Ethical Consumerism in College
Sabrina Kaiser

The choices that we make as shoppers are directly linked to the standard of living for people around the world. The only way to know whether or not you are making the right choices is to become educated on the items you find necessary for everyday life: what they are made of, who makes them, where they come from and how they are manufactured. When standing in the grocery aisle, price should not be determining factor. Stop and ask yourself where that chicken or beef came from, you may be surprised at the answer.

Ethical consumerism is the intentional purchase of products and services that the customer considers to be made ethically. Positive buying is when you make a conscious decision and effort to purchase ethical products. Assuming that this definition is accurate (we have no reason not to) Ethical Consumerism put simply is to purchase products that are manufactured under humane conditions. This means that no person or animal was hurt before, during or after the process. If you are a serious ethical consumer, you may practice consumer boycotting.

A boycott is designed to correct an outstanding single wrong. As part of an overall program of awareness-raising or reforms to laws, a boycott is part of moral purchasing. Organized consumer boycotts are focused on change of buying habits that require a longer commitment. On an individual level, positive purchasing will typically lead to consumer boycotting when you decide not to purchase a product based on its manufacturing process.

An interview with a college freshman who practices ethical consumerism can help to broaden your understanding of the ethical consumer and may illustrate how easily you can be an ethical consumer:

Dustin Seiltz
Age: 19
School/ Major: University of Minnesota Twin Cities/ Guitar Performance and Music Therapy
Interests/ Hobbies: Playing music, going to concerts, eating vegan, being drug-free.

SK: How old were you when you became aware of ethical consumerism?
DS: I was around thirteen or fourteen.
SK: What caused you to become aware?
DS: I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons when I was twelve, and around the same time I began to get into punk rock. I think hearing about ethical consumption in the lyrics of some of the bands I was listening to and comparing the logic behind it to my reasons for being a vegetarian eventually led to the decision. I think what really threw it in my face was a petition that I came across online. I don’t remember what it was petitioning for, but I remember not wanting to buy Nike shoes after I read it. I was still pretty uninformed though, and I continued to buy items from other companies that use sweatshops. For a while I gave corporations the benefit of the doubt.
SK: What are some everyday habits you make as an ethical consumer?
DS: I’m vegan now, and so every time I sit down to eat I choose not to take part in an industry and a practice I disagree with. I don’t shop often, but when I do I usually try to get things second-hand. Most of my clothing I get from stores like Goodwill. Sweatshop slavery is very widespread, even in the United States, and by buying things second-hand I know my money won’t go to support it. Coca-Cola has been connected to the murders of union organizers at bottling and processing plants in South America and elsewhere and the University of Minnesota has a contract with Coca-Cola to sell only Coke products. Since I live on campus and eat in the dorms I pretty much only drink water. The things I do aren’t much, but small things can have an impact.

SK: How have those choices (values) changed (grown) as you have become older?

DS: I’ve become more conservative as I’ve gotten older, and my values have changed with that. I do what I can to make sure I don’t support practices I see as unethical, but in many cases the ones with the most power to create change are the workers themselves. Labor costs in China are rising because workers are demanding better wages. The GDP per capita of China is set to meet that of the United States by 2035. Of course, what’s happening in China is not always the case and should not deter anyone from educating themselves about what their purchases support, but it is certainly a good sign.

SK: What kind of lifestyle changes have you made since beginning college?
DS: I’m thoroughly entrenched in debt from student loans, so I can’t really afford to buy much of anything at all. I haven’t really made any lifestyle changes except to stop drinking soda while I’m here.

SK: Have you ever received criticism for participating in ethical consumerism?
DS: I haven’t received criticism for not buying things new, but there have been times where it was clear that whoever I was with found it inconvenient. People don’t like to think about what their money might be supporting, and so they don’t. I don’t think it occurs to most people to think about it, but some are aware and just choose to ignore it. I’ve definitely received a lot of criticism for my vegetarianism and veganism, but most of it was juvenile insults. It’s tapered off as I’ve gotten older.

Article Research

Ethical Consumerism:
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Ethical Consumerism Stuff:
Consumer Boycotting Stuff:

Google Search Stuff:

Ethical Consumer Org (Wikipedia definition)


Ethical Consumerism and Consumer Boycotting in College

The concept is simple:

You want to educate your audience about ethical purchasing and consumer boycotting so that they will be able to make more informed decisions after reading the article. You will want to give your audience a clear idea of what these specific topics are and what they mean.

You target niche is freshman college students who are away from home for the first time. This audience will benefit most from the article because they typically have less ‘real world’ experience than a junior in college might.

Your stance should remain neutral and informative while maintaining a casual tone. If your tone is dull or overly formal, the average college freshman will lose interest as if it were just another textbook.


Engage the audience by including the voice of the student you interviewed by incorporating a Q & A section.

This article fits under University Life.
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