Manchester Friends of the Earth has a “full-group” public meeting on the second Tuesday of every month, at the Greenfish Resource Centre on Oldham St. Here’s a report, by one of the FoE co-ordinators, on the most recent meeting.
Report on the open meeting: How ethical is your shopping basket?
A brief report on the “How ethical is your shopping basket” open meeting hosted by Manchester Friends of the Earth on Tuesday 12th February.
Over 20 people gathered at the Green Fish Resource Centre on Oldham Street to learn more about consumption, waste and the growing range of ethical products available. The meeting started with the 20 minute Story of Stuff film (transcipt available). Despite being a little dated and US focused the Story of Stuff gives a good overview of the sheer amount of waste, social and environmental injustice caused by our current system of planned obsolescence (or designed for the dump), perceived obsolescence and the ‘Golden Arrow of Consumption’.
The film describes how the ‘Golden Arrow’ “is the heart of the system, the engine that drives it. It is so important [to propping up this whole flawed system] that protecting this arrow is a top priority for both these guys. That is why, after 9/11, when our country was in shock, President Bush could have suggested any number of appropriate things: to grieve, to pray, to hope. NO. He said to shop. TO SHOP?! We have become a nation of consumers. Our primary identity has become that of consumer, not mothers, teachers, farmers, but consumers. The primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated is by how much we contribute to this arrow, how much we consume. And do we!”
Rachel Kenyon, from the Co-operative’s Social Goals team, gave an overview of the story of ethical consumerism in the UK, from the 19th Century Co-operative Revolution through the increasing awareness of Human Rights, Animal Welfare and Environmental issues to the rise in certified produce, as reported for over a decade in the Ethical Consumerism Report, produced by The Co-operative Group.
Her presentation described how the average ethical spend per household in the United Kingdom had increased from £291 (2000) to £868 (2010) and now to £989 (2011), how sales of organic/free range eggs now accounted for over half (51%) of all UK sales and Fairtrade bananas making up 45% of UK sales with the Co-operative deciding to only sell Fairtrade bananas and chocolate.
Rob Harrison gave a broader view of the growth of ethical consumerism, particularly the increase in the supply side range of ethical goods, the difference in approaches between Fairtrade and the organic movements, as well as the importance of “buycotts” or positive purchase decisions.
The Question & Answer session had detailed contributions questioning the role of supermarkets in ethical consumerism as well the effectiveness of the ethical consumerism itself. The meeting concluded with announcements of forthcoming events and then a social visit to a local hostelry.
Pete Abel. (13th February 2013)