What Does it Mean to be Ethical In Everyday Life?

Sometimes it seems like every day there’s a new cause that needs to be supported, a new product that should be avoided, a new fundraiser that needs donations, and a new disaster unfolding. At the same time, wages are stagnating, work is tough, watching the news is anxiety producing, and raising kids is never a walk in the park. Long story short, sometimes the world seems to be in a bad place getting worse, and it’s getting tougher to do the right thing, or know what that even means. We at Rust and Fray believe in living ethically, making ethical consumer choices, and trying to make the world better, but how does someone go about doing that? Here are some thoughts and guidelines to make your day a little more ethical.

There is No Perfect.

So let’s say you’ve given up plastic straws. You use your canvas bags for every shopping trip. You shop in bulk to massively reduce your waste, and prioritize local to reduce your carbon footprint. But what about the computer or phone you are reading this on? Do the metals in that phone come from conflict zones? You’re sipping your fair trade coffee from your reusable mug, but did you know that not all fair-trade is created equal? Which organization is in your cup right now, and which organization is right about fair trade practices? And what about the sugar you put into your coffee?

Relax. Breath. There is no perfect.

The unfortunate truth is that the environmental and fair trade issues we’re facing are systematic and worldwide. We have been born into this economic structure and nothing short of living in a completely self-sufficient homestead will allow us to escape it. This does not mean that we can’t make changes, or that our choices don’t matter; it just means that we can’t change everything at once. Making the ethical, sustainable choices isn't about guilt or browbeating yourself, but rather it’s finding ways to make a more positive decision where and when you can. Life is a journey of constant improvement, and we make the next steps when we can. Read up on a zero-waste lifestyle and want to jump right in? Awesome! Feel like that’s too big of a change, but in the meantime you’ve given up plastic cutlery? Every little bit still helps. Don’t feel bad for not being perfect, but instead celebrate each little positive change you can and do make.

Self-Care is Never Unethical

The ideal of a hero in our culture involves self-sacrifice. Whether they are a Marvel Superhero risking their life and body to stop an intergalactic supervillain bent on mass murder, or are a fast food worker taking an extra-long shift so that a coworker can visit a sick family member last minute, heroic actions involve giving up something for the greater good and putting aside what you want to help someone else. But what about when you’re the person who needs the help? It’s okay, it’s not wrong to take a break!

When a firefighter runs into a burning building, they’re wearing heavy gear and a helmet. When an airplane loses cabin pressure, you’re instructed to put your own oxygen mask on before helping out those around you. When looking into the issues around environmental problems and labor issues, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed at all the information, the challenges, the causes and people that need support, etc. We might want to do it all and learn it all and somehow still go about our busy lives. Just remember that it’s not wrong to take a break or to decompress. Try some yoga or some tai chi. Take a nice relaxing bath. Go on a hike. We’re taught that this “me time” is a luxury, but really it’s our version of a helmet. So never feel guilty about the self-care, it’s how we maintain the willpower to keep up the good work.

Ethics is Fun

Finally, let’s look at what people may think of when they hear the word ethics. Maybe you think about philosophers in Ancient Athens having a lofty debate about the meaning of right and wrong. Maybe you think about the action hero in anguish when the villain forces them to make a terrible choice to save the day (and the writer isn’t nice enough to give the hero a plucky way to sidestep that choice). But do people think about fun? It can be!

You can make a resolution or a promise to eat less prepackaged foods and keep reminding yourself to do that every shopping trip. But what if instead you look up a bunch of recipes for awesome meals you can make with bulk ingredients and got really excited to try them out? Which person do you think is going to make the ethical choice a part of their routine? Making better, more ethical choices doesn’t have to be a solemn commitment, and finding ways to enjoy the choices will make you more likely to stick to them. Want to shop less? Don’t make it about resisting some sort of temptation to shop, make it about only buying a few quality items and taking the time to really find something perfect for your life. Want to go zero waste shampoo? Don’t make that decision in the grocery store when you have a near empty shampoo container at home and need to run home to cook dinner. Spend a weekend looking up awesome DIY shampoo recipes filled with your favorite scents and have fun hunting out the perfect ingredients. Finding ways to make the better choices fun and exciting will help you stick to the right path and enjoy it. Fun and the right thing to do are not the opposites they’re often portrayed as.

Hope this thoughts helped you on your journey. Like this article? Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to like and share it, as well as follow our Facebook, Instagram, and journal page.

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