We live in a consumer society where purchases aren’t just economic actions. They come with social, cultural, and psychological implications as well. This means that a large part of what we do, what we value, and how we are defined revolves around the buying and consuming of things.
Throughout human history, people have always “consumed” the necessities of life — food, shelter, and clothing, but the Second Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed consumption patterns by offering a variety of products on a mass scale. In the pursuit of consumption, people were more willing to encroach on the environment to gratify spontaneous desires, leading to the rise of consumerism.
The big problem with consumerism is that it is not sustainable. Resource exploitation for the production of non-essential commodities is responsible for the environmental issues we’re facing today, including climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and pollution.
But the tide is turning. Increasing awareness around these issues has led to a shift in buyer behavior towards conscious consumption.
What is Conscious Consumption?
Conscious consumption simply means to engage in the economy with more awareness of how your choices impact the environment and society as a whole.
As a conscious consumer, every purchase reflects your core values and is an opportunity to vote for the world you want to see. With everything we want and need, one click away, becoming a conscious consumer takes commitment and a lot of mindfulness.
Here are eight ways to become a more conscious consumer.
1. Consume Less
The goal of conscious consumption is to encourage you to live a more intentional life by cutting out extraneous purchases. This will not only save you money, but it’ll also allow you to focus on saving for other things, like experiences or holidays, which are more likely to provide long-term satisfaction.
2. Do Your Research
When making a purchase, ensure you’re buying from a brand that aligns with your values. Thankfully, the internet is here to help us access such information with ease. Check out company websites, online reviews, or reach out to brands through social media to ask questions.
3. Buy Fair Trade Products
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products that claim to be sustainable, but the FAIRTRADE Mark means the products will meet certain standards set by trade organizations that operate around the world.
When you buy fair trade products, you’re supporting companies that pay their workers a living wage, provide workers with healthy working conditions and engage in environmentally friendly practices.
4. Say No Single-Use Plastics
Roughly half of our global annual plastic production is used in single-use items. Plastic can take hundreds of years to break down, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins in waterways. No doubt, cutting all single-use plastics out can be a challenge, but it is possible to make a difference with a few lifestyle changes.
Use reusable cups, utensils, containers, and shopping bags to reduce plastic waste and save money.
5. Repair and Repurpose
Part of practicing conscious consumerism is to keep more items out of landfill for as long as possible. Before you throw away torn or broken items like clothing or kids toys, consider repairing them. Alternatively, you can give them a new lease of life by repurposing them into fun pieces to decorate your home.
6. Buy Second-Hand Whenever You Can
Shopping secondhand not only helps the environment, but it also gives you access to a wide variety of unique and quality items at a lower price.
You can buy secondhand furniture, clothing, appliances, books, etc., from thrift stores, consignment shops, online resale outlets, clothing swaps, garage sales, and more.
7. Shop Local
Besides boosting the economy, shopping from small businesses from your local area can benefit the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. Instead of getting food from a big box store, go to your local farmer’s market, eat at locally-owned restaurants and buy from local artists.
8. Beware of Greenwashing
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by companies to make their product appear more environmentally or eco-friendly than it actually is. This includes the use of terms like “all-natural” and “eco-friendly,” as well as logos, colors, and mottos to look more “green.”
To cut through greenwashing claims, look for official certifications that are widely recognized. A few of the most common ones are Leap Bunny, Certified B-corp, Climate Neutral, and Forest Stewardship Council.
The Bottom Line
No purchase choice is too small to make an impact. By embracing conscious consumption in our daily lives, we can escape the trap of consumerism and make a difference in the lives of others and the health of our planet.