I have been thinking about being a conscious consumer. It’s not easy, not when our consumption habits have been made so effortless. Companies and brands want us to buy their products, and they have made it as easy and mindless as possible. A couple of clicks and you’ve purchased that shiny new thing. Each and every one of us on this planet is forced to consume our basic essentials in any case – we have to buy food, for starters. Keeping that in mind, this is such a massive issue.
Our habits are causing so much harm. And there are so many of us. It’s hard to grasp the extent of our effect on this world due to our mindless consumption of resources.
What is a Conscious Consumer?
What does it mean to be a conscious consumer? It means we tailor our buying habits to make decisions based on the environmental and social impact of our buying choices. We no longer buy just to idly shop. We buy because we need something, and we buy from a brand that produces its products responsibly.
But we must, of course, be careful to still only buy what we need. Purchasing loads of products simply because they are sustainably made is still contributing to the problem (overconsumption). We need to reduce our consumption. And we need to limit our necessary consumption to products that do the least harm to the environment.
There are 7.5 billion people in this world, and we are all collectively wreaking havoc on the delicate system that nature has in place. Now, it’s admittedly difficult to grasp this number. What is one billion? What is one million, even? OK. Did you know that it takes about two weeks to count to one million? And it takes 50 years to count to a billion! So, just imagine you’re saying out everyone’s first name one after the other, without stopping – about the same amount of time you’d take to count one second.
It will take you over 375 years to just say out aloud the first names of all the people alive on earth right this second.
And all 7.5 billion of us are ravenously grabbing at every resource we can get our hands on. Hungrily demolishing vast tracts of forestland, wiping out entire species and releasing toxic gases indiscriminately into the skies.
“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”― Mahatma Gandhi
The Rise of the Conscious Consumer
While this trend began in the 1970s, conscious consumerism has grown tremendously with greater awareness of the environmental impact of our consumer choices. This has expanded to include sustainable products, recycling, buying better quality products that last longer, and other such habits. To balance this demand from consumers, there has been a massive increase in the number of brands that cater to such needs. More and more, consumers are looking for transparency from companies and manufacturers, and are taking account of the ethical practices of those they buy from. After all, we can’t completely stop consuming. We need food, clothing, and shelter. All of us also need modern necessities (laptops, cars, smartphones). We also want some fun things in life (vacations, books, art, music…).
We have to learn how to consume without depleting the very planet that we depend on for everything.
Is It Effective?
Individual consumers can make individual choices all they want, but we all know that a big change needs to be made to the entire system. We know that the problem of spending too much is not going to be solved by spending too much, but on ‘better’ products. And, let’s face it. How many of the 7.5 billion people actually consume consciously? We all do what we can, when we can, with what we have. While that is noble in itself, it sadly isn’t sufficient to solve the issue.
Some individuals and groups contribute to the problem a whole lot more than the rest. And that needs to be remedied (eat the rich, or at least redistribute wealth equitably. Plus, place curbs on the most destructive practices of the ultra wealthy: ban private jets, put a cap on consumption, make them pay more in taxes and pay more to their employees. Industries also need to be targeted similarly. And so does the military).
So, while we do our best to make systemic change, there are also things we can do as individual consumers that can make a small difference.
Conscious Consumer Brands
We just need to be more aware of the impact of our consumer choices, and how we can make better choices from among the options we have.
How Brands Are Rising to the Challenge
It’s quite simple, really. The more environmentally responsible a company appears to be, the more business they will do, thanks to the demands of the growing numbers of conscious consumers. But it’s a mixed bag. New brands have popped up that genuinely create sustainably sourced and produced products, but the brands most responsible for environmental destruction have hopped on the bandwagon, armed with their mighty PR teams. Greenwashing is a real problem.
But we must note the nuances in this issue. When IKEA launches their recycling and buy-back programs, it’s definitely a good thing, and an important step towards a more sustainable future. But, there are other companies that jump on the same issue, and claim to do the same things, but do not actually do them.
Is this problem another one to be solved by the “market forces” of educated consumers? Luckily, there are some trusted certifying organizations that can help us consumers determine the truth behind the claims.
Environmentally Conscious Brands
This whole website is chock full of sustainable, eco-friendly brands, companies and products that you can consider, from eco-friendly clothing to sustainable furniture. There’s a lot of emphasis we place on buying secondhand clothing and refurbished electronics. There’s also a long list of sustainable alternatives to shopping on Amazon. Read about circular fashion. Sell your unwanted clothes online.
Ultimately, being a conscious consumer is about voting with your dollars (although I have some misgivings about giving so much power to the dollar), and demanding for better options for yourself and for the world. When more and more people take that responsibility seriously, we’ll see a serious change in how we conduct our economy.
If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. Thank you!<3