconvenience to our families during dinnertime.
In addition to becoming kind-of vegetarians, we decided that we wanted to make a real effort to buy ethical goods as much as we can. We did some research and found that there is a natural market co-op just a few towns over from where we attend university. Most of their products are from local places, which benefits the community. Although it is a bit farther out of the way than our regular supermarket, we decided to give the Common Market, of Frederick, MD a shot.
After scheduling a few hours to make our first visit, we headed out to do our grocery shopping with reusable grocery bags in hand. It was not difficult to find the Common Market, but it was a lot farther away than we expected, and we decided that we would really need to plan our trips to the grocery store, if we would continue to shop here.
Our week's grocery list was filled with ingredients for dinners like chili and cornbread muffins, burrito bowls, and salads, and we also needed some fruits and vegetables and other goods.
We started off in the produce section, which was filled with mostly organic and locally sourced foods. We noticed other shoppers around us who were passing up on the little bags that are usually used for produce. We followed suit and realized just how many plastic baggies we were saving just by refusing to use them.
After exploring the produce section, we went to the dairy section where I was so happy to find milk in glass containers. Consumers can purchase this brand of milk and return the glass container when they are finished, thus cutting down on waste.
We wanted to try purchasing some things from the bulk section, so we bought our beans for chili from the dispensers, which worked out well. (My roommate and I had never cooked dried beans before, so making the chili was quite an adventure).
After we had perused the entire store and looked at the cafe section where customers can buy sandwiches and snacks, we decided to check out. We explained to the cashier that it was our first time there, and at the end of the transaction, he handed us each a round poker chip. Little did we know that our reusable bags earned us each a token to play "plinko" with on the way out. The Common Market would donate 5 cents to whichever basket our tokens landed in, which made us happy.
Now, about the prices... Although the prices are noticeably higher than at our regular grocery store, we found it to be doable. Lucky for us, we are only buying for two people, rather than an entire family which eats three square meals a day. We are going to continue to see how shopping at the Common Market works for us. We really enjoyed our first time there and hope to continue our ethical shopping movement.
For more information on the Common Market Natural food store, click here.
Do you know of any other similar markets, or have any tips to buying ethical goods? Feel free to leave a comment; I am always looking for more ways to be an ethical consumer!