A Beginners Guide To Ethical Living 

AN Introduction to BuildING A Conscious Lifestyle 

Our work here at The Good Trade is fueled by the fundamental idea that consumers are powerful and the dollars we spend each day are a vote for the world we want to live in. On our own, we can’t change much but when we take simple actions together we can change just about anything.

If you’re reading this, you have probably already decided that a conscious lifestyle is a worthwhile pursuit. For most of us, the real test is in how that pursuit is walked out in everyday decision making. Our team has created this guide as a starting point for your journey. We’ve included 5 common areas of our lives that we feel offer us the most effective opportunities for change. You can jump right in by clicking the categories below to choose where you would like to begin. 

If you have your own tips for ethical living, we would love to hear about them in the comments section!


Getting Started

Getting started is probably the hardest part of shifting to a more ethical lifestyle. When you think about it, most issues of ethics are framed up in life or death scenarios like world ending climate change or child labor. Those kind of extremes make it tempting to jump in with lots of passion but no plan. Ultimately this equation leads to discouragement and makes it far harder to make the incremental changes that can actually be sustained. Before you begin your journey to a more ethical lifestyle, give yourself a mental reset and consider a few truths that form a foundation for the shift.


There isn’t one of us that can end child labor or environmental damage on our own. Sure we know that, but somehow when we start to put ethics into practice we are tripped up by the fact that what we are doing feels small. It’s in these moments that we should remind ourselves that millions of consumers around the world are beginning to put their money and their effort into more conscious consumption. This groundswell is changing the way that companies from Nike to Colgate operate. Small changes will never stop being small but your choices are amplified by millions that are making the same ones.

Don't underestimate common sense

It’s easy to get stuck comparing the nuances of product and lifestyle choices with the aim of making an ethically infallible choice. The truth is, it’s rare to find a choice that’s perfect. Ethics is often more about common sense than academic definition. When consumers sincerely pursue brands and lifestyles that match up to common sense definitions of goodness, decisions become clearer and progress speeds up.

Decide Ahead of Time

Making ethical decisions at the moment of purchase is a common pitfall that leaves consumers guilt ridden or overwhelmed. Mastering an ethical lifestyle means making consumer decisions ahead of time and sticking to them. This planning process doesn’t need to be rigorous, in fact, we find that it is most effective when it starts with a few simple decisions that are easy to execute.


Why It Matters

In April 2013 more than 1,100 workers were killed in an apparel factory at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The events sent shockwaves through the fashion industry and shed light on the lack of oversight and common sense that governs the production of the clothing we wear. As a response to these events, fashion startups and consumers have begun to stage a fashion revolution. The movement is fueled by a desire to care for both people and planet. The two driving factors within this movement are labor standards and environmental impact. The International Labor estimates that more than 6 million children are in forced labor. Many of these children work to make the clothes that appear in our popular retail chains (ILO). Additionally, fashion is the 2nd dirtiest industry after big oil. The manufacturing of our clothing uses huge amounts of water and contaminates it with dyes that have downstream effects throughout the planet. These issues together make our closets a great place to begin an ethical lifestyle overhaul.   

What You Can Do

  • Avoid any (non essential) apparel from brands that don’t Make Their sourcing and ethics Public.

  • Adopt a capsule wardrobe in order to consume less clothing.

  • Always donate your clothing or give it away when you are ready to let it go.

Where to Learn More



Why It Matters

The choices we make in the kitchen determine a lot about our health and wellness but they also have a significant impact on the world around us. The kitchen generates the most waste of any room in your house. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 31% of food in America is thrown away and that more than two thirds of that waste occurs in our kitchens. This waste puts a burden on both global food supply and the environment. Our kitchens also presents our biggest opportunity to recycle and re-use things like cans, bottles and containers.

What You Can Do

  • Set Up a Recycle Container and Compost Bin

  • Remove Disposable Paper and Plastic From Your Kitchen Routine

  • Plan Your Meals and Set a Time to Audit Your Refrigerator Weekly

  • Eat Less Meat

  • Eat Only Organic Produce and Meat

Where to Learn More



Why It Matters

Our homes are a natural place to continue our conscious consumption overhaul. They are the space that provides comfort, warmth and protection for our families but they can also become a catch all for a lifestyle filled with more than we really need. Fortunately, minimalism is an emerging solution that many consumers are using to eliminate wasteful excess and environmental impact. Minimalism is actually quite simple, it comes down to quality over quantity.

When you remove clutter something amazing happens, you suddenly realize what really matters and what you’ll never miss. We recommend adopting a minimalist lifestyle as the first step towards a more ethical home. Of course, you'll have lots of opportunities to replace toxic goods like mattresses and bedding with more eco and health friendly products along the way. 

What You Can Do

  • Choose a room of your house and recycle or giveaway anything that doesn’t make you happy

  • Before purchasing ANy Item, imagine where it will live in your home. Now imagine it there in a year

  • Plan for a decor rotation 2-3 times per year (capsule for your home)

Learn More 



Gift shopping allows us to throw off the constraints of practicality and make someone’s day. Gifts don’t make up the biggest line item in our monthly budget but they are a great opportunity to support businesses that are making a difference. Gifts are also a natural way to pass on your passion for ethics through a product that has a story. We see gifts as the place for ethical consumers to find passion products that tell a story, give back and start a conversation. 

What You Can Do

  • Set aside time to research and brainstorm for gifts instead of going to shopping malls

  • Intentionally choose gifts that give back to people and planet

  • Include a note or tag along with the gift that tells the story and significance of the product




Banking, energy and transportation are three major lines on most budgets. They also represent clear opportunities for our ethics to help create new standards for transparency and care for the planet. Some of the decisions aren’t easy or cheap and they aren’t for everyone but they do represent a clear way to make an impact in your home and within your daily lifestyle. 

What You Can Do 

  • Switch Your Home to Green Power Sources (This costs slightly more but can be done through your same utility without any new hardware)

  • Convert your home to solar or geothermal (requires a full conversion but can make your home Fully sustainable)

  • Purchase an energy efficient vehicle and carpool when possible

  • Switch to a Credit Union (they re-invest profits into the community and offer the same services as a traditional banks)  

Learn More

  • Learn About Ways to Get Green Power to Your Home - TreeHugger

  • Find Details on The Green Power Network By State - Department of Energy

  • Find The Best and Worst Fuel Economy Vehicles - FuelEconomy.Gov

  • Watch This Simple Video on Credit Unions VS Banks - PSCU

The journey to a more ethical lifestyle is one that requires patience and a constant view of the bigger picture. The little decisions we make each day wont change things overnight but we believe that they are our best shot at bringing a wholesale change to the way that business is done.