“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. – Jane Goodall”
‘Conscious’ or ‘responsible’ consumerism is about being aware of the relationship between what we choose to spend our money on and its impact on our environment and the world around us. It means taking steps to lessen our global impact through our individual and collective spending power.
WHAT TYPE OF IMPACT CAN BUYING THINGS HAVE AND WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
Our everyday purchasing has a huge impact on the world and in so many different ways. Research has shown “that by measuring ‘secondary impacts’, that is - the environmental effects of producing the goods and products we buy everyday, it was found that consumers were responsible for more than 60 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80 percent of global water use.” Add onto that the depletion of non-renewable resources, global warming, industrial toxins that are polluting our air, water, and soil, the destruction of habitats and species, the ever-growing mountains of non-compostable trash, not to mention all the adults and children who are exploited for cheap labour - and it is clear to see just how much of a destructive impact our lifestyle is having on the planet. Our collective consumption will impact not only ourselves but also future generations to come. Once we know the truth, we then have a responsibility to buy smarter and wiser so that we may start to minimize the damage that we have been unknowingly contributing to.
We have to start considering the impact of our consumption on the planet!!!
When used for the collective good, money can be a hugely powerful form of democracy. We have the potential to become agents of change by voting with our wallet. When we buy consciously-sourced and manufactured products, we are supporting companies whose values and practices consider the interests and wellbeing of the planet. We can also exercise our spending power by choosing not to support those products or companies who put profit above people and the planet, and hopefully, with enough pressure, they can be persuaded to change their ways. As we become more aware of the social and environmental impacts of our every day purchases we can create a shift in power by demanding more brand transparency.
To make a truly meaningful change, we will need to work together as a society. Governments and businesses have done and will continue to respond to consumer demand, so, as conscious consumers, let us make sure that our choices and actions reflect the type of world that we would like to live in.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Start to think about what we spend our money on. How much do we need a particular item? Are we impulse buying? Even for those on a tight budget - change is possible, we can practice repairing, reusing and repurposing, buying secondhand and vintage.
Choose Slow fashion over fast fashion.
Choose ethical or sustainable options - look for well known ‘eco-labels’ such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, EU Energy Labels, FSC, Energy Savings trust, Cruelty-free, The Leaping Bunny, The Soil Association and The Vegan Society.
Reduce our waste by avoiding non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and single-use packaging where possible. Phase out single-use, disposable items from your life such as plastic water bottles and disposable razors for example.
Buy less or at least buy better - Choose quality over quantity, look for things that will last even if they are a little more expensive. It will be worth it in the long run for both you and the planet.
Living more ethically and consciously is a journey. It’s about slowly changing our behaviours one step at a time. We are not perfect and we all have different values, however, we do all share the planet, we all consume and we are all capable of making choices. So no matter who we are, our circumstance or our finances, we are all capable of making positive changes, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. As Mahatma Gandhi very famously quoted -
“BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD”