Ethical Shopping Guide Introduction

 

As Christians, we have an incredible opportunity to honor God by honoring his most vulnerable children, and the earth he has created. Our hope is that this guide will help you embrace choices that promote the flourishing of all people and creation, and help you consider the ways you have influence as a consumer.

From climate change to human trafficking -- we can do something in our daily lives to respond to these pressing challenges. We can declare that there is a better way. We can resist the culture around us that encourages overconsumption, apathy, and harm. 

Christians have long embraced simplicity, long before “minimalism” came into vogue. Going back to the Desert Fathers in Egypt, Christians have long realized that by emptying themselves of the “stuff” of this world, they found intimacy with God and were filled by his love and presence. There is something mystical about simplicity as a Christian practice, a small but simple way to resist self-reliance and instead rely on the Father. 

We hope and pray this guide helps you on your journey to impact our world and draw closer to God in the process!

Tips for Shopping

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KIDS

Borobabi

  • Children inevitably outgrow clothing, which can be not only expensive but also is extremely environmentally taxing. Borobabi seeks to address this issue via its unique business model. Promoting circularity, Borobabi offers personalized clothing bundles from the brand's in-house team of real mom stylists. Customers are then allowed to choose to buy, rent, or return any items, giving customers access to quality, ethically, and sustainably made clothing at a fraction of the market price. Borobabi believes that shopping sustainability should be accessible to all, regardless of income level, and their discounted second-hand prices allow for this inclusivity. As a parent-run company, return policies are flexible and rented clothing can be taken back in any condition. To encourage customers to return their items after use, Borobabi provides discounts off of original purchase prices if returned, promoting second-hand use of goods. 
  • Borobabi strives to partner with brands that choose organic, GOTS certified, and OEKO-TEX certified materials, decreasing carbon emissions, freshwater use, and clothing waste. Mindful of even the smallest details, Borobabi recycles monofibers from their clothing back into usable fibers, and partners with local composters to return the clothing back to the environment.

 

Tenderleaf

  • Tenderleaf specializes in creating sustainably sourced imaginative wood toys. Tenderleaf aims to create timeless and durable toys that will withstand generations, decreasing the need for surplus plastic-based toys. 
  • By using reclaimed timber from trees discarded from the latex industry in Indonesia, they turn byproducts into entertaining and educational products for all ages. Plywood use is FSC certified, and the brand partners with the Indonesian government in a 1 to 1 commitment to replant trees every tree used. The brand has also almost eliminated single-use plastic throughout their entire supply chain, using recycled cardboard and wrap in most products. Prioritizing safety as well, Tenderleaf uses only toxic-free, formaldehyde-free glues, and lead-free paints.
  • Tenderleaf is intentional about handmade manufacturing. From raw wood to finished product, the drying of wood, cutting, and painting processes happen in a single factory. They are also proud to be awarded the ICTI Ethical Toy Program seal of approval, showcasing their commitment to responsible resourcing. Maintaining a close relationship with their suppliers is crucial to their statement of brand identity, as members of the Tenderleaf team travel to work, eat, and converse alongside factory workers in Indonesia for two months out of every year.

 

Mightly

 

  • Made by moms, Mightly understands the love of soft, durable, cotton children's clothing while also balancing cotton’s environmentally “dirty” reputation. By sourcing from organic, GOTS, and fair-trade certified cotton mills, the brand works to mitigate water and pesticide use commonly associated with its production. In addition, they prioritize working with marginalized farmers to help establish secure and profitable occupations. 
  • Mightly also honors ethical manufacturing processes, and invests in their workers both inside and outside the factory, putting money back into the local community to help establish eschools, vocational training centers, loan funds, and eco-centers. In fact, in 2010, their Rajlakshmi factory was the first factory in the world to achieve a Fair Trade certification. You can even see the garment worker who made your clothing and their personal testimony as to how Fair-Trade practices have personally impacted their lives on their website. 
  • The brand also values gender inclusivity, including a range of gender-neutral clothing.

 

Lovevery

  • Lovevery is an Idaho-based company that specializes in developmental toys tailored to each specific age-based stage a child goes through. Backed by a team of accredited academics, researchers, and practitioners, Lovevery designs with intent and thought. By choosing materials such as bio-based plastics, organic cotton, FSC certified wood, and soy-based inks, the company is not only developmentally conscious but also environmentally. 
  • Conscious of carbon emissions, the brand tracks emissions throughout the entire supply chain and seeks to minimize or offset any necessary pollutants their products might cause. 
  • Shipping is carbon neutral as they invest in carbon reduction products to offset any emissions that come with transportation. Their commitment to sustainability doesn’t end there, as they plan to release a second-hand marketplace in the coming years, as well as achieve zero net carbon emissions. 
  • Giving back is second nature for Lovevery, as they invest in multiple climate alliances and renewable energy programs both at home and around the world. One of their more recent initiatives involved a partnership with 3Degrees, a program that installs eco-friendly stoves in Ugandan households, reducing pollutant emissions and decreasing deforestation by reducing reliance on wood for fuel. They are proud members of the Climate Collaborative and SME Climate hub, seeking to take political and financial climate responsibility as a business.

 

Green Toys

  • Safety and sustainability are Green Toy’s top priority. While plastic is a common material for children's toys, it also can be extremely energy-consuming and polluting, ending up clogging landfills and taking years to degrade. By crafting unique children's toys out of recycled milk jugs and other 100% post-consumer recycled plastics, Green Toys diverts massive amounts of waste from landfills and repurposes it into beautiful toys perfect for your child's playroom. Catered towards children's development, Green Toys makes sure their products are timeless and durable, weighing both the financial and environmental costs of consumerism.
  • Handmade in the USA, Green Toys minimize transportation emissions, stimulate job creation, and support the domestic economy. Their local manufacturing also allows them to make sure every step of their supply chain lives up to their stringent quality and ethical requirements.

Other Industries

Want to learn more?

Why does sustainability "cost more?"

  • It’s no secret that shopping sustainably can often be more expensive than shopping traditional brands. By outsourcing labor to factories overseas that do not follow ethical guidelines and choosing materials that are less sustainable but cheaper, brands can pay less for manufacturing and make a bigger profit.
  • However, we often forget that a “price” can be more than financial. Do we value a financial dollar more than our neighbors well-being? Is saving a few dollars enough to justify profiting off of vulnerable communities? Many of the resources we are depleting, and the environmental effects these processes are causing when we purchase non-sustainable goods, are nonrenewable. We cannot buy them back, and they truly cannot be labeled with a financial cost at all, they are priceless. 
  • So, what do we weigh? What truly costs more?  

How our rubric works?

  • Greenwashing, the process of conveying something falsely of being sustainable or “green,” is a trap consumers fall into all too often. Sustainable can mean so many different things, so we want to be transparent on the guidelines and rubric we used when looking at brands to choose to include. 
  • We also acknowledge that sustainability and ethics are jointly related. Can something really be ethical if it isn’t sustainable? If we are buying non-sustainable items how does that affect not only our human neighbors but also our animal neighbors? Is it ethical for our modern luxuries as a developed nation to cause environmental impacts to target and affect lower-developed nations who do not partake in the same luxuries? Likewise, can something be sustainable if it is not ethical? Can we honestly allow ourselves to continue to profit off of business models that operate at the expense of marginalized communities? 
  • Our rubric combines principles of ethics and sustainability to assess brands holistically. While not every brand is perfect, we hope to highlight the brands striving for better practices, while also noting places that can be improved. Below are the categories we consider when auditing brands, and some guiding questions we use. 
  • Ethics
    • Labor Are laborers manufacturing the products treated ethically? Are they given fair wages, or even living wages? What are factory conditions like? Are workers allowed to unionize? Cruelty-Free How are animals treated? Are materials sourced from vulnerable or endangered plants or animals? Is the product tested on animals? Is the product vegan? If not, does the brand adhere to animal welfare policies? 
    • Ownership - Who is benefiting from the business's profits? Is it a marginalized group or a larger corporation profiting? Do the profits go to a vulnerable group? Is this a small business, USA-made, owned by a BIPOC, woman, or LGBTQ+ identifying person? Does the brand make an effort to distribute the wealth? 
    • Usability - Is this product worth the energy expenditure? Is it a necessity? Is it a quality product that can be used or worn multiple times? 

 

 

 

  • Sustainability
    • Resource Base - What materials is the product made out of? Is it carbon-intensive to make? Is it a renewable resource? Are the materials toxic for the workers or the environment? Where are the materials sourced? Are the farming or growing practices used to produce the material environmentally friendly? What is the packaging made out of? 
    • Manufacturing - How energy-intensive is the manufacturing process? What type of energy do the factories use? Where are the factories located in conjunction with where materials are produced? How are the air, water, and waste emissions? Is waste disposed of effectively? 
    • Transportation - Where is the product coming from? Is it being shipped from across the world? Is it by air or road? Or sea or rail? What are the carbon emissions associated with shipping? 
    • Circularity - Can the product be reused or recycled? Is it made of materials that can go back into the environment safely? Will it end up in the landfill? Is the product disposable with minimal impact? Is the product made with recyclable goods, or designed in a circular model? 

 

 

 

 

What about standards and certifications?

Certifications can be confusing. It's easy to combine a bunch of letters and slap it with a sustainable or ethical label, so we did the research for you. These are common certifications brands carry that are certified by legitimate third-party associations and do carry ethical and sustainable weight. 

 

  • FSC The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization that promotes responsible management of the world's forests, focusing on ensuring responsibly sourced wood that meets strict ethical guidelines for laborers. 
  • BCI The Better Cotton Initiative is the world's largest cotton sustainability program in the world, incorporating manufacturers, brands, retailers, farmers, ginners, spinners, and suppliers into their processes. The initiative works to educate farmers on more sustainable farming processes, increasing yields and financial security. Monitoring soil and water management, the initiative works to transform the cotton sector to meet our new sustainable future. 
  • Fair Trade Fair Trade is an ethical accreditation that guarantees brands ensure safe working conditions, workers' rights, and fair pay. Fair Trade protects traditionally less developed or growing countries while attempting to decrease the inequalities between themselves and buyers and manufacturers monopolizing in developed countries. Social premiums paid by buyers go directly to the producer groups of the goods, allowing them to direct exactly where the funds go, often into community initiatives such as schools, farming equipment, or water projects. 
  • GOTS The Global Organic Textile Standard monitors textile processing manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution of textiles. Brands seeking this certification must use at least 70% organic fibers, therefore minimizing pesticide and water use. The organic nature of the products is inherently more environmentally friendly due to the minimal chemical use. GOTS also considers social and humanitarian criteria, as GOTS-certified units must adhere to the bylaws of the International Labor Organization and a separate internal audit done by GOTS. 
  • OEKO-TEX Oeko-Tex is an international textile and fabric certification that audits chemicals used in manufacturing throughout the entire supply process, helping ensure sustainable production practices. Oeko-Tex offers a variety of different certifications depending on the product type, which can be further explained on their website. 
  • GOLS The Global Organic Latex Standard is a material and processing standard for organic latex. The certification considers human welfare, as well as environmental welfare during the manufacturing process. 
  • Organic materials can be certified in multiple ways. In the US, the USDA organic certification is the most common and weighty. Organic products often require less water use, minimizing resource impact, as well as protecting soil health by minimizing the use of pesticides and fertilizers. 

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