Digital Tools to Help You Shop Ethically

If you really want to shop responsibly, you should be following the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. In the context of buying things, this means reducing your consumption as much as possible, reusing and repurposing items until they are no longer viable (but really, there usually is a way), and recycling by buying second-hand or donating items to second-hand stores. You should be shopping locally too, of course.

That said, most of us have to buy new things and don’t always have local options available. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do so with a social conscience, supporting products and brands that abide by ethical and sustainable business practices.

This One Small Step series is all about finding tangible things you can do today to fight injustice. So here we go. Let’s look at a few ways you can make better informed purchasing decisions to make this world we live in a little better.

Embrace apps

When you’re at the grocery store, there are a plethora of apps that can help you make environmentally and socially responsible purchases.

Ethical Barcode, for instance, allows you to scan products as you shop and pulls up ratings on relevant indicators like business practices and environmental impact to help you make informed decisions about what groceries you buy.

Or’s app is an ethical shopping guide to buying food, toiletries, household items and children related products. It ranks products and companies based on health, environmental and social performance.

Cooking fish or shellfish? The Good Fish Guide from the Marine Conservation Society or the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeaFood Watch apps are your go-to guides on the market. They will not only help you buy seafood responsibly through their ranking systems as all the other apps in this category do, but they also educate users on the key factors that determine a species’ ranking.

Though their design may be a bit outdated, SeaChoice and OceanWise  iPhone apps are Canadian and less US-centric. OceanWise has the added benefit of helping you search and locate nearby restaurants and markets that offer ocean-friendly seafood.

Depending on what your interests are, there is often an app to help you buy responsibly.

If you’re in to clothes, you could try Orange Harp, an app that lets shoppers discover socially and environmentally conscious apparel and accessories. Even better? 1% of its revenue goes to the non-profit organization Not For Sale that works toward eradicating slavery. (Yes. It still exists.)

Or maybe you’re a chocolate fiend but don’t want to short-change the cocoa farmers who make your habit possible. Well, there’s an app for you too. The Choco-locate app has a feature that allows you to search for fair trade chocolate near you. Wherever you are.

There are so many apps out there. Whatever your interest, it’s likely you’ll find one to help you consume or engage with it more responsibly if you dig a little.

Use Other Online Tools

But maybe you don’t have a smart phone or are simply not a fan of apps. Not to worry. You can check’s platform as an alternative to the app.

You can also check out browser plugins for your desktop or laptop like aVoid that, as the name suggests, helps you avoid buying products that were manufactured using child labour.

It does this by hiding the products of manufacturers known for their exploitative practices so you’re never inadvertently tempted to buy unethically made products. The only catches are the plugin is only available for Chrome and Safari and only works on a few online shopping sites like Amazon, Google Shopping, Macy’s and Target.

Be a squeaky wheel

Otherwise, it’s all well and good to avoid unethical companies to try to make them change their ways by voting with your dollars (or other currency) and supporting responsible competitors. But you can take it even further and make an even greater impact by spreading the word online. Because what’s worse for a company with unethical practices than losing you as a potential customer? Losing even more customers when its egregious practices are broadcast for the world to see, sullying its brand.

And, if you really want your boycotting to pack a punch, try Buycott. It’s another app. (I wasn’t kidding about embracing them.)  But this one allows you to really engage in clicktivism by joining campaigns, tracking the brands you’re avoiding and supporting, and communicating with companies to inform them of your support or opposition. You can even start your own campaign if you want.

Of course there are so many other ways and tools to become a more socially responsible consumer, but these should get you started. And, as always, let us know what we missed in the comments below.


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