Ethical Consumption

An image of the author Celia Fisher

INTRODUCTION

How our consumption habits affect our people and planet, and what our parish can do to make that impact a positive one

BY Celia Fisher

Spare a thought for your consumption habits…

Consumption, in its broadest sense, is something that we do everyday often without thinking about it at all.

Consumption is necessary as we need to eat and drink, have clothes to wear, resources like phones and transport and so on. Everything we consume has a history (and a future). When we consider what we “consume”, where it came from, how our world was involved in its production, who was involved in creating it and who will be involved in disposing of it we can make better choices about how we consume.

This sounds more complicated than it really is. The 3 ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse (including repurpose) and Recycle make it as simple as it can be. Perhaps think about trying to use less and to take care of what you have to help it last longer.

how does our consumption affect others?

It is easy to forget that our consumption impacts the lives of many around the world: human and animals as well as the planet itself.

This impact can be really positive – creating employment to help sustain individuals and communities; maintaining skills and crafts; helping communities flourish and grow; bringing self esteem and opportunities for individuals and families; enabling sustainable production. Thoughtful and careful consumption can bring many benefits across the world.

an exploited people and planet

It is when we consume more than we need that our consumption is likely to have negative consequences on people and our planet. Many poor and vulnerable people across the globe are involved in the production of items which we often take for granted. These are often the same people who are robbed of the natural resources they need for their own livelihoods by the global west and north. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis highlights the link between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. The Bishop’s in New Zealand asked what the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” means when 20% of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poorer nations and future generations of what they need to survive.

Exploitation of workers and resources is common – in our cities, our country and across the globe. In many places the poor work for a pittance to create goods that we expect to buy cheaply and throw away when fashion changes. Children are still used in many countries to mine the minerals that our phones and tablets need to make them work.

Products may be made using unsustainable materials, produced in unethical working conditions, manufactured using hazardous or polluting processes or by a company that is not adhering to relevant legislation.

“A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.”

What can we do?

Informing ourselves on the impact, both positive and negative of our consumption, can help us make better choices and priorities, consistent with our faith.

It sometimes feels overwhelming when we realise the different impacts that our consumption may have. How can I affect this in any way? I need all the things I have. Changing our habits and bringing consideration of those involved in the production of what we consume and how the earth is treated will help us to live consistently with our beliefs. As Christians, we are taught to value each other, to treat people and our world with respect and dignity.

We call this ethical consumption – and we can take guidance from Catholic Social Teaching to help us on this journey.

All aspects of parish consumption and life can be reviewed and changes made to ensure that the parish can be a shining example to parishioners and others who use church facilities. A toolkit will be available to assist parishes with this process – taking it step by step.

The parish can also help by hosting information on the website, using noticeboards and newsletters to raise awareness about how we can change our consumption.

It is often easier to make small changes when we are supported by others – there will be people in your parish who want to make the same changes as you, others may have more experience and knowledge. If you have a Justice and Peace of Caritas group, you can ask them for suggestions. It may be that the people you talk to after mass want to know what they can do – we can extend the care and concern we have for each other out into the world.

An image of the author Celia Fisher

About the Author

Celia lives in Leicester, the most diverse city in the country. She is an aeronautical engineer by profession, but more recently had a career change to work for an HIV charity, LASS, in Leicester. At LASS she did community development and outreach work across different communities in the city (2004 – 2015). The career change was motivated by visits to her uncle, a Franciscan priest, in KwaZulu Natal South Africa.
Her interest in modern slavery, human trafficking and ethical consumption developed during her time with LASS, working with vulnerable and marginalised people, including asylum seekers, offenders and others who can be targets for exploitation.
She now volunteers with the diocese of Nottingham Justice & Peace commission doing work on modern slavery and ethical consumption. She has been part of the local Justice & Peace group since 2016 and is part of the local Laudato Si’ circle.

WORDS OF WISDOM

INSPIRING STORIES

By sharing these inspirational stories with you, we hope to inspire your creativity in your parish and to show that great things can be very simple, and very possible. Please do remember to write to us with any stories of projects that you would like to share.

ACTIONS

GET YOUR PARISH APPRECIATING BEAUTIFUL THINGS AND PRAISING GOD

Here is a selection of ideas to get you started! If you have completed any of these projects, or run these services in your parish please do share your story or resources so that we can improve our guide. When deciding what to do, think about what the needs of your community are; some actions will be possible for some and not for others.

Please be aware that clicking on some actions will take you to external sites, where you will find toolkits and resources to help you plan these activities.

repair cafe logo

Host a repair café for the wider community

Build and Support the circular economy.
fairtrade parish logo

Become a Fairtrade community

Commit to using Fair Trade and ethical products for all church activities. Communicate this with the parish, highlighting why it’s important (through posters/noticeboard etc.),
A logo of an ethical business map

Map of local area

Help people support local and ethical business and initiatives by producing a map of the area.
Loaf logo image

Adopt a food policy

Use the Green Christian LOAF campaign for a comprehensive food policy.
image of St Bakhita

Highlight key awareness days

Highlighting key awareness days and events such as St Josephine Bakhita (anti slavery& trafficking), Fair Trade Fortnight, World Day against child labour etc.

MORE ACTIONS

There are lots more activities that can help your community consume better. Getting dirt under your nails, growing food, and getting stuck into projects that create a welcome for all creatures great and small, really help us cultivate a deep appreciation that we are creatures living as part of God’s marvellous creation.

WASTE PAGE

SHARING PAGE

USEFUL WEBSITES

To help your parish consume better

These resources have been tried and recommended by our resident experts, editors and parishioners from across the UK. These are more general and practical resources for a multitude of uses. Simple and accessible, they are a great place to start!

learn more

Ethical Consumer scores companies based on their ethical rating in a number of categories. It also has a lot of information about best practice for businesses.

handy tips and resources

Friends of the Earth, as well as campaigning on a number of environmental issues, provide resources on all sorts – including homemade cleaning products and plastic-free ideas.

use up leftover food

Love Food Hate Waste is full of recipes to help you use up ingredients that would otherwise go to waste.

Find a repair café

Search for a Repair Café near you; free community spaces with volunteers, resources and materials to help you repair goods rather than throw away.

Find out more about child labour

Unicef has some key global statistics on child labour as well as resources for further reading.

CHild labour reports

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) produces comprehensive yearly reports on the global state of child labour.

The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility

ECCR help faith communities and people to make financial choices which reflect their values and passions.

PLENTY

Green Christian have excellent resources on building the conversion about economics and consumption in your community.

https://joyinenough.org/

How does changing our consumption habits HELP US MEET THE LAUDATO SI' GOALS?

The Laudato Si’ Goals are our global Church’s vision for action. Launched by the Vatican in 2021, the 7 goals aim to guide us in our mission to care for our common home by recognising the integral link between all ecological and human systems. Learn more on the Laudato Si’ goals page.

Have a read below about how the topic of this page helps us to meet each of the goals.

response to the cry of the earth laudato si goal logo

RESPONSE TO THE CRY OF THE EARTH

The way we consume – whether that’s food, clothes, technology, fuel etc. – impacts the environment both in the way that the resource is made and in the way it is disposed. When we truly consider the ethical impact of our consumption, we can ensure that this impact is minimal, and if possible, positive for the earth.

response to the cry of the poor logo

RESPONSE TO THE CRY OF THE POOR

Many of the products that we can buy are made in a way that exploits vulnerable people across the planet, e.g., through cheap labour, unsafe production methods, and unfair trade. We have the opportunity, through ethical purchasing, to ensure that people are not exploited.

SPIRITUALITY

The way we consume should be directly related to our Christian experience – if every purchase is a moral choice, so also is it an opportunity to engage with our consciences and pray for change in the systems that make exploitation so universal. Also are we filling a God shaped hole in our hearts with material possessions? What is the first commandment?

Ecological Economics logo

ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS

Ethical economics and consumption go hand in hand – by using our purchasing power to invest in moral systems, we create incentives for businesses to change their practices and influence global supply chains.

Adoption of simple lifestyles laudato si goal logo

ADOPTION OF SIMPLE LIFESTYLES

The first point to consider when making a purchase is “do I need this?”; we can improve our ethical consumption and simplify our lives by merely reducing the amount that we buy.

Ecological education laudato si goal logo

ECOLOGICAL EDUCATION

There is so much to learn about ethical consumption, and the more we explore the topic, the more we discover about the different systems of injustice that are causing the plight of our people and planet. Learning about how our spending habits contribute to these problems is a humbling experience, but a necessary journey.

Community involvement and participatory action laudato si goal logo

Building Community Resilience and Empowerment

There is an excellent opportunity through our communities to make a much greater impact in the way that companies behave. By campaigning together, e.g., through collective boycotting and lobbying, we can truly influence change.

How does ethical consumption HELP US MEET THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted as a part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations in 2015 as a blueprint for more just future for people and the planet. Recognising that all injustice is interlinked, the UN invites the world to make these goals a reality by the year 2030.

See below to find out which SDGs relate to the topic of this page.

The common good logo

ACTION STATIONS

Write to us

Do you have an inspiring story that you would like us to feature? Write to The Journey to 2030 at info@journeyto2030.org or click the link below.

FIND A LOCAL NETWORK

Find your diocese on the map and click to discover groups and contacts to support you in your diocese.

SIGN UP TO OUR MAILING LIST

Let us keep you in contact so that we can send you all the latest news and alert you to new features, blogs and more…

read laudato si'

Read the document that inspired The Journey to 2030.

People dressed as bananas

Become a Fairtrade Parish

commit to using only Fair Trade and ethical products for all church activities. Communicate this with the parish, highlighting why it’s important (through posters/noticeboard etc.), and participate in events such as Fair Trade fortnight.

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

USE L.O.A.F

Use the Green Christian LOAF campaign for a comprehensive food policy

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

investigate your PARISH's ETHICAL CONSUMPTION

Use the Parish Ethical Consumption Toolkit resource to review all aspects of parish consumption, including energy, communications, cleaning etc. to ensure companies we purchase from pay living wage, fair tax, and other ethical standards – and avoid buying from those who don’

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

USE your noticeboards and newsletters etical map of businesses

Use church hall notice boards to display posters and information about ethical consumption issues.

This could be to highlight key awareness days and events such as St Josephine Bakhita (anti slavery& trafficking), Fair Trade Fortnight, World Day against child labour etc.

Map of local ethical businesses.

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Collect donations

Donations of food, clothes, furniture etc are often needed by communities and individuals around us. This is a good way to extend the life of items we have no more use for as well as supporting the poorer and vulnerable communities in our parish area. Can the parish host regular swap / donation events in the church hall

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invite a guest speaker

Invite guest speakers to events in the parish to increase knowledge and awareness.

These could involve people form organisations such as the London Mining network, Faitrade, indigenous speakers whose lives are being threatened by our damaging industries, or simply your Granny to discuss how they used to make do and mend or never waste a scrap of food.

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

PARISH SWAPSHOP

Help create a gift economy by swapping useful things that you do not often use. This could be a swapshop event or simply listing underused items for other parishioners or the wider community

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

Guide to ethical living at home

Could your parish get a speaker to talk of the theological or scientific reasons why we should care for nature?

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

BAN DISPOSABLE ITEMS

Could your parish get a speaker to talk of the theological or scientific reasons why we should care for nature?

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Toolkit

A toolkit for this action exists at the Quiet Garden Movement website.

Build and Support the circular econommy

Could your parish host repair cafés for the wider community?