A guide to ethical living from Church of Scotland Youth

(Photo: Jacek Plackiewicz)

A group from the Church of Scotland Youth (COSY) has put together a guide to living more ethically in today's throwaway culture.

During the 2012 National Youth Assembly, young people debated the issues of tax evasion and avoidance and it quickly became apparent that many wanted to invest in living more ethically but didn't know where to begin.

A small group of individual delegates were then commissioned to research and write a guide which covers a variety of hotly contested topics including climate change, fair-trade, consumerism and, of course, tax, in the hopes of helping give young people a starting point from which to research the issues most important to them.

"This guide is designed to help you make the right decision in certain choices in your life – particularly choices about what you buy and how you spend your money," the introduction reads.

"Hopefully [it] will help you to see that by making a conscious effort to live in a way that helps others and shows your love for your neighbour, you only need to make small changes that can have a big difference."

The guide follows the fictitious 'Melissa' as she watches the news, receives her first energy bill and goes about her day to day life. She comes into contact with issues that could compromise her desire to live ethically and authentically as a Christian – such as driving short distances rather than cycling or going on foot, or wanting to buy a new outfit but not being sure about how fairly those who made the clothes are paid – and the guide then gives tips as to how she could make the most ethical choices in those situations.

The guide gives useful pointers in a variety of areas:
• Climate change: "Support movements that rally for environmental friendly ideas."
• Sustainable energy: "Turn your lights off when you're not using them, and try turning down the thermostat."
• Transport: "Taking a train or bus is much better for the environment than driving or flying."
• Consumerism: "Look out for shops that are open about their long-term environmental policies."
• Water: "We are truly blessed with one of the cleanest, safest natural water supplies in the world...at a time when we're trying to reduce our consumption of natural resources, manufacturing plastic bottles is not the way forward."
• Food miles: "One of the biggest things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint is to not waste food."
• Fairtrade: "While it is not necessarily universally 'right'...purchasing Fairtrade products is a big step in the right direction."
• Pharmaceuticals: "There is really no good reason to pay extra money to buy branded drugs when 'own-brand' generics are available."
• Recycling and upcycling: "Manufacturing recycled materials uses considerably less energy than that required for producing new products."
• Tax and banking: "As a consumer, you can choose to put your money in a bank that behaves more ethically."
• Boycotting: "Boycotts are a peaceful way of standing up and showing that you will not be associated with a group and its practices."
• Homelessness, asylum seekers and refugees: "Volunteer your time to an organisation that works to support homeless people."
• HIV: "[A first] port of call could be the Church of Scotland HIV programme."

It's a helpful, if basic, guide for young people, though its writers are well aware of that. One of the delegates, Robert Kimmitt, says: "We appreciate that none of these problems are straightforward and we're not looking to tell people 'the right thing to do'.

"It's much more about giving people an introduction to the issues, some information about them and places they can go for more information – so they can make up their own minds.

"This guide is by no means definitive. It's your responsibility to follow some of the links included in each of the stories and use them to explore the issues discussed to make a difference in your own life and also others too."