Top Ten Things You Can Do To Better Your Ethical Footprint

1. Support Local Businesses

If you find yourself in a Starbucks every morning to buy that morning cup of coffee, consider making a stop at a nearby local coffee shop or a family-owned restaurant for that caffeine part of your daily routine. By supporting these local businesses, you are ensuring that they will able to stay afloat despite the larger chains such as Starbucks.

2. Boycott
There are some obvious companies that are unethical in the way they make their products. If you simply stop shopping at these places you will be decreasing the demand for a product that was made outside of the United States.  By making it a priority to shop at places that are ethical, you are actually encouraging those companies to stay that way. This will make it easier for them to continue their ethical ways and not resort to exploitation of labor. You can also try shopping at thrift stores. Even though the clothes might have come from unethical companies originally, by buying it from secondhand stores you are helping decrease the demand.

3. Educate Yourself

Learn some facts before you go shopping by doing research on sites such Know More and Responsible Purchasing Network.

4. Question Your Clothing

Ask retailers about where their closing was made and what the conditions were like in those factories. Even if they don’t know the answer, if enough people question their closing, it will generate interest.

5. Recycle

Just because something breaks does not mean you have to throw it out. If something is not usable anymore, try to find a new niche for it before getting rid of it. Get creative!

6. Only Buy What You Need

Just because something is a great deal does not necessarily mean you need to buy it. Excessive purchases waste money and only damage your ethical footprint.

7. Buy American

American products are not always as inexpensive as foreign made products, but you can almost be sure that the product you are buying was made for a fair wage by unionized labor.

8. Write Letters

Writing letters to your state representatives about the exploitation of labor in popular companies can help inform the leaders of the nation about these important issues. If Congress gets enough letters, there is a good possibility that something will be changed. In addition, you can write letters directly to the unethical companies themselves and inform them you are aware of what is going on and that you will refuse to shop at their stores. With enough letters, you will get the leaders thinking and it could result in some decrease of exploitation of labor.

9. Make it Your Mission

An interesting and extreme option to help the situation is to do mission or social work in the places that have a high percentage of exploited laborers. By coming to these countries to help the laborers with their daily lives and help teach them new skills, they could get out of their situations.

10. Organize Protests
Protesting against unethical companies is also an idea that will get them informed about how the public feels about the way they make their goods and possibly convince them to start changing their ways.

By: Kati Oberle, Joe Cancelliere, and Agata Jagusztyn.

Local Businesses vs. Big Businesses

It’s a common occurrence happening in many small towns all over America throughout the recent years. Big national and international businesses such as Target and Wal-Mart move into suburbs and smaller towns and steal away consumers from Mom-and-Pop stores. These smaller stores and Mom and Pop generally employ fewer than 100 employees compared to bigger businesses that employ anywhere over 500 employees. Wal-Mart currently has 2.1 million associates overall throughout the world, with 1.4 just in America. It is one of the top employers of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. (http://walmartstores.com/pressroom/FactSheets/?sourceid=diversityfacts&ref=http%3a%2f%2fwww.google.com%2fsearch%3fsourceid%3dnavclient%26aq%3d0h%26oq%3dhow%2b%26ie%3dUTF-8%26rlz%3d1T4ADFA_enUS343US344%26q%3dhow%2bmany%2bemployees%2bdoes%2bwalmart%2bhave#EmploymentandDiversity)  Of course, it would seem to many Americans that such businesses are a benefit to towns because of the amount of people they can employ. However, there are many more disadvantages when you lose local businesses that have been around for many years.

In many small cities all over America, family and small businesses ruled the downtowns in first half of the 20th century. However with the introductions of supermarkets, malls, and big box stores, these businesses fell to the wayside. Big box stores are larger chain stores that establish physically large branches. The most popular examples are Wal-Mart and Target. With the loss of local stores, the town also loses the feelings of community and interaction with your neighbors. In big stores such as Walmart and supermarkets people behave very differently than they do in family and local businesses that have the “environment that slows the pace of life and encourages people to loiter and converse.” Whereas in big stores, there is less room for this type of interaction. People are more likely to just do their shopping and leave than stay for awhile and chat with their neighbors. Studies have shown that an environment with small local businesses lead to a livelier and more active community than one in a city monopolized by big businesses.  These citizens are more likely to join civic and social groups and even more likely to vote. (http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/local-economies-close-the-distance-between-us)

Another disadvantage of a big business monopolized town is how these businesses treat their workers, both the workers in the individual stores and the workers who produce their products.  The reason that many Americans prefer to shop at stores such as Walmart is because of how cheap they can buy all of products. However these stores are only able to provide their goods as cheap as they are by using unethical methods. According to Wake-Up Wal-Mart: The Real Wal-Mart Facts, most of this mistreatment is felt by the Chinese.  70% of the products on Wal-Mart’s shelves come from China. One such example is a factory in Guangzhou, China that made Christmas ornaments for Walmart. Reports stated that these workers were paid way below minimum wage and would work beyond legal limits such as 95 hour weeks and months without a day off. In addition, there were often dangerous situations at this factory such as children as young as 12 employed there and workers handling hazardous chemicals without protection therefore causing serious health risks. (http://wakeupwalmart.com/facts/)

As for the associates in America, they are not safe from Wal-Mart’s mistreatment. The average Wal-Mart worker earns an annual income of $19,165 which is below the federal poverty line. It is nearly impossible for a Wal-Mart worker to support a family. For example, the national family budget for a family of four in 2005 was $39,984, more than double the yearly income of the Wal-Mart worker. The most surprising aspect is that Wal-Mart could afford to raise this yearly income up an additional $1,800 raise for each employee by raising prices of their products only one half of one penny per dollar. (http://wakeupwalmart.com/facts/)

Now compare all of this mistreatment to the local small businesses, which only employ few workers and therefore can afford to give higher wages. In addition, because there are so few employees, employers have a relationship with their workers and therefore provide a safe and ethical workplace for them. Reasons such as these are why America should return to the days of local family businesses and reject the businesses practices of businesses such as Wal-Mart.

Kati Oberle

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