The Price of Ethical Shopping

Below is an article I wrote for my class, Digital Journalism. It details what may drive people away from shopping ethically. I interview CEO, of The Root Collective (a company I have talked about before) Bethany Tran, who gives amazing insight on the topic of ethical consumerism.


Laura Wagenhurst, 28-year-old mother of one, wants to be an ethical shopper. So she purchases items that are organic and of high quality, but when money became tight, she had to put those methods of shopping behind.

At times opting to shop at more familiar stores such as, Target and Wal-Mart, Wagenhurst admits, “I shop there because they’re reasonably priced.”

While many people may long to be more ethical consumers, some find it an option they cannot afford.

Bethany Tran, CEO of the ethical shoe company The Root Collective, understands that it is impossible for ethically made items (items that help minimize social and environmental damage) to be sold at the same price as a items made from cheaper materials. When a company, such as Wal-Mart, is able to buy a large supply of products, the cost of these items goes down. When costs go down, it’s easier for those items to be sold at a lower price. If American consumers started supporting companies that produce ethically, the costs would eventually go down for these higher priced items.

The Root Collective is a company that appreciates the importance of hand made quality items. Founded after Tran spent a week in the slums Guatemala, she realized that there was little to no job opportunities for the inhabitants of the town.

“I wanted to create a business that allowed for opportunity. Where people were paid fair wages for fair work, and a business model that was focused on connection and partnership.” Tran explains. There is a real name and face behind every shoe the company sells.

The Root Collective operates on a less is more mentality. As Tran sees it, it’s better to buy a higher quality product that will last longer rather than have a closet full of clothes that will fall apart after only a few wears.

However, throwing down $98 dollars for a pair of ballet flats is not ideal for most consumers when a similar pair can be found at PayLess for roughly half the price.

Tammy Bean, Director of Community Services at Cedar Crest College, knows the importance of making your dollar stretch. But offers consumers to think about their values when they shop. Is your purchase doing good for the environment? Is it contributing to sweat shops? Child labor? Before one racks their head around all those questions, Bean suggests simple ways to make even the most basic shopping trip a little more ethical, such as bringing useable bags to your favorite grocery stores.

According to a 2014 New Yorker article, after San Jose, California placed a ban on plastic bags the city saw an 89 percent reduction in the number of plastic bags found in the city’s storm drains. Even the smallest change, as Bean suggests, can make a big impact.

While doing your grocery shopping, you might find yourself thinking about the food you are about to buy. A recent Economic Research Service study shows consumers highly value their food purchases .The sales of organic foods more than doubled from 1994 to 2014. This is important because organic farming eliminates the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

The next time you find yourself shopping, ask yourself if the product is really worth the price. See if you can picture person behind the product. Your wallet might become a little thinner, but your heart will grow even bigger.

Lastly, here is a video I made to go along with the article. I show off some of the ethical items I own personally. You also get to see my awkward feet modeling.

Ethical Consumerism



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