Conscious consumerism is all about breaking the cycle of mindless and spontaneous purchasing.
It is about making decisions, to buy things, based on whether we need them. It is about choosing to buy from ethical companies, and to make purchases that do not impact negatively or adversely on society, and the environment.
What does this mean in practice?
Think before you buy
Are you buying something you need, or something you want? Is it something you could live without, or something you might use once or twice before forgetting it at the back of a cupboard? Does it bring purpose into your life? These are the questions a conscious consumer asks before they buy.
Do you really need that item? Image by the Blowup.
Where you can, understand as much as you can, about where and how a product was manufactured. Is it a fair trade product? Was it ethically sourced and produced? What is the due diligence done on the factory where it was made, and are you able to say whether those who made it received a fair wage and conditions for their work? This might also include taking into account political considerations when choosing where to shop from. Brands and shops that commit to diversity, are the best choices for conscious consumers.
Not only does it mean you often support a small, independent business but it also allows you to understand much more about the product. An independent business, who takes pride in their products, should be able to let you know how the product was sourced and made. Look for local businesses that specify their commitment to ethical practices.
Conscious consumerism means thinking about the environment, every time you shop. Is this something necessary is a good first question, but also, how was the product manufactured and was it produced in a way that damaged the environment, either in the short or long term. Shopping locally is good for sustainability, the less a product travels to get to you, the better it is for the environment.
Shop sustainably. Image by Jess Harper.
Shopping consciously extends to all areas of our daily, and more long term shopping habits as well. It starts with questioning the food we are buying- where was this meat raised, how was this meat raised? Then it extends to all areas of our lives- how many times will I wear this sweater, how many washes will this sweater survive, where and how was this sweater made? It can even extend to how and where we choose to live. Choosing to live in consciously designed housing, that commits to sustainable living and to the building of a community which respects and bolsters the neighbourhood it is in, is a big step towards committing to more conscious living. Co-living itself developed out of a need to develop a more socially conscious way to live- one that understands the importance of relationships, and community, and one that prioritizes experiences.
Choosing to be an ethical consumer takes a commitment to shopping and buying that involves more than simply turning your back on fast fashion, or committing to organic food. It means being an involved consumer who votes with their wallet, and fully researches what they are buying, and why they are buying it.
The less we buy, the less we need. And the more time we have to focus on a life filled with experiences, not things. The more time we have for community, sustainability and a commitment to a better world for everyone.