Being a Conscious Consumer:10 Epic Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Buy
Our society is built on shopping. We are a consuming animal here in Australia, and across the western world. Shopping has gone from being something you do when you need a new item for your everyday life, to a social outing, a sign of status, and a competition. Many social media channels, instagram in particular, have become sales channels. Having worked as a blogger for many years and dabbled in being an ‘influencer’ for a time, I realised this was very much about being an advertising channel, and whilst you can be ethical in the relationships you select (and I try to always do so), it is still, at its essence, promoting the sale of something, often for someone else. I am not saying that promoting yourself is negative – it is imperative when you have a business, no matter what that might be, that you promote it, otherwise how will you sell what you have? I have spent many years promoting everything from blog posts, to services, to products and, as a writer who is currently working on getting my books published, I will most certainly be promoting those!
What I am talking about here is the mindless push to consume more and more things that you don’t need, and/or things that are unethical in their processes, making, and materials. One of the biggest issues we face as a planet is over-consumption. The recycling crisis is a crisis, because we keep making and buying more and more crap, and we need somewhere for it all to go. Rubbish is floating in all of our waterways and oceans, because we keep buying crap. Landfills are overflowing because we keep buying crap. People are hurting and chemicals are leaching into our environment, because we keep buying crap. Habitats are being destroyed and forests are being cleared, because we keep buying crap.
There is no such place as away – I have said this before and I will say it again, and again.
Being a conscious consumer is about considering firstly if you need the item. After that, it is about selecting items that are eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable. The biggest part of being sustainable, is your brain. The first part of living a more sustainable life is Refusing things that are not needed in your life, refusing to buy fast fashion, unethical products, single use plastics and chemical laden products.
The second part is about Reducing the shopping you do in your life; reducing the amount of miles things take to get to you; reducing the packaging items come in and therefore reducing your footprint on the planet.
Conscious consumerism is about considering buying vintage items – the Reuse and Reinvent part of sustainable living, and Repairing what you already have. It is about considering who has made the products and whether they have made these in fair conditions, with fair wages and treatment.
Instead of blindly buying the $5 cushion because it is ‘so cheap’, it is about considering:
- Do you need the cushion?
- If the answer is yes, can you get a cushion from the vintage store, or make a new cover, or purchase from a local maker or ethical store?
The $5 cushion may initially look (almost) as good as the one made by the local upcycler who creates cushions with fabric remnants, or the fair trade group who handmake cushions with recycled materials; or the local designer who lovingly hand prints her cushions in her own workroom – but it is far far more damaging than it looks on the surface – to you and the planet.
Poorly made items end up breaking quickly and go straight to landfill. Poorly made items are often jam packed with chemicals that can offgas in your home and create an unhealthy environment. Poorly made items are always, just not as good as the quality, fair trade, ethical and eco friendly ones – or the ones made by your own hands (even better!). As well, many designers are finding their designs, lovingly created over many weeks or months, turning up on big store shelves at a much lower price.
Considered, conscious shopping is what we are talking about here.
In the ‘old days’ people would save up to buy the hero piece of furniture for their home. Now, you are encouraged to buy a new piece every ‘season’. Many of those old pieces are still alive and well in second hand stores, op shops and hard rubbish piles. Many of them are living and breathing in homes of people like you and me, unlike the cheap and nasty items lying on roadsides and in landfills across the country.
Here are 10 Epic Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Shop
1) Save Cash!
Refusing to buy something just because an ‘influencer’ shared it on Instagram and it looked so damn GOOD on her, or in her place, and it is on sale, is not a reason to shop! Refusing these sort of impulse buys is good for you and the planet. Considering your purchases and choosing to buy quality items may cost more initially, but they will LAST – and the buy once buy well approach makes sense.
2) Live a less complicated life
Having less stuff = less to worry about, manage, clean and sort.
Worrying about whether your home is ‘on trend’, looking good enough for other people, or ‘up to date’ is no good for anybody. Stick to your guns about what you love and consider whether additional items will really make any difference to your life. Go for a walk in the mountains, or by the beach, instead of shopping. Or head out for a massage and treat yourself that way.
3) Feel better about your purchases and your life
Have you ever bought something on impulse and then had a bitter taste in your mouth? Bad purchases, made in haste, often result in feelings of guilt or worry about the money, even hiding items from loved ones. If you are addicted to shopping ( I was when in my early 20’s so I totally get this), it can be a never ending cycle of buying, guilt and buying more – the same as any addiction. If you actually do have an issue with this, seek counselling to help break the habit.
4) Support a local maker
Buying directly from makers means you are contributing to our local economy and reducing the miles involved in the products being made and getting to you. Often you can find out the story behind the item. It is easier than ever to find locally made items on etsy, social media, at maker events in many major cities, and local weekend markets.
5) Support a community overseas who rely on your fairtrade purchases to survive
Many fair trade and ethical businesses are essential to the basic survival of people who make the products. You can purchase the items you need, knowing that they are supporting a family or community. Be sure to look for either certification (which is complex in the fair trade world) or research the business. Look on their website and social media to see whether they openly discuss their chain of custody and the treatment of the people making their products. If in doubt, ask them questions or just go somewhere else.
6) Help to reduce landfill
By refusing and reducing your shopping habits, you are making an impact on your contribution to landfill. Buying quality means items will last. Buying vintage means you are giving things a new life. All of these things help.
7) Teach your children that shopping is not a social activity
It is so hard for kids now on so many levels. They are swamped with advertising, everywhere they look. They are driven to consume. We must teach them that this is not something to be taken lightly, and that in fact, what you choose to spend your money on is VERY powerful. Shopping is not a social outing.
8) Get better quality and longer lasting products
As with the landfill point, thinking before you shop often results in more considered purchases and better items. Buying quality means buying less. Buying less is best for all of us.
9) Appreciate what you have, rather than always be thinking about what you want next
Being mindful in life is important for your wellbeing. Appreciating what you have, each moment of your day, helps you to slow down and become aware of how really lucky your life is and that a new set of dining chairs or a new dress, is not the answer to your more difficult emotions.
10) Get more time
Spending less time worrying about what you or your home look like and how to update them; less time in soulless shopping malls; less time sitting online to check all the sales; means more time to do all those things you always wanted to do. Try shopping less and being thoughtful when you do shop – you might be surprised what an enormous difference it makes to your life, in so many ways.
**update of a post from 2017
Fantastic post. So insightful & comprehensive. Thank you.
thank you Helene, such an important issue