As consumers, we are not used to ask how things come to us. Things that have such a heavy weight on our lives. Usually we only care about having them and not how those things were made. In truth, we are not designed to question ourselves about them. Instead, we work so we can buy stuff that we find nice and useful.

Such are the times we live in. But, fortunately in our era, the lack of information is easily avoidable, if we ask the right questions and do an appropriate research.

When we ask the right questions, we increase our appreciation for the objects we buy, because suddenly we realize that there is a whole complex process before they reach us – a story. Above all, it makes us understand what kind of consumer we want to be, what brands we want to support and how our planet’s resources are being used.

The questions are simple. Feel free to add yours.

Let’s imagine you are buying a t-shirt:

  1. In what way was the cotton produced? Is it organic? In what part of the world? What resources were used and in what quantities? (Such as soil, and water)
  2. Once produced, how did the cotton arrive at the factory? Who transported it?
  3. At the factory, who worked the fabrics? Who sewed the t-shirt? Under what conditions is the person working? How many t-shirts did the person make in one day? In what part of the world?
  4. Who packed, tagged the t-shirts and put it in the delivery area?
  5. Who transported the t-shirts to the nearest store or storage?
  6. Did it travel by plane? By truck? By bike?
  7. At the store, who unpacked at the warehouse? Did they remove it from the plastic cover, and put it on a display rack?
  8. Who bought the t-shirt? What was the motivation for buying it? How many t-shirts do they have in addition to the one you bought today?
  9. Where does the t-shirt go when you no longer want to wear it?

Now let’s imagine you are at the supermarket buying raspberries:

  1. Where did these raspberries come from?
  2. In what way were they produced? What resources have been extracted from the planet? Did they use pesticides? What are the soil conditions?
  3. Who picked the raspberries and put them in a plastic box?
  4. What resources were used to make the plastic box?
  5. Is  the price of these raspberries fair?
  6. How did they reach me? By plane, by car? How long have they been on the shelf?
  7. What will I do to the plastic packaging after eating the raspberries? Can I recycle? Or will it go to the municipal dump? How long will it take to decompose?

These are some basic questions. We do not need to be technical, nor do we need to know how to make raspberries or cotton to ask them.

We do need to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are responsible for the t-shirts and raspberries that reach us. Knowing how a brand produces a product and if they are concerned with basic aspects such as fair wages for their workers, safety conditions, workload, materials and infrastructures, incentives, etc.

We need to know if this is a brand we want to support. Does it exploit its workers while giving them precarious working conditions just so we can have a lot t-shirts at a low price?

Brands that privilege quantity and low prices and do not respect quality, sustainability, fair and dignified conditions for their workers should be banned from our range of options. Because, after all, a new t-shirt will not change our lives, but showing to the brands that we know what we are buying will, and will also change the lives of the workers, breaking this vicious cycle.

It is time for us to act as adults, to stop thinking that there are no other options and to put the laziness aside. Asking questions can be tough, changing habits can be worse, but being quiet only makes us hypocrites, selfish and limited human beings.

So, shall we do it?


This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original text.

Clique aqui para ler este texto em português.