Conscious consumerism is defined simply as voting with our dollars when we shop. The goal is to make a positive impact on environmental, social, or economic issues. Unfortunately, these issues tend to impact the most vulnerable, especially people in developing countries. When we make an effort to support companies with ethical, sustainable, and transparent business practices, we are empowered to make our voices heard. Our purchases have the potential to create change in a world where high-speed consumption is over-valued, while the livelihoods, safety, and health of people and our planet are not.
If the thought of being a conscious consumer feels overwhelming to you, don’t fret. Your approach to becoming a conscious consumer does not rely on perfection or overextending your finances in the name of everything organic, sustainable, ethical, local, and so on. The idea is to focus on issues that resonate with us and slowly make a few lifestyle changes that we can build on. Here are five ways to practice conscious consumerism.
- Buy Less: In our fast-paced world where we can have almost everything delivered right to our doorstep, it can be easy to overspend and end up with a whole lot of stuff we don’t know what to do with. Before buying, try to ask yourself if you need or want this item, and can you wait even just a day to ponder this purchase. The art of waiting is an important life skill we must all practice and teach our children. Relying on instant gratification, using shopping as a sport, or as a means of filling a void are unhealthy habits that we want to avoid practicing throughout our lifetime. We will save ourselves time, money, and precious natural resources.
- Buy Well: We get it; not everyone can afford top-quality products, and truth be told, everyone is guilty of buying cheap only to have the item break down on us. Buying the best quality you can afford will likely save you money in the long run, not to mention frustration and regret. Take advantage of sales, new customer discounts, and last season’s styles as a savvy tactic to save money on quality products. When shopping, look for items that are fair trade, handmade, and support your local economy. Your dollars will go a long way to support ethical treatment and fair payment to the makers. Natural, sustainable materials such as wood, stone, cotton, linen, or upcycled materials are timeless and generally stand the test of time. Also, do your homework, especially if it’s a big purchase, and be sure to research the quality, care required, and reviews of the item. Finally, try and make an effort to maintain your belongings and perform repairs as needed before dismissing them as broken and discarding them.
- Buy Secondhand: Shop your local secondhand shops, flea markets, estate sales, host a clothing or toy swap, or try Facebook marketplace. These are great ways to get your hands on quality items without breaking the bank. Need another reason to shop secondhand? Your decision to pass on new products won’t create demand that relies on high levels of our planet’s valuable resources. Bonus! However, be mindful not to fall into the trap of loading up on items you don’t need or want just because you found a deal at flea market. Make a list of what you’re looking for and try to stick to it. This is the best strategy for smart secondhand shopping.
- Embrace Minimalism: If the word minimalism has you envisioning a home devoid of warmth, personality, and very few belongings, stay with me. To quote Joshua Becker, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” After I read that, it became clear that if I make an effort to buy and keep the things I truly value and need, my home will be more peaceful, easier to maintain, and our footprint on the environment will be much lighter. Minimalism can be a great tool to find more time in our lives for the things that truly matter and the space to pursue new and old passions.
- Reduce Your Meat Consumption: Did you know that it takes approximately 2400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat? On the other hand, grains, pasta, beans, and vegetables require significantly less; for example, it takes approximately 39 gallons of water to produce vegetables, 42 for beans, and 449 for rice. It’s no secret that too much red meat can be harmful to our health, but it’s also far more expensive than most meatless options. Get started by committing to one or two nights a week of plant based dinners for you and your family. By reducing your meat consumption, you’ll improve your health, save money, and do our planet a huge favor.
In closing, we cannot discuss conscious consumerism without acknowledging that systemic change is a critical component to achieving sustainability. The efforts of conscious consumers, together with government and businesses, can create sustainable changes benefitting people and the planet. Share with us! Which one of the above ideas resonates with you the most and why?