How informed consumption and selective purchasing gives power back to the consumer.
I was working on getting my minor in environmental sciences and studies and was regularly overwhelmed by the amount of information I was receiving about the condition of the Earth.
I’m a sensitive soul, who cares deeply about the Earth and environmental sustainability. So naturally, the threat of climate change scared me. I would often find myself leaving my classes with this deep sense of loss and hopelessness (also known as climate depression) about a situation that I felt helpless to change. It wasn’t until I discovered conscious consumerism, that I really began to feel empowered about my everyday actions aligning with my beliefs.
So What is Conscious Consumerism?
The most accurate definition of conscious consumerism I could find is: “Socially conscious consumerism happens when consumers purchase products or services produced with social and environmental considerations in mind. It can be described as consumers “voting with their dollars,” by purchasing products and services produced responsibly,” (Network for Business Sustainability).
So there you have it! But why is it important?
We are Products of the System
It’s simple economics, really; if there is a demand for something, and producing it makes a profit, it will continue to be produced.
At first, this idea sickened me. People would still continue to frack despite the obvious contamination to watersheds; overfishing of blue finned tuna will continue as long as people are still buying cans; and if people continue to put their groceries in plastic disposable bags, then the stores will continue to provide them. So continues the relentless push and pull of supply-demand.
Informed consumption is when a consumer researches and investigates the chemicals, ingredients, and manufacturing processes of the products that are being purchased. Often times, with some research, it is easy to find reasons to stay away from many of the synthetic plastic and petroleum-based products that are dominating the markets.
Decide Where Your Dollar Goes
I’ve been seeing a wave of new companies and enterprises emerging that use their products to give back, promote change, and protect the environment. One way to consciously consume is by selectively purchasing products from like-minded brands.
Companies like 4Ocean, Rice Love Bags, The Elephant Pants, Madera Outdoor Co., Pura Vida Bracelets, and hundreds more, are using the sales of their products to promote and fund projects that make a tangible difference. These companies allocate a portion of their proceeds to ocean clean up projects, providing starving families with rice, support elephant conservation, or even plant trees.
“Every dollar you spend is a vote you cast for the world you want” – L.N. Smith
If you are going to purchase something new, it is worth investigating companies, who have human and environmental values in mind, that are creating those same products that you need. This way, you get the product you need, but you know your dollar is going to a greater cause than a CEO’s wallet.
Demand the Supply You Deserve
We don’t have to buy mystery meat just because it’s what the store has to offer. Even though the price may be a bit elevated, you can demand the organic, sustainably sourced user-safe products that you want and deserve.
Simply by seeking out these alternate products, it shows major corporations the changing trends in demand. Already major companies are starting to notice the trend towards environmentally sustainable products, and are beginning to offer those as alternatives.
It’s so heartening to see that large companies – the same companies that are generally causing large-scale pollution – are willing to change and offer alternatives if we the consumers show that we are willing to invest in it.
Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need
This seems obvious, but a huge part of being a conscious consumer is abstaining from purchasing superfluous, wasteful, and single-use products.
Plastic straws, for example, have been banned entirely in multiple cities all over the world, simply because people made it clear that they didn’t want to use them.
This is just one small example of the kind of change that is possible when consumers collectively boycott a product. The demand disappears, so there is no point in providing a supply.
Bring the Power Back to the Consumer!
Conscious consumerism is all about being aware of the products that you are using on a daily basis, being aware of the life cycles of those products, and realizing where those products are going to inevitably end up.
By spreading awareness about the products that we use in our daily life, how they are produced, and what they will leave behind we can attempt to change the focus of the corporations making them.
We CAN choose, and let’s choose sustainability!