Are you conscious about where you spend money? And with what companies? We all need to eat. But how we chose to do so could mean the difference between being a conscious consumer and an indifferent one. The impact of the former can be bigger than we like to believe. Especially if we act as a group.
We have written previously about how tiny Norway managed to reduce their collective palm oil consumption. It all starts with awareness and curiosity. Not to mention being kind to ourselves and the process.
Voting with your wallet
We live in a capitalist society. Money is what makes the world go round, so it goes to stand that if you want to change anything, the easiest way to get people to listen is through money.
We are seeing this in the recent pandemic, whole industries are buckling because people stay indoors, but conscious consumers are popping up everywhere, ordering anything from takeouts from their local restaurants to gift cards from their favorite little book shops. All in an effort to keep local businesses afloat.
And so often, it is the local business we fight to keep. Large, national and global companies are often too big to fail, and most are not known for their stellar employee treatment.
To avoid a world made up entirely of amazon deliveries, we must choose to shop at other places. If you think it’s a shame that all the cute independent cafés vanish from your local neighborhood, but don’t remember the last time you set foot in one, you know that you are not helping.
I’m not saying we should all throw frugalism out the window and spend an entire paycheck and then some on coffee shop lunches, but surely there can be a middle ground? A lunch date with friends every month? A private cup of tea every Sunday? This isn’t entirely black or entirely white. There are ways we can have a little bit of both.
At the grocery store
No matter our budget or spending capacity, we all need to eat. How we chose to do so can have an enormous impact on companies.
If you learn that a certain company is treating their employees like shit or polluting the planet – perhaps try to stop buying their goods?
If you learn that a small-name brand that treats their employees well are struggling, perhaps try fitting one or two of their items into your budget?
It really is that simple. And again, it really doesn’t have to be perfect.
If you have a kid who really, really loves a certain name brand and you learn they are less than ethical, don’t feel bad about buying your kid their favorite once in a while. Perhaps you can remove other products from that brand from your home, but keep the favorite?
Perhaps you have a favorite product too, that’s okay! Could you reduce how often you buy it? Being a conscious consumer does not mean you’re a fun-free killjoy who only eats local kale. It’s all about balance.
A conscious consumer is powerful
Companies and marketing firms like to think that consumers are nothing more than a mindless mass of people, but we are so much more than that. We have a whole lot more power than we like to believe and reclaiming it might feel strange at first.
But not buying something is the single-most powerful way to let companies know they must change or become a relic of the past.
Think a clothes retailer should protect their workers in India better? Stop going into their shops. We can’t all afford green, sustainable and organic clothing, but second-hand and thrift shops are available to most. Who knows, perhaps you already have more than you need and could start a clothes shopping ban?
Don’t agree with how GMO polices work or a few companies are dominating agriculture? Look for alternatives at your local farmers’ market!
Recently learned that your favorite fast-food chain donates to some pretty shady charities? Stop going there. And if you have the emotional bandwidth, perhaps consider writing any of the above an email telling them why they lost you as a customer.
The purpose of such emails is not to expect instant change. You are just one person after all. But if enough of us do it over a long time, it might send the message over time that they need to change.
You might not be able to substitute everything, and you probably don’t want to do that either. But when you prioritize buying more of one thing, it stands to reason that you will buy less of another. After all, we can only eat and consume so much, right?
Embracing the imperfect
One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned is how it is ok to not be perfect. I used to think I could never be a musician or an artist because I didn’t start at the age of three.
We don’t need a small handful of privileged people buying only from the companies they consider ethical. We need as many people as possible doing small changes every day that add up to large, systemic changes!
And if you really, really can’t live without x product. Perhaps you can look for a charity that works with exactly that issue and donate some money to them to even it out?
There are many ways of becoming a conscious consumer. But they all start with taking that first step and not stopping. Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.