It’s been a little more than a year since we published our first piece on The Good Trade. Since then we have analyzed, interviewed and written about hundreds of conscious brands. Brands like Elvis and Kresse that create one of a kind handbags from retired firehoses, Oliberte who employs artisans and gives back to the planet, or TIM WATCH a brand that creates a micro fund for a family in need when you buy a timepiece. 

The more people we’ve encountered, the more we’ve heard that nearly all of us want to buy conscious products and support great brands. You hear it when someone talks about buying a locally brewed beer to support local pride and local economies, or flying Southwest Airlines because the airline is standout in their benefits to their employees. At our core it seems like we all agree that we’d rather spend our hard earned dollars on something we believe in. 

So why is it that often we can’t seem to break ourselves of our old habits? Why is it that our shopping bags don’t always come home with products we believe in and the dollars we spend (even when we had a choice) don’t always vote for the world we want to help create?

In 2015 we spent quite a bit of time thinking about why conscious products are so easy to buy as gifts but can be so hard to bring into our everyday lives. 

One of the answers we couldn’t ignore is that conscious products are expensive. Fair wages, thoughtful production and quality materials just can’t compete with fast fashion and thoughtless manufacturing when it comes to price and often, convenience. 

In theory this tradeoff should be worth it. That’s why 91% of consumers say they would spend more to buy ethically. Practically though, it feels like one step forward and one step back and we end up putting products in our cart that we’d never want our name on because the production of that product harmed people or the planet. 

It’s not that we aren’t making progress, because we are. Lots of it. Today’s brands are held to a much higher standard than any time in the last 50 years and consumers are more aware than ever of the power of their purchases. Consumers are asking tough questions. They’re fighting back. 

But amidst all our progress, we sometimes get the feeling that its easier to talk about our ideals than live them out when it comes to buying ethically. 

We’ve spent countless morning coffees and late night drinks arguing with ourselves about how to solve this challenge in our own lives. After months of circling we slowly came to a realization. 

Living ethically often means living with less. 

After 100 years of an industrialized world, we find ourselves pressed up against the limits of our monthly budgets to sustain more space, more clothes, more furniture and just more things. We’ve set new standards for how many outfits is suitable, how many square feet a family should have and how many rooms we should be able to fill. 

In 2015, we came to a conclusion. The standards of stuff in our lives is just wrong and it’s time to re-invent it. 

This year we aren’t going to focus only on buying more conscious products. Instead we are going to focus on buying less things in general and making the few purchases we do make really count. This year our aim is to buy for quality, for ethics, for durability. 

We’ll do it because a minimal life makes us feel more, connected, creative and happy but we’ll also do it because it might just mean that the products we do buy this year are ones that we’d proudly put our name on. 

– Blake & AmyAnn C.