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How to Buy an Ethical Toaster

Write By: rach Published In: Ethical and Eco Living Created Date: 2016-04-30

This month, when our broken toaster kept filling our house with smoke and risked burning the house down, I cut the cord off to force myself to find a new one. Apart from not killing us, we wanted to make sure that the new one would also be ethical. 

But how do you even buy an ethical toaster?! 

Last week I ceremoniously cut the electric cord off the toaster that had just filled my house with billows of burnt-toast-smoke, for the second day in a row. No more smokey black toast for me! We had bought the toaster from a tip-shop, hoping to give it a second life. As we found out, the popping mechanism was broken and the only way to stop the toast toasting was to press the ‘Cancel’ button. Not good if you, like me, walk out of the room and completely forget you’re even cooking toast. 

So, we wanted a new toaster. And we wanted it to be as ethical and as sustainable as possible - long lasting, made well, people paid fairly, etc. But the second hand options were out. We didn’t want to risk the tip shop again and Gumtree’s used toaster results were empty (actually, we found one for $8 and went to buy it but when we arrived at the seller’s house at the specified time, he had accidentally sold it to someone else that morning). We decided to buy a brand new toaster - the most ethical one we could get our hands on.

How long does it take to buy an ethical toaster in Australia? At least ten days, it turns out. And when you’re used to a toaster, ten days can feel like a long time. While doing the research to help us make what we could consider to be the most ethical decision possible to us at this time, my wife and I have been cooking toast under the Maxi Grill in our oven. On the plus side it didn’t fill the house with smoke and for some reason smelt a lot like pancakes, but on the down side the extra energy use and inconvenience became less tolerable, and I found myself writing ‘buy toaster’ in capital letters on my to-do list (serious).

So, how did I start my search?

1. Downloaded the 2016 Ethical Electronics Guide from Baptist World Aid (see a snippet below). The guide is really clear and super easy to navigate, it only took me 15 seconds to look up a brand rating. 

2. Scoured eBay and Google to find out Toaster brands. 

3. Compared what we wanted (2 slice, stainless steel toaster) to the brand ratings in the Ethical Electronics Guide. 

4. Looked for a toaster brand with the highest rating, whose product that I could buy from within Australia

What actually happened?

1. The first thing that struck me was that the highest rating in the entire Ethical Electronics Guide was only a B+. Disappointing, but hopefully things will get better as more consumers exercise their ethical purchasing scrutiny and encourage companies to improve their production processes and transparency. 

2. I had no luck finding toasters with the B+ rating (Bosch and Siemens) inside Australia on eBay, they seemed to only be available outside of Australia. 

3. There were a number of toaster brands available in Australia which didn’t feature in the Guide, including: Morphy Richards, Russell Hobbs, Cuisinart and Kitchen Chef. I decided to avoid these until they are rated. 

4. I found that a number of toaster brands which offer nicer looking and more expensive toasters ($140+) interestingly did not rate highly in the Electronics Guide (eg. Kitchenaid = D+), another example where more expensive prices don't necessarily equal a fairer product. 

5. I went back to searching Gumtree for second hand toasters - and scored! I finally found a $20, six-month old, two-slice Breville toaster that a relocating French couple were selling. It's not stainless steel, but it feels safe and sturdy, and I'm hoping it will last a very long time. 

6. Even though Breville only has a C+ rating, in my opinion buying second-hand trumps any of my other decision-making criteria, so I'm stoked.

7. The toaster has been perfect so far! 

8. I'm left with the knowledge that the Ethical Electronics Guide is super easy to use (I must admit I have felt a bit overwhelmed by using these kinds of guides in the past), and I will definitely use it again in future when I need to buy some other kind of electronic device that I can't get second-hand. 

Have you used the Ethical Electronics Guide, or another kind of guide regarding more sustainable and fair electronics? If so I'd love to hear your experiences, please leave a comment below. 

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