How to consume ethically: reducing and recycling electronics and home goods

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By Tall Chris, used under Creative Commons license.

Another day on the Internet, another awesome day to read comments on Offbeat Home….

Yesterday we discussed Lolly’s question about how to consume ethically. I’m working on ways to sum up some of the rich content of our comment threads for those of you who need bite-sized portions, so let me know how this works for you!

Nya said:

One way not to give money to companies whose ethics anger you is not to buy brand-new stuff. Second-hand goods were still produced in China by underage workers, but by offering them a second chance, you’re not encouraging the company to produce more AND you’re reducing waste.

jules said:

The real reason I do these things is that they are what I can afford. So when the end of the month comes and I need the savings that come from Walmart…I just do it and try to stop the guilt. Then I drop off my recycling while I’m at it.

I do other things to help the world. I have come to accept that doing what I can is good enough: I can’t do it all.

Adrienne has a good point:

If we stop buying these products, and these companies shut down, will it make for better working environments for the people? Or will it just mean that they end up starving to death?

Dootsiebug says:

Ethically speaking, everything sucks. Let’s go back to rocks and sticks.

Danikat says:

In some places, factory farmed eggs can be called ethical as long as the cages used are slightly bigger than the chickens inside them.

Rosecampion said:

Keep your tech longer. I read somewhere that the average American cellphone/smartphone is replaced or upgraded every 18 months.

LXV said:

I encourage everyone to consume smart and do what they can to reduce suffering in the world, but there’s only so much that the market can do about human nature.

And many other good words including this bit, which I think deserves a SEPARATE quote block:

In the end I think the best you can do is find the little corner of the world you are going to make less shitty. If we all improve our corners maybe we’ll eventually meet in the middle of the room and find we’ve made it a pretty good place.

Other takeaways:

  • Buy multiple-use electronics instead of single-use. (Do you REALLY need a tablet AND an e-reader?)
  • Buy for keeps. Spending more money now might mean spending and CONSUMING less in the long run. Fight planned obsolescence!
  • Start small. You don’t have to save the whole world TOMORROW.


Thanks for another round of enlightening discussion. If you have thoughts to add, jump into the conversation on the original post.

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