Ethical Buying

Ethical Buying

Notes from the Pandemic

I knew about ethical investing, the practice of basing investment choices not just on financial criteria but on principles. During the pandemic, a similar and possibly more important concept has dawned on me: ethical buying.

Up until a year ago, I had based purchase decisions primarily on quality, cost, and convenience, focusing on the product rather than the company. In the pandemic, I’ve come to see that practice as a luxury I can no longer afford. More to the point, it’s a luxury my favorite organizations can no longer afford.

Thistle Farms. The Nashville Symphony. The Nashville Public Library. Parnassus Books. Lockeland Table, Folk, Henrietta Red, Answer, Dozen Bakery, and the other restaurants my wife and I enjoy.

They’re hurting. They’re laying off staff. They’re barely keeping their heads above water, and some have gone under.

What can we do? Give. Support. Buy.

It’s become so clear to me: When I make a purchase, I get a product, and the seller gets a contribution. A few dollars each from a bunch of customers can make a life-or-death difference.

Books cost more at Parnassus, our fine independent bookseller, but I’ve started going there to buy them anyway. I want Parnassus to be around when the dark clouds lift.

Hillsboro Hardware is a little farther away than our local big-box store, and the product selection isn’t as good, but it’s a delightful place to be on a Saturday morning, and I want to go back.

Henrietta Red is a jewel in Nashville’s culinary crown, and the thought of losing it is unacceptable. The restaurant has been closed for most of the year, but chef Julia Sullivan and co-owner Allie Poindexter created an upscale family catering business called the Party Line, and for months we bought and enjoyed weekly boxes of fresh, delicious food, happy to help Julia, Allie, and their colleagues survive.

With each purchase, we are supporting a business. If we decide based only on price, the big boxes will get bigger, and the little guys—our friends and neighbors—will wither away.

I’m going to Parnassus this afternoon to pick up some books. Won’t you join me?

Read more about ethical buying in “A Kansas Bookshop’s Fight with Amazon Is About More Than the Price of Books,” a New Yorker article by Casey Cep, author of the wonderful Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee.


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