Whole People is a technology-based digital media publishing company based in Ottawa, Chiang Mai, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
We aim to publish the best ideas and tools for sustainable living.
And to deliver positive journalism that makes a meaningful difference in the world.
Our focus is our common humanity, personal growth and social change.
Whole People <the consumer manifesto>
Hello and welcome to Whole People. We’re champions of ethical consumerism and being kinder to the planet and everyone and everything on it.
Before we explain our rating system, reviews, funding, etc. we want to talk to you a little about our view on consumerism.
Is Consumerism Bad?
No, we don’t think it is. We do, however, think that consumerism can be bad. It can be bad for the planet, for people, and for animals and for all other forms of life.
Think about the fashion industry. It exists to persuade us that our purchases are already out of date – so that we can buy more.
It produces nearly 5 times as many products as it did in the 1980s! Now, the population of the earth has increased in the last 40 years, but not by 5 times!
Most garments are a nightmare. The raw materials are farmed unethically polluting the land and water courses. They’re picked by underpaid, overworked labor and that labor is often underage too.
They’re processed in sweatshops using chemicals and toxins. They’re then stuffed on planes and boats that spew carbon emissions into the atmosphere. They arrive in stores where they’re sold at extreme markups that enrich corporate shareholders but never those that make the products.
When they’re bought, they’re worn for a few weeks and discarded. Often ending up in landfills where they take years to rot and produce greenhouse gases as they do.
That’s the side of consumerism that we ought to reject.
Good Consumerism Brings Hope
But that doesn’t mean that consumerism has to be bad. It just means that it needs to change.
The brands that we admire are changing the way that spending money works.
They ensure that everyone throughout the supply chain is treated fairly. They are paid a living wage. They work manageable hours. They are provided with healthcare and other benefits. They can join a union. They are able to have a say in their work and to have an impact on the companies they work for.
They look to create products from ethical sources. From leather made out of banana skins to shoe material made out of discarded plastics – they take waste and turn it into wealth.
They reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc. throughout the supply chain. They seek to reduce water use and carbon emissions. They use energy from ethical sources. They look to provide packaging from recycled materials that can be reused and eventually safely composted without environmental harm.
They opt for cruelty-free products or where possible, they go one better and are completely vegan. Ethics matter to the best companies as they do to all of us.
When you buy products like these, you aren’t harming the world, you’re saving it. Commerce drives the engine of life. Capitalism has raised billions out of poverty in a single century. You can’t refuse to participate at all, but you can participate in a way that makes a positive difference and that doesn’t harm people, the planet or the animals that live on it.
That’s the WholePeople way of consumerism and we think that once you get started with it – you won’t want to stop living it.
Whole People’s Rating System Explained
When you see a rating, it’s always nice to know what goes into that rating and we want to be transparent about our choices and numbers.
What Goes Into The Rating?
We have five main criteria that go into our ratings:
- People – is the brand or product kind to the people involved with it? Not just customers but workers and others in the supply chain. Can workers unionize? Are they free of child labor? And how much effort does the brand put into ensuring their practices are more than words in a corporate handbook but are carried out in real life?
- Environment – what steps are taken to reduce waste? How are they managing energy efficiency and carbon emissions? What’s their impact on water courses and water tables? Etc.
- Cruelty-free – we know that some products use animals and where they do, we consider whether those products are kind to the animals involved.
- Vegan – for products that are claiming to be “vegan” are they really vegan or is there an impact on animals that is being hidden from view?
- Data – we try to draw on as much data as possible. We use certification providers, standards systems, the public domain, news media, social media, etc. to try and get as broad a picture as possible.
Then our ratings are as follows:
- Awesome – all of our data points to a brand or product doing as much as it can across our 5 areas of input. They are transparent and open about progress and are clearly engaging with areas of under performance.
- Good – while not perfect, brands and products in this category, are trying very hard to demonstrate their leadership in some key areas and we’d expect to see them improve in other areas when they’re done.
- First Steps – we’ve all got to start somewhere, right? These are brands and products dipping their toes in the ethical water and trying to find their place. Their efforts are to be welcomed but they may have a long way to go.
- Bare Minimum – OK, they’re offering some transparency but everything feels a little half-hearted. They’re paying attention to something important but there’s no signs of major progress or broader awareness. A lot of big name brands fall into this category.
- Bad News – These are the companies that greenwash or simply don’t care at all. They offer no transparency, any claims they make are not backed with data or are too “airy fairy” to make a difference. You won’t see many of these on our site.
How Do We Evaluate Products That We Review?
It depends. Sure, we have a team of testers that we often get together to test a big batch of similar products against a set of defined criteria. This is a great way to bring together a wide-variety of real world opinions.
But we also factor in other opinions, this can include advice from subject matter experts, friends and family, public reviews from users, the buzz on social media, and other sources that we deem relevant.
And sometimes, we just pick products that we love. They’re shiny and exciting! And we think enthusiasm is something everyone can appreciate.
How Do Products End Up In The Whole People Catalog?
We don’t include every product or brand that we test in our collection. Though we’re not afraid to call out a bit of greenwashing every now and again, we don’t want that kind of reportage to dominate what we want to be a positive space for ethical growth in consumer practices.
So, for the main, we choose products that are in some or, ideally, all of these categories:
- Actually useful – if it serves no purpose, then it’s not worth mentioning
- Serve to educate – education is a key part of becoming more environmentally and ethically aware
- High quality – great products achieve better results and can be relied upon
- Low cost – you can’t always get high quality for low cost, but we do look for it
- Deliverable – though we do encourage shopping locally, the products you source online ought to be easily deliverable to your home or office
How Do We Earn Money?
Whole People is supported by its readers. We use affiliate links throughout the site and if you click on one of these links, we may be paid a small commission. This does not cost you any extra money and allows us to remain independent when reviewing and evaluating brands, products, etc.
We think it’s important that you get our opinion and not that of the manufacturer or retailer – of course, they’re going to love their products, that’s their job but ours is to help you find products that are right for you.
We’re Here For You And For The Planet
One final thing, we’re here for you as a source of information and as means of support to leading a kinder, more eco-friendly and ethical life. If there’s something that you think we should feature or a brand that you think we’d love, we’d love to hear from you about it.
Drop us a line on our contact us page and we’ll look into it for you. Your views matter to the Whole People team and we never take you for granted.