Attempting to live a more ethical life

In a world that makes it all but impossible.

There’s a couple of semi active threads touching on aspects of this at the moment, but thought it might be useful to have a broad overarching thread as well.

I appreciate that ‘living ethically’ is fraught with complications and contradictions, and that it will mean different things to different people depending on their views or priorities. It’s fine to discuss the different sides of certain things, just remember that people using this thread are probably trying to do better, so be kind and respectful :slightly_smiling_face:

So topics could be:

  • Reducing waste or plastic consumption
  • Avoiding companies with poor records around workers rights, human rights or environmental issues (and indeed, supporting companies with great records)
  • Avoiding certain foods, or ingredients in food, cosmetics etc
  • Eating local, seasonal, and/or sustainable foods
  • Reducing general consumerism
  • Cutting down on transport emissions
  • Repairing, reusing, and recycling items you have

And types of post could be:

  • Questions
  • Reviews of products
  • Tips and advice
  • Links to things that are interesting
  • And of course just general discussion

Obviously just examples - there’ll be plenty of other things!

Other threads that may be of interest:


Have a million things to discuss at some point but will just start by saying that learning to sew has probably been the best thing I’ve done in this regard. Feel shocked at how easily I would throw out items of clothing in the past. Rip in pants? Throw out! Dog chewed hoodie sleeve? Throw out! Stain that just won’t come off? Throw out! :man_facepalming:

I’m not a master repairer by any means, but can usually sort something out, even if it’s not the height of fashion.


Yeah, good idea. I’ve often thought a series of What Would a Perfect World Look Like? threads would be interesting. Tackling a different aspect of society each week: Transport, Food, Housing etc.

I have a vague goal of not shopping at supermarkets any more, which I think is doable given my financial and geographical situation. Also think that not having ready access to cheap meat might be what finally turns me vegan.

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My tip to anyone thinking about going vegetarian is that it’s probably nowhere near as hard as you think. I put it off for ages because I couldn’t envisage what it would be like and how hard it would be to find enough meals to make, not least because I can’t have most dairy, but it was actually fine.

Vegan is a bit trickier because of animal-derived ingredients that just happen to be in things (animal gelatine in sweets, stealth egg in absolutely everything) but I’m about 95% of the way there with that too.


Would be interested in the opposite of a boycott thread. Companies (I guess preferably workers cooperatives/community investment companies) that are doing good things that we could promote to use (especially if have nationwide coverage so anyone could use them)


I still have very conflicted feelings about vegetarianism/veganism being 100% ethical/good cause in a lot of cases it can lead to disordered eating as you start get into the mindset of good food/bad food.

Mindful eating might be better :woman_shrugging:


Fully agree with this. I kind of fell into being a vegetarian. I’d always felt a bit guilty over eating meat, particularly as I worked in disaster relief agencies for the best part of a decade, and knew directly that global meat consumption was driving all sorts of environmental and humanitarian disasters.

I’d started cutting down on it very slowly and as a benefit found my stomach seemed to be a lot better for it, then gradually I realised I wasn’t really eating meat any more and decided to make it official and just say “I’m vegetarian now”. My wife’s stopped eating meat too, though she still very occasionally eats fish.

I don’t miss it at all, I’ve become a better and more imaginative cook, the food bills have gone down, and the idea of eating an animal now kind of freaks me out a little bit, which I would never have expected would happen. I can’t quite believe I ate meat so readily for most of my life, and it’s really strange to me how quickly my mindset has changed.


I suppose it depends on your reasoning. As a personal good, then sure, that’s definitely complicated. As an ethical choice wrt external factors then it seems more clear cut.

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yeah as we are conditioned to plan most of our meals around the meat/fish as that’s where most of the flavour comes from. Get asked “what do you eat instead” almost every time

I think sometimes there is a bit of black and white thinking when it comes to trying to live more ethically that I often find a bit frustrating. Locally produced or home grown food can have a much higher carbon footprint than the alternative that people are trying to avoid (eg New Zealand lamb I believe is lower carbon than UK lamb even after transporting it half way around the world). Glass and paper use more energy to make than plastic and aren’t always the most environmentally friendly options. Good intentions are all very well but I wish people would get out of the over-simplistic “all plastic = bad” kind of mindset


I’m not sure tbh. I don’t think it’s as simple as eat no meat/dairy, you’re more ethical. There are other factors in the whole veganism as an ethical choice debate such as the strain it puts on farming for soy/nuts etc and the impact of that on wildlife.

Surely a more ethical way would be sustainable meat and dairy farming, lower global transportation of food (most fruit and veg/canned stuff comes from abroad therefore not exactly environmentally friendly), as well as veganism being a bit of a privileged thing to be able to do due to price difference in cheap meat and meat free alternatives.

I dunno what the answer is but as a former vegan, i’ve kind of realised how quite toxic it can be in a multitude of ways.

I’ve decided to not have any meat at home, but might still if eating out (I’m fairly fussy and a lot of common things in cafe /restaurant vegetarian options I don’t eat). I stopped buying any raw meat quite a few months ago, but have still been getting things like duck spring rolls or continental meats every now and then - tbh don’t drive a great deal of pleasure from it anyway, so might as well stop completely.

Also trying to learn seasonal vegetables as other than ‘root veg in winter’ I don’t have much of a concept of it at all. I thought there would be a decent farm shop somewhere round here being fairly rural, but doesn’t seem like it unfortunately. No greengrocer in the town either.

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Fair enough, my previous post was pretty reductive and I wouldn’t argue with any of that and in particular the price thing - food poverty is a huge factor in the choices that are available to people.

The one thing I’d quibble over is sustainable dairy/meat production as something to strive for. Sure it would be an improvement, but is it as desirable as sustainable production/farming that doesn’t exploit/consume animals?

Basically I just feel icky about eating animal flesh now. Seems grim.

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Yes, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it. I’ve started using refillable and more natural floor cleaners / washing up liquid etc but wonder if there’s really much of a benefit beyond not supporting conglomerates. Would it be more ethical to buy the stuff I was buying and donate the difference to a good cause?

I suppose for me, in relation to the above, I think the switch has helped me adopt a more mindful attitude - I am more conscious of how much I use and adopting good habits, so it maybe comes out as an indirect net positive.

I think supporting small independent retailers is probably my main consideration at the moment, but even that could be argued against. But again, I think that if you give in and say ‘it’s all a mess, I can’t work out what is ethical’ you end up being able to excuse anything. So the only solution really is to work out what your personal ethical priorities are and live by those as much as possible.

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100% agree with this. We’re all stuck with living in a system that is exploitative in all sorts of directions and as such we’re all going to be imperfect, hypocritical actors within that system some/most/all of the time. And even our best efforts are dwarfed by the impacts of governments and businesses.

Might as well try our best to not be totally shit though, right? Can’t hurt.


Another recent ‘never going back on it’ change is bar soap instead of handwash. Feel pretty horrified at the amount of plastic I’ve been through in my adult life due to the latter. Use soap far more sparingly too.


I’ve found that getting away from supermarkets is one of the hardest aspects of ethical food shopping. We get our groceries delivered as we don’t drive and don’t want to drive. As a result we get a lot of unnecessary packaging. There are zero waste stores and small greengrocers nearby but we don’t have time to do several shopping trips and we would struggle to bring everything back as we don’t drive. It’s a conundrum I’m yet to solve.

In terms of reducing plastic, I try to do the best I can but I’m dubious about how much impact we can actually have and I tend to think the focus on plastic is window dressing for failing to address anything in a way that involves changing the way we live and consume. My mother in law recently shrieked about the excessive packaging on some chicken she bought and it was like, you’re moaning about packaged meat, when you drove to the supermarket that’s a 10 minute walk away and you bought it anyway?

It’s not just about exploiting/consuming animals - the amount of land required to have sustainable (which in itself is a difficult term to pin down) dairy/meat production far outstrips that required for sustainable soy or nuts. There are bad practices in the production of soy and nuts, but I’ve not seen anyone credibly claim that they’re worse than meat or dairy production.


I think talking about plastic is useful in that it helps to make people aware of the consequences of some of the choices they make, but it can’t happen on its own, and is often used to palm off the guilt onto individuals with little power or the ability to affect change.

It’s like the plastic straw campaign by the government. They could quite easily have legislated against it if they really wanted to, and have it within their power to bring in any number of environmental and ethical protection measures that could address wider issues of resource use, inequality and consumption.