Ethical Consumption (Under Capitalism)

What products do you buy or avoid for ethical reasons? Does it cost you significantly more money or effort to get them? Is the quality similar? Do you have any recommended brands or websites?

A couple months ago I went vegan, both in food and clothing. Vegan cooking is cheap and easy, but eating out is a crapshoot, especially when I took a business trip to a small city in Mississippi. Buying substitute meat products is pretty expensive but I usually avoid those.

Vegan clothing can be harder if you want it to look good. I thought canvas shoes would be fine, but many of them use animal-derived glues, and a lot of companies don’t advertise their vegan products as such. Pleather generally looks like shit, but there are a few vegan leather products that are supposed to be pretty good if you spend some cash. Artificial down is great, but I don’t know if fake wool is up to snuff.

Now that I’m more conscientious about how my clothes are made, I want to try avoiding sweatshop labor as much as possible. I know some people here have talked about this in the past. Unfortunately it seems a lot harder than just reading a list of ingredients.

It is ridiculously hard to cut out everything bad. I should/could do a lot more, but life is too good. Just think of the electricity I’m wasting by typing this.

One thing I will never do, though, is eat at Chick-fil-A.


While we still have mass manufacturing, ethical consumption on a personal level can only help so much.

Products and services require LCAs (life cycle assessment) to determine the impact on the environment from cradle to grave. That is the responsibility of designers, manufacturers, etc.

A spoon made and sold locally with locally sourced materials is going to have less of an ecological impact as say, ordering a spoon online and having the spoon shipped from the other side of the planet.

One person buying one spoon locally vs 1000s of individuals making similar global orders.

IMO convenience kills kindness. To have sustainable ethical consumption, entire infrastructures and the economics that supports them need to be reworked to even have a chance of viability.

Ethical consumption under capitalism is not sustainable, as capitalism makes ethical products either too expensive/ too inconvenient.

Plastic products can be made for pennies, shipped around the world from China. Who’s counting the CO2 for every little bit of crappy bit of plastic thing no one will ever need or use, that ends up in the ocean somehow. These are major problems.

Consumer choice is almost irrelevant as a solution.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be making ethical considerations.



I agree with all your points, but unless in the past month you either firebombed a sweatshop or guillotined someone worth at least $100 mil, you’re not dismantling the system. I’ve literally never seen “no ethical consumption under capitalism” used as a socialist call to action, just an excuse.

IDK about Dazzle, but I know I feel like, because of reasons stated above, the payoff on ethical consumption is so low – even to society – that it becomes ultimately a poor use of resources. I’d love to give up Amazon, but at a certain point it makes more sense just save the extra time and money I would spend doing physical shopping and donate them to the DSA, for instance.

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Vegan clothing can be tricky but is possible. Skechers actually has some spiffy vegan shoes. I have daily pair and a dress pair, called DressKnit, from them. It can be expensive but is manageable if you watch for sales on some items, like the above mentioned dress shoes. I’ve been a vegan since 2005 so can try throwing tips on here if you have an specific questions.

Same. Fuck that place any anyone who eats there.

At this point, I don’t think it’s possible or justified to put the burden on the consumer. We know how that ends.

We need heavy regulations.


This. The key word in the phrase is “capitalism” not “ethical consumption.” For some reason people get hung up on the ethical consumption part, I guess because people feel (wrongly) there’s nothing to be done about capitalism but can control their consumption and it makes them feel they have at least some power.

I don’t think ethical consumption is possible under capitalism. Capitalism seeks out the lowest costs to increase profit to it’s maximum. Human labor is the most expensive part of manufacturing. The cheapest labor is slave labor, and without a world government you’re not going to enforce laws banning it, at best you’ll have businesses doing their best to cheat workers out of wages.

As with labor so too follows resource usage.

And that isn’t even addressing the weird situations where stuff like plastic bags are so much cheaper,in terms of energy, to produce than cloth bags that it’s debatable to get rid of the plastic ones.

One thing I’d like to see happen is to have those meal prep services have a more circular economy. Setting up a system where you ship back the recyclable meal prep containers, which could be used to remake new containers. This is something copier company do know with their toners cartridges.

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I don’t think it is either, but there’s one question that always bothers me. Why is it that the cheapest option is necessarily harmful? When it comes to labor, you explained it yourself quite well.

Consider the other thing you brought up, plastic bags, indeed a weird situation. What cruel joke is the universe playing on us? Why must it be that the cheapest and most efficient option is also the most harmful? I understand the laws of physics, that we can’t get anything for free, but why can’t there be some trivially easy way to recycle all kinds of plastic no problem? I understand that evil capitalist overlords doing evil trying to become more wealthy. I don’t understand why the universe has to be against us also.

It’s conceivable that there could be a world where there are cheap and plentiful sources of energy and resources that only have positive side effects for the life on that world. Imagine some crazy plant that when you burn it releases a ton of energy. The “pollution” from that actually makes all the life on the planet healthier and helps the plant regrow to be consumed again, with the replacement energy coming from the nearby star(s). Why couldn’t our world be such a world? Why did our world have to be one where to get energy you release poison all over the place?

Entropy man, she’s a hard taskmaster.

Existential hilarity aside, you can recycle plastic bags from the super mart, Wegman’s has got a program for this. I didn’t even know this until my girlfriend yelled at me for throwing them out.

How to Recycle Plastic Bags | Earth 911 apparently not all plastic bags, but you get the idea.

The solution is to regulate all industries such that the cheapest option is well above the line of the harms it causes. Industry goes cheap because it increases their margins and they don’t pay the real cost

If Walmart pays sub-living-wage, it helps Walmart by reducing costs to Walmart. If Walmart had to pay for the cost of the societal damage of their low wages, they wouldn’t actually be cheaper.

The real cost of any given labor or manufacturing practice is not payed by the company or the consumer. It’s paid today by society, and it isn’t accounted for in any of the books. These corporations’ real costs are subsidized by the blood and misery of the people they harm. Government and society are picking up the tab.


I know you can, but it is neither cheap nor easy. Yeah, there’s gonna be entropy, but why can’t it at least be easy and cheap to reach a really good rate of efficiency?

Seems like in any category of anything we make, being cheaper and doing less work results in more harm. There’s no law of the universe that says that has to be the case. Take for example something harmful… pesticides. Why can’t there just be an inexpensive, extremely effective, pesticide that keeps bugs from eating food, doesn’t kill all the bees, is safe to eat and drink, doesn’t pollute the water, etc

It’s capitalism that decided to use the harmful pesticide from among the available alternatives. It’s capitalism that didn’t care about the side effects. For that it has no excuses. But it’s the universe that decided not to give us an easy, harmless, and perfect solution. If the universe had provided such a solution, then even with evil capitalism we would not suffer the harm.

Because the world is complex. Pesticides necessarily harm pests. Pests are made of the same proteins as everything else, and are likely harmed in turn.

So the harm is mitigated by regulation on the usage of pesticides. If mis-used, they cause far more harm. This is usually due to not following the strict rules of when, how, and in what quantity they should be applied.

To use them more cheaply, they’ll simply not follow these rules. It’s cheaper to not have robust practices. The chemical itself is cheap, but the operational aspects of using it are expensive.

Answer, as with all things, seems to be: fine/jail the people at the tops of these companies at a level that is actually damaging. No more $10K penalties to multinational corps for serious breaches or regulatory violations.

Pesticide does not necessarily harm pests. There’s no law of the universe that says that has to be the case. There could conceivably be some chemical that bugs just simply don’t like and thus they flee from it. Yet that same chemical does not have to harm people, the ecosystem, the bugs, the plants they are protecting, or anything else. It’s entirely possible that such a thing could exist. There may be some world where such a thing does exist. But on our world it does not exist.

And not only in our world does a “miracle” pesticide not exist, but there’s almost no miracle anythings. There are definitely great and extremely good things, but there seems to be something unknown that prevents any perfect things from existing. There’s no food that is simultaneously cheap, nutritious, delicious and also plentiful. Why is it that the most delicious foods are the most unhealthy? There’s no rule that says that has to be the case. Why can’t we have something as delicious as cake and as healthy as vegetables?

Even when writing software we have to choose two out of cheap, fast, and good. The laws of the universe itself aren’t preventing us from having all three, so why can’t we find some way to have all three?

Yes, there is. The pests eat food to live. Pest control measures by definition harm them by denying them food. They will either die or seek other sources of food and cause harms in other areas. Or they will evolve to be able to eat regardless of the pest control measures.

But to your point, the answer is simple.

We can’t have all three because we measure “cheap” in US dollars, as opposed to any real accounting of harms and side effects.


Seems at least partially due to us trying to correct for a problem that was created by humanity via agriculture and industrialization. Two things that are largely foreign to nature.

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The pests were there originally. They have a habitat they can live in and food they were eating. The food we are growing and protecting is our food. The pests will live just fine if they stay away from our food, and eat the food they have always eaten.

Regardless, you’re not answering my more fundamental question. Pesticide was just the first example to come to mind. Why is the universe against us? Why do we have to live on a planet where we have to do harmful mining to get the good stuff? We could conceivably live on a planet where the good shit is just lying around to pick up, no harmful mining necessary.

I’m glad our weather isn’t like fucking Jupiter or Venus, but a planet with even better weather is possible. We could live somewhere without tornadoes or hurricanes. We could live on a planet so stable there are no earthquakes.

We could have a mode of transportation that is more efficient and faster than jet engines without breaking any laws of conserving energy or having to do some ridiculous sci-fi shit like teleportation.

The world itself has made it very hard to find ways of doing things that are not harmful. It has made it very easy to find ways to do things that are extremely harmful. I can imagine a world where that is not the case.