Finding out about where things come from has been eye-opening. Wanting to be environmentally conscious is well and good, but where does one start? The internet is vast, and there’s no information you cannot find if you look hard enough. And you should look for information about where the things you use came from. But, in the meantime, it’s best to be more conscious from the get-go. It’s a process that involves a lot of education and soul searching. And it starts with baby steps.
The internet contains multitudes – of types of ways to do things, for example. How does one live “consciously”? I’m no stranger to people laughing at me, at all the “hype” that I readily believe, and the “fads” that I sincerely follow. While I smile and hope that they realize soon that being eco-conscious is not a fad, I still wonder: is it even possible to be an ethical consumer today?
For the category of readers who say yes, it is, read on:
You can try several things, and have them not work out. You can try to buy local, only to be tempted by the durian in the store. You can decide to wash your clothes in non-toxic detergent, only to have to give your formals for dry cleaning because you have a conference to attend next week. It’s ok. Being conscious is supposed to make you know and understand better, not make you beat yourself up for choices that are baked into our modern way of life and that cannot be helped without completely giving up this very modern way of living. Flights have to be taken sometimes, paper has to be printed sometimes (on dirty ink), non-organic food has to be eaten sometimes. Let’s not aim for a 100% guilt-free super-conscious life. That isn’t possible. But baby steps? Anyone can do that (even babies?). So, let’s get to it.
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Be Conscious of Your Spending
We all spend money. Heck, we all live most of our lives earning money in order to spend it. Every bit that you pay goes towards something – whether it’s food in a restaurant that employs child labour, whether it’s clothes that were made at a fraction of the sale price by bonded laborers and delivered to you in plastic bubble wrapping, whether it’s your employee’s salary that immediately goes towards paying her rent and her children’s school fees and her groceries. Every note has a story.
Which means you can make a small difference by supporting people and places that do some good in the world. We’re a fast-growing global economy with complete disregard for the environment. Not many companies offer options that have kept the environment in mind.
But still… Buy groceries from the local fruit and vegetable shop. Buy coconut water instead of Pepsi or Coke (please don’t drink fizzy drinks!). Carpool to work. Uber and others have share options. There are apps that you can use if you have your own car (have you noticed how most cars nowadays, especially at peak hours, have just one person sitting inside? Imagine the roads with one fourth the current congestion).
Your money is your vote for a better world. Be conscious. Examine your own life, and find out about sustainable and ethical alternatives to the usual food you buy, the clothes you buy, the decisions you make. They all have consequences, especially when money changes hands. Please vote responsibly with your hard-earned cash.
Cook Your Own Food
It’s hard, I know. Where’s the time? You have the best intentions, you have a decent collection of cookbooks, and nothing motivates you as much as food does. But you’re eating out all.the.time. Here’s an important fact: there is nothing as important for your health as wholesome, nutritious food. What can take that to the next level is making it yourself. Not only do you know what you have put in each dish, but you also have the satisfaction of only eating what you can and storing the rest for later (put it in the fridge!). No wastage, no trans-fat, no dubious ingredients, no child labour, no plastic packing. All this is worth the extra effort to prepare your own food, which is, in fact, a great way to be a conscious consumer.
Watch Your Waste
Plastic is killing all of us – you know that already, right? One of the best things you can do to greatly improve everyone’s quality of life is to swear off plastic. Carry cloth bags to do your shopping, and say no when the cashier asks if you want to buy a plastic bag. Reuse whatever plastic bags you have lying at home, or, better yet, donate/sell them.
Cut down on your use of plastic spoons and forks. If you absolutely cannot be bothered to carry your own spoons and forks with you, then at least use eco-friendly options. And, sigh, try not to order too many things online. They all use tons of plastic packaging, and I cannot imagine any safe place that all that plastic is ending up in. I mean, all that plastic? Is still floating around in the world, causing a lot of damage. Stop adding to it.
Replace every single-use item in your life with a more permanent, reusable option. Straws, plastic cups, plastic bags – just sit for a couple of minutes and think about the incredible amount of single-use items we all use. And try to replace each of them with a sustainable option. With our modern world of inbuilt-obsolescence, and seven billion hungry, greedy humans consuming at an unprecedented rate, just imagine all the waste that’s being created on a regular basis. Check out the numbers, and the fact that 99% of the stuff we buy is trashed within six months, and tell me that we’re not headed for a very bad place.
Seriously, theirs is absolutely no reason to be wasting stuff anymore. Especially plastic. Not when you know how it affects everything.
Detox your Home
Pollution! Toxic chemicals! VOC paint! Ok, there are tons of dangerous things inside your own home. As far as possible, opt for organic, natural ingredients for what you eat. And also, when and if possible, opt for organic, natural ingredients for what you put on your body. Toxins used in common products are very bad for us, and we’ve been accumulating them for years and years.
Check out this list, control your panic, and start cleaning your home the way your great grandparents used to. Use baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils, and have a home that’s as clean as before (true!), but with none of the toxic chemicals.
Buying anything new consumes new resources. While you might balk at buying secondhand clothes, don’t balk at buying a used car. Or a used desk or books, or camera equipment, or …. You get the idea. Repair clothing and shoes that can be salvaged, and then if you still don’t want to use them, donate them to the local NGO. Pick up some DIY skills, and learn to live with less.
Buy second-hand or used items – in most cases, there is barely any difference in functionality but there is a huge difference to the waste created and, of course, to the dent in your wallet. Amazon has a great collection of certified refurbished electronic products that you can check out.
Which brings us to a related point –
Buy Less + Downsize
Why do we buy so many things? We’ve pretty much been programmed to buy new clothes at any time, a new phone once every couple of years, and a new car once in four or five years. Shopping is an accepted pastime, and retail therapy is always a good self-prescription.
New shoes, new toys, new furniture, new, new, new. Brand new.
We don’t need so many things. Be aware of what you buy; stop going on mad buying binges. Calm down. Let’s think about what we already have, what else we actually need, and whether we really have to buy them from a swanky brand. It’s no longer about being minimalist as a style statement, or about being mindful of other people “who aren’t as lucky”.
It’s simply about putting less stress on the planet’s now dwindling resources at a very important stage in its existence. Our decisions? Will determine the kind of life we will be living a few years down the line. It’s no longer even about our grandchildren and their children and what sort of world we want to leave for them. It’s about us, and it’s happening now.
We seriously need to wake up.
Don’t Forget the Animals
Ok, over half of the world’s primates are on the brink of extinction. We are devouring land and resources with no end in sight, completely apathetic to the plight of the wildlife whose homes we are destroying. Stop eating meat, stop visiting circuses and zoos, and stop supporting corporations that destroy ecosystems and livelihoods. If this is the first you’re hearing about all these being bad things, then please use Google to educate yourself. Buy cruelty-free products. Buy faux leather, not real. Buy organic eggs if you must. Leave out some water (and food, if possible) for your local dogs, cats and birds.
To sum up…
Live a conscious life. Make decisions fully aware of the consequences of those decisions.
Want a quick guide to help you make deliberate, conscious purchases? Click here (or the image below) to download it.
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