How to be a Conscious Consumer
Buying stuff is part of the current environmental problem - namely low quality, mass-produced products that we don't need. Ideally we'd all live by the "Buyerachy of Needs" and only buy when it's not feasible or realistic to borrow, swap or make them.
But we live in a society established on a framework of capitalism so it's very hard to live without buying anything at all. As consumers we need to shift our mindset slightly to align with our environmental goals and become 'conscious consumers' (which basically just means we think a bit about our values before we shop).
There are a number of ways you can do this so that you are supporting the environment and your community every time you shop. Different people find different things easy or hard so this list is in no particular order...just do what you can, where you can!
1) Buy from local businesses
There are many benefits to buying from local businesses. One is that they often manufacture products on a smaller scale which reduces pollution. Local manufacturing creates jobs and when we choosing to shop with them we're keeping money circulating in the community instead of it going offshore to corporate bank accounts. Independent businesses are often more flexible to employees’ needs which gives staff a higher quality of life. For more reasons to shop locally check out One Planet's resource on the topic.
2) Buy from businesses that have environmental and ethical policies/values
If you are wanting to purchase something that you can't find locally, choose a company whose values align with yours. By supporting businesses with strong environmental and ethical policies, you are walking your talk about your values - and showing companies that your support their commitment to people and the planet.
3) Buy recycled, upcycled and reused
Buying second-hand or upcycled products greatly reduces your impact on the environment and supports a circular economy where resources cycle round and round instead of going straight to landfill after one use. Read our blog about why it's important to keep materials in circulation as long as possible
4) Buy packaging free
If you can avoid packaging entirely, the amount of waste your household produces will drop dramatically. This is often easier said than done but every piece of packaging avoided makes a difference. It can be as simple as buying loose produce in the supermarket or getting your lentils from the bulk bin.
6) Buy compostable
Genuinely compostable options are better than single-use plastic in many cases. But compostability is an incredibly confusing area with a lot of misleading information. Often bio-plastics are no better at their end-of-life than oil-based plastics and in some ways they are EVEN WORSE! So be careful. Check out this resource for an overview on commercial composting.
Good examples of compostable alternatives to plastic include: Bamboo toothbrushes and cardboard packaging.
Being a conscious consumer is all about taking a bit of time to think before we shop and realising that spending money is a powerful way to show our values.
Check out these websites for more resources
- So Circular Radio Show
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- Jeremy Rifkin's Third Industrial Revolution (free online presentation)
- Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics
- Climate Lab – University of California