Ethical Sourcing for Shop Owners

by Muria Myhre

As a shop owner it is extremely important to know just what an impact your merchandise and advice have on your customers. What you tell a customer that a product does is often repeated to several of that customer’s friends and family. 

I know that a lot of times we are approached by customers who are constantly asking for a particular product because they saw it at so-and-so’s shop, or some big name celebrity uses it, and they feel they need to use it too. Before you place that order there are a couple of things you need to ask yourself. Is this product something that others have stolen from another culture? Is it currently being used in a way that is both threatening that culture and that item’s purpose? Is that an item that is threatened with extinction due to an over inflated market? 

Maybe an alternative product would be a better option. 

Let’s start with sage. No not common sage that is used in cooking, but white sage. A Sacred medicine plant used for generations by Indigenous people. People who have already been marginalized and profited off of shamelessly. 

Because of celebrity use and several perhaps well-meaning but misinformed people, demand for white sage has skyrocketed, leading many to poach it and overharvest it. This “plant” is endangered and while many people say, “Hey it cleanses this and protects that and I need these cleansed and protected so why can’t I use it? Why can’t I buy it if it’s available for sale?” my question is why not use something else? Something that isn’t endangered? Something you could buy anywhere or even grow yourself? 

As a store owner we are responsible for helping our customers make good choices. But what can we carry instead? Instead of endangered plants, trees, and resins like white sage, palo santo, or dragon’s blood, how about mint, moss, cinnamon, common garden sage, rosemary, lavender… he list is endless! Just a little research and you can literally be flooded in options. Make your own mix! Sell your own magic! 

Better yet, teach your customers how to make their own. You sell the supplies needed. It’s really a simple concept, but it is really a win-win. You make a sale, the customer is happy, the plants that need it are protected, and no cultures are robbed of their heritage or dignity. 

Dreamcatchers… Leave them to the people who know their worth. They’re not a wall decoration. Buy some framed local art or posters. You can’t sleep? Try lavender or woodruff. Again other options exist. 

Instead of making indigenous people upset or uncomfortable why not make connections in your community? All communities have an almost unlimited supply of artists who would jump at a chance to feature and sell their work. As a bonus, those artists are connected to the community with friends and family who will want to come into your store to see their work. 

Think of that artist’s social media with all the new connections mentioning your page. That’s definitely going to be a much bigger investment then some fake dreamcatchers from China. Highlight your areas items. What is it your community is known for? What are your strengths and weaknesses? 

Use your space in the community to make connections and bonds. What are you passionate about? Is there a charity in your area you could donate to or feature? If you want to get the support of your community it is important to support your community. 

You’ll be amazed how quickly just a few changes can turn customers into family.