A Guide to Ethical Living, Part 1: Your Food

It's a good sign that something is changing when sales of ethical products grew by more than 12% in 2012 alone. 

This movement towards sustainable and ethical consumption has been driven by millennials, as we are the generation that will have to deal with the consequences of over a century of conspicuous consumption and energy use.

I'm extremely passionate about promoting and championing an ethical way of living, so much so that it's become my job! As a director of Bright Ethics, I am fortunate enough to come into contact with a variety of people/organisations who share my values and work with experts in the field of ethics.

I really do believe that it is up to us, as individuals, to make informed and ethical decisions when it comes to what we buy.

I have put together this five part series to help highlight some of the decisions we can make when it comes to various areas of our life. I'm hoping to publish the series weekly and will cover the following topics

  • Household Goods
  • Transport, Fuel and Lighting
  • Personal items - Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fashion
  • Tourism

I really would like to make it clear that I am in no way trying to be prescriptive with these posts! I mean the series simply to be an informative guide to the decisions that are possible when considering an ethical lifestyle.

Some of the actions highlighted may not be suitable for you due to personal reasons and this is by no way something to be ashamed of. Acting ethically is a personal decision and you may not even agree with some of the points I raise - that is OK!

I would actually love to hear if you disagree with me or have any further recommendations - these issues should be debated as much as possible, as they affect us all.

Without further ado, I introduce you to part one in my Guide to Ethical Living - Your food

High Welfare Food 

  • The food you choose has a direct effect on how farm animals live, we have all seen and heard of the terrible conditions some animals face due to intensive farming practices. 

  • Compassion in World Farming also has some useful guides relating to specific foods/food groups

  • Human welfare is also an important consideration, forced and slave labour can be part of some food production.

    • Forced labour is any work or services which people are forced to do against their will under the threat of some form punishment.

    • Forced labour is prevalent here in the UK and can be utilized in seasonal agricultural production, e.g. fruit

    • Unfortunately it's very hard to know where both forced and slave labour occurs - for example prawns sold in supermarkets were recently found to be the product of slave labour in Thailand.

    • One way to avoid the products of forced and slave labour is to buy direct from the producer and ask about labour conditions.

Cook from scratch 

  • Processed food often uses wasteful and unnecessary packaging which is quickly thrown away

  • It's also very easy to get started in your own kitchen! Jamie Oliver has a really useful website full of factsheets to inspire and inform.

  • There are health advantages too - You are in full control of sugar/salt amounts and can also eliminate any artificial additives. 

Don't waste the waste 

  • Leftovers can almost always be repurposed into delicious meals - Love Food Hate Waste has some great ideas/recipes.

  • Know the difference between "Use By" and "Best Before" dates

    • Use By - these are safety guidelines and should generally be adhered to. I sometimes personally choose to ignore them by a day or two, however this is due to my experience of working with a wide variety of foods. (Souce)

    • Best Before - these are concerned with quality, not safety. Within reason, if the date has passed, the food is usually safe to eat. (Source)

Live Locally

  • I'm a huge advocate for buying locally, as it means money is kept within communities and helps to support vital small businesses.

  • According to the Guardian - "When you shop at local butchers, bakers, farm shops and greengrocers, it is likely that a decent percentage of the produce has had a short field-to-fork journey. Along with supporting local farmers, it means the food is likely to contain more nutrients and have less packaging."

  • Most importantly for me, you are also much closer to the production source and therefore can ask questions about where the food has come from and how it was produced.


    • Reduce your food miles even further by growing your own, you will them know the fully story of what you eat, from veg patch to plate.

    • Size is not an issue - even if you only have a small garden or a few pots, it's surprising how much you can grow! Check out this BBC Guide

    Perhaps consider going meat free?

    • The number of people following a Vegan or Vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons is growing.
      • Greenhouse gases caused by meat production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise. (Source)

    • Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
      • The Vegan Society has some great resources and tips on how to transition to a vegan lifestyle.

    • Even just omitting meat one day a week makes a huge amount of difference, especially if we all start doing it! 
      • Meat Free Monday is a growing movement and the website has lots of recipes to help even the most committed of carnivores cut down.

    Fairtrade, RFA, Soil Association

    • I must admit, I was in two minds as to whether to include these, especially as more and more people are becoming critical of schemes such as Fairtrade. I personally think that it has had an extremely positive influence, however people need to be aware that it is not the only signifier of fairly traded goods.

      • Many companies are trying to implement their own fair trading standards in house, however consumers should be critical of the transparency and honesty of such unregulated practices.
        • This is a subject I could go into a lot more detail with, if there is demand I am happy to do so in another post!

    • Rain Forest Alliance (RFA) has both a focus on preserving biodiversity and encouraging sustainable farming.

    You can also consider ethical issues when it comes to your pet's food!

    • As this often contains meat, there are animal welfare issues to think of. 

    Some Other Resources

    This post was inspired by the work I do at my business, Bright Ethics.
    We want to help consumers make ethical purchasing decisions through promoting ethical businesses practices and helping organisations implement ethical standards.

    For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin