Conscious consumerism is a broad term used to describe a range of behaviour concerned with using our financial resources to purchase products that have been ethically produced. Every time we purchase a product, we are making a powerful statement about who we are and what we support. We are casting our vote for a business by endorsing their products and practices.
My patterns of consumption and purchasing have evolved over many years of research and experience. I prefer to live simply and ethically with minimal waste, and I will spend more on an item or brand if I know I am getting a quality product that is ethically produced. My concern with specific issues has led me to formulate guidelines that influence my purchasing behaviour.
- The product contains organic ingredients
- The ingredients are sourced locally
- The product is Australian made
- The product has no packaging or the packaging is recyclable or compostable
- The product doesn’t contain ingredients that have been tested on animals
- The product doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients
- The company that makes the products is Australian owned
- The product doesn’t contain artificial colours or preservatives
- The product doesn’t contain potentially carcinogenic chemicals
The products I use must satisfy all or most of these requirements, which is not possible all the time. I don’t know of any products that do address every issue, but many exist that do address a wide range of issues. My naturopath taught me it’s what you do most of the time that has the greatest impact on your health, not what you do some of the time. If I eat impeccably most of the time, I can afford to have the occasional indulgence that won’t ruin my health. I apply this concept to my consumption.
Like our bodies, the Earth can cope with a certain amount of mistreatment, and has the capacity to detoxify and repair itself, so the less impact we have allows the Earth to restore itself easily. This doesn’t mean we can trash the planet some of the time if we do good most of the time. It means we accept we cannot do everything; we do what we can, and we attempt to reduce our impact further. For example, I ensure most of my products are Australian made, and occasionally include products from overseas. I eat organic most of the time, and occasionally eat non-organic. If I use less and waste less than I did the day before, I am happy with my efforts.
I work with my most important issues first. These include avoiding ingredients that have been tested on animals, reducing plastics that can cause problems for the marine environment, overfishing and the associated issue of bycatch, and safe-chemical products. For you, it may be palm oil and ethical fashion. For someone else, it might be bottled water and excess packaging.
Create your own guidelines and use your purchasing power to send a message. Identify your most important issues and make a commitment to be a conscious consumer in those areas. Check out the products I use and recommend under the ‘Preferred Brands’ links (scroll down to the middle section in the blog footers). These preferences are based on my research and current information. They may change as new information comes to light because my research is ongoing.
Keep in mind that we can’t do it all straight away, but we can start somewhere. Take on board the issues you feel most strongly about and put one hundred percent of your energy into working on these. If you can’t address all the issues at once, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. We are all doing the best we can. Take control of your actions and make informed choices. Do what you can with the time, the funds, and the resources you have available to you. Start the process and make gradual changes that over time will add up to a huge difference.
Accept that you will make an impact. Make peace with it and move forward. Choose the areas you would like to focus on, depending on your most important issues, and make a commitment to reduce your consumption and purchase ethically in these areas.