Living with awareness means being conscious of the impact we are making on the Earth. It’s about going ‘behind the scenes’ and investigating the reality of how life is constructed. If we want to live consciously in the world, we need to know the truth about the social and environmental impacts of the products and services we use and the actions we take.
Before I became an Environmental Warrior, I was conscious of the impact I made on the Earth, but I was living with a level of awareness that now seems superficial. I had pre-conceived ideas about certain issues that, compared to what I now know, seem naïve. I had not thought much about how the products and services I used came into existence and was not aware of the potentially serious implications of my choices on a social and environmental level. I became conscious of this unintentionally while studying at university. My thirst for knowledge led me into areas I had never explored, and my curiosity got the better of me. What I discovered was eye-opening.
Do you know where the products you use in your daily life come from, how they are made and who is affected by their use and disposal? Are you aware of the raw materials used, the costs and effects of extracting or growing those materials, the processes that turn those raw materials into products and the resources required to market and distribute products and services to consumers?
The products and services we use in our daily lives are not static objects or isolated actions, but physical manifestations of many factors. These factors are ‘built-in’ to a product, service or action, from the beginning to the end of its life-cycle. When we purchase products, use a service or perform an action, we only see the end result. We don’t see everything else that has occurred to bring that product or service into existence or the long-term effects of our actions in time and space.
We can expand on this definition to include social and environmental impacts. There are many potential issues that may not be immediately obvious to us, including environmental damage, pollution, exploitation of children, habitat loss for species, animal suffering and resource depletion. When we become aware of these issues, we can actively work to reduce our impact.
We also need to consider the collective and cumulative effects of our actions. Collective effects are those caused by all of us. Cumulative effects are those caused by continuous action over time. You may think that what we do on our own is harmless in isolation, but multiply it by the number of other people who perform that same action and by the number of times that action is repeated.
Where do we go from here? A great place to start is Shop Ethical – the Ethical Consumer Guide. This excellent resource rates the ethical, social and environmental records of many companies and contains information on different products and brands. The site covers a wide range of issues, including animal testing, palm oil, factory farming, packaging, organic farming, bottled water, overfishing, recycled paper, food additives and carcinogenic chemicals, and genetic engineering. They have done most of the hard work for you. You can search by ‘Category’, ‘Company’, ‘Brand’ or ‘Product Type’. Download the free Issues Chart, become familiar with some of the issues, and begin your research.
Remember to go slow. The process can be a little overwhelming and confronting at first, as it was for me when I began investigating the products I was using and discovering the hidden issues behind the brands and marketing campaigns. I know this is difficult to acknowledge, but if we want to live consciously and with awareness in the world, and we want to be actively involved in reducing our impact, we must educate ourselves on the reality of the life we live. Knowing this information enables us to make better choices.
Learn about the issues behind the products and services you use, the actions you take and the way you live. Then you can make informed choices as a consumer. Make a promise to reduce your impact and become a role model for conscious, aware living.