When it comes to consuming, the developed world has it down pat and not in a good way. More than half of consumption comes from developed nations like the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan! And, to top it off, more than $20 trillion dollars are spent every year by consumers.
But, what are we buying and why are we even buying it?
For years, this thought never crossed my mind, I simply bought the items I wanted when I wanted them. After all, I was already at the store for groceries, so why not treat myself too? You see though, that’s the problem. We think we can have whatever we think we need at a moment’s notice and thanks to Amazon Prime, you can, but how is this mass consumption affecting the world? And is there anything we can do about it?
Well, in short, this mass consumption is accounting for the exorbitant amounts of trash being collected, the increased number of endangered species, rapid effects of climate change, and the list goes on (and it gets worse).
Basically, we’re killing our planet with our consumption.
However, there’s hope! You, yes you, can make a small change today and every day afterward to make a positive impact on our planet simply by being more aware when you set out to make a purchase.
Ready to learn how to do your part? Keep on reading to discover what it means to be a conscious consumer and how to make small changes in your daily life to become one!
What does it mean to be a conscious consumer?
In its simplest form, being a conscious consumer is being aware of the products you are purchasing. Everything from where the product came from to the material it’s packaged in needs to be accounted for before making your purchase.
It may seem like a lot to run through your head for that chapstick you want at the checkout line, but that small decision can have a big impact on the world.
For instance, that chapstick may have had to be shipped all the way from China to your local grocery, think about all the fossil fuels that were burned, possible child labor utilized in the making, and packaging that’s bound to end up at a landfill for the next half a century (if you don’t lose it somewhere first!).
Do you really want to buy it now? I didn’t think so.
But, what if you really need some chapstick? Well, there are options and quite possibly a local company that makes stellar chapstick for you to use or an all-natural alternative that you missed down the beauty aisle.
You see, being a conscious consumer doesn’t mean you get what you want when you want it. It means that you make ethical and sustainable decisions to get what you need.
How can I be more conscious when I shop?
When it comes down to being more conscious when you shop, the key is to ask yourself some questions about the product. Just like you check if your produce is organic or not, you want to learn everything you can about the products you’re buying and companies you’re doing business with. By doing so, you’ll be helping not just the planet breathe a little easier, but your own health and well-being too!
So, next time you’re at the store or shopping online, be sure to ask yourself the following before making your purchase:
Can I buy this locally?
With both economic and environmental benefits, buying locally is simply the smart thing to do. For starters, it ensures you’re getting fresh produce instead of tomatoes shipped in from halfway across the world. Not to mention the cool crafty people you’ll get to meet along your local shopping journey!
Additionally, when you shop local, you’re keeping your community employed and keeping your dollars in the community too! Did you know that on average 48 percent of each purchase at local businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores? Well, it’s true! (source)
Where is the product coming from?
If you’re not able to find the item locally, you’ll still want to check where it is coming from. For instance, you may find a cute bag on Etsy or some other shopping site, but what you may not realize is that it’s getting shipped from Ukraine to your house in Pennsylvania. That’s a lot of traveling for one little item! Plus, the labor force at each customs checkpoint and whoever else may end up needing to handle the package along the way.
These are the things you want to look for before making your purchase. This way you can think about if you can live without the bag or maybe find something similar nearby instead.
Do I really need this?
Alright, so you found the bag and realize it’s coming from halfway across the globe. Now is when you start to question if you absolutely cannot live without the bag. More than likely, you can live without – after all, we really only need water, food, and shelter to get by.
You can use this handy Buyerarchy of Needs to help you figure out if you truly need the item.
Is it a high-quality product?
And, if you really cannot live without it, be sure to look at the quality of the product. Everything from what it’s made with, how it’s made, and who is making it should be looked at. Remember, child labor and slavery still exist in our world, do you really want to be the one supporting it? I don’t, which is why I’m sure you don’t either!
That’s why you need to look at it all and research some more if you are still on the fence. It’s important to spend your dollars wisely in this way, as it tells companies what consumers are looking for; ethical and sustainable options to purchase.
Can I recycle or reuse the packaging?
With more than 50-percent of our trash coming from product packaging, this one is huge! By skipping the bags in the produce section, as well as buying items with less packaging or compostable packaging, you’re choosing to leave a smaller footprint.
And, if it simply doesn’t come in sustainable packaging, then be sure to break down those boxes and throw the plastic into your recycling bins, so they can get a few more uses!
Does the company make an effort to give back and make ethical choices for the environment?
Lastly, look into the companies that you’re doing business with! If they aren’t working towards lessening their carbon footprint or employing more people with living wages, then simply don’t buy from them. They listen to where the dollars land, so with fewer sales and not-so-happy customers, they’ll make a change for the better. And, if not, we can work to put them out of business for the environment’s sake.
No one said it was going to be easy, but over time and with practice, being a conscious consumer comes naturally without having to pull out your handy checklist.
Here at Growing Organic, we strive to be an eco-friendly company. It is our firm belief that we are simply children of Mother Earth and must always seek to keep her working in harmony by leaving a smaller footprint and helping her where we can.