What is ethical and sustainable shopping?

“Ethical and sustainable shopping is not about depriving yourself, but instead thinking about how your purchase choices can reduce your impact on people and the planet.”

We’ve put together a guide on ethical and sustainable shopping. Do you agree, and what does this concept mean to you?


Overall pretty good stuff.

One aspect was missing: price. What is the relationship (if any) between ethical products and price? If we find non-ethical products are cheaper how should we manage the tension? Can those on a tight budget shop ethically or is it only possible if you have some discretionary spending?


It’s a great opening to suggest ethical and sustainable shopping practices are about trying to do better as individuals. We’re in a state of transition. The scope is very broad.

Purchase decisions are likely a compromise. There are few if any consumer products that are truely sustainable. If the supply chain around any product is considered it’s difficult to see how a product does not acquire carbon miles, directly and indirectly. Also of importance is that the business selling a product, their employees etc also need to be operating and living sustainably. A product can choose through who and how it markets it’s products. Some options are better than others.

I’d certainly like to see an improved effort to assuring which products and businesses are positively promoting ethical practices and sustainability. And to have a level of assurance as to the veracity of their commitment and reliability of the outcomes.

As suggested by Choice there are ways to identify products that may have been ethically and sustainably resourced. The quality of systems and certifications is not absolutely assured.


I shop at bulk buy stores for almost everything. Prices are there. Quality is better. It’s cheaper than in supermarkets.

Also no plastic, no waste…

Shame Australia wasn’t there 20 years ago.

I’m not too sure what you mean. Please give some examples of these stores and the way they are ethical so we can work them into the conversation. Given that the lead article had few limits, what sort of goods do these stores have? What don’t they have?

The Source Bulk food has everything.

All your laundry and kitchen needs
All your bath needs

There are countless stores around Australia. Go in and have a look. You take as much as you need. You can bring your own containers. You can use brown paper bags that they provide.

I know the kind of store, if not that particular one. Other than the re-use of containers do they do anything else that is demonstrably ethical?

The nearest store of that chain is 300km away :cry:

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Go to their website. They explain what they do and how they do it.

They also deliver if you purchase online.

Just a few thoughts about shopping at zero packaging stores.
Pro: no plastic packages, reusable containers, buy the exact amount you need.
Time consuming: source your own container and have it weighted for ‘tare’, maybe do a barcode label or note product code before you start to do any shopping. Limited range of products means having to visit other places too.

More expensive: yesterday at the Source Bulk store near me I checked the price of Aus raw walnut kernels: $29.90 Kg.
Supermarket’s 500g Aus raw walnuts kernels:$12.00, sourced from NSW and Tasmania, package can be returned to the store.
Rice at Bulk store: Basmati rice, origin Pakistan, $12.90 Kg.
At Coles 2 Kg Basmati Rice, product of Pakistan, $10.00.

Sanitation problems: hand use and tasting by shoppers.

Freshness issues: nuts and seeds are in clear plastic containers with hinged lid for scooping, how fresh and crisp will they be after a while?

No brands: country of origin and ingredients label only on the container in the shop, need a good memory at home if you need to know quantity of salt or sugar etc in the product, or do more time consuming note taking in the shop.

Price stated usually per kilogram, shopper doesn’t know full cost until container is weighted at the cash register.

Produce is more ethically and sustainably sourced than in other shops? How do we know?

I acknowledge this is a debatable issue, but in IMHO there’s a lot of trade-off for just no-packaging, and most packaging material is quite recyclable nowadays anyway.