Being conscious of our consumption habits is the very first step towards ethical consumerism. Let’s face it, in this modern age we are more consumers than producers….a fact that in an ideal world would be good to see reversed! However, it needs to be recognised and acknowledged that we can’t all supply, grow or fulfill our own needs, even if we could, many would not choose to, or feel time rich enough to achieve this. But there are certainly ways in which we can live more productive, mindful lives that contribute increasingly to the health of our planet, ourselves and our communities, as opposed to directing us down an unsustainable spiral.
As consumers, we have an amazing power! Too many underestimate this power, believing their choice makes no difference in the scheme of things….wrong! Money is our world’s medium of exchange and can be used SO effectively as a tool to dictate whole market trends- for the better or worse. The future health of our environment and ourselves can be safeguarded, if we just begin to inform ourselves and choose to purchase where we can, the most ethical, sustainably made, chemical free products to fulfill our personal everyday needs.
I call this pursuit Ethical Consumerism. It is a non-selfish way to provide for our needs, as we take the time to look beyond just our own desire for something and instead ask ourselves a few questions before taking action to purchase, that help us establish an ethical rating. These questions, which we can talk about shortly, help us to figure out whether the manufacturer, grower, producer, or service provider, deserves to have our money support and help their business to succeed.
There are two aspects to ethical consumerism…one is to choose our purchases more wisely by creating a sustainability snapshot; the second is to lower our consumerism altogether and commit to more simple living.
To help us with the latter it is useful to start by asking ourselves:
- Do we really NEED it? Maybe we own something currently that we could re-design, renovate or re-use instead of buying a new product? Distinguishing between needs and wants is also very important- it doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to fulfill our wants, it just is another way to slow down our inclination to purchase without thinking. If it is not absolutely necessary and not particularly earth-friendly by nature or by manufacture, then praps we should reconsider- there are many indulgences that can still be considered supportive of a good cause or mindful manufacture, we need to learn to be more selective in our choices thats all!
- Will it contribute positively in some way if I buy it? i.e. Is it an organic product or perhaps its produced locally?
- Otherwise, could I infact make or produce it myself instead?
- Could I buy this product in bulk and cut down packaging?
- Is it’s packaging recyclable or biodegradable? Remember, there is a personal recycling ability we also need to consider here- not just being able to put it in a recycle bin- but can you compost the cardboard, or re-use the container in some way?
Always keep in mind there are varying LEVELS of ethical consumerism and sustainable living. Simply begin somewhere. For instance, if you did nothing but choose to start buying fully recycled toilet tissue for your family rather than that which is sourced from woodchips harvested from forest depletion – that would be excellent and so valuable!
Just do your best, with where you’re at and continually try to do a little better.
Life is to be enjoyed and not to cause pressure and stress worrying about the damaging impacts of our footprint- rather focus on SOLUTIONS to problems rather than getting so depressed believing it’s all too hard or one person won’t make a difference. Consider how empowering and interesting it is to learn more about the origin of products, how they are made, what’s in them and the impacts that come from their existence in the marketplace.
The satisfaction that comes from knowing you are gradually contributing to a better world as part of the solution rather than being part of the main problem is so rewarding! Think of it like this… rather than go on a crash diet to lose weight in a couple of weeks, it is always better to gradually develop a change in your dietary and lifestyle habits, so that the changes made can become easy to adopt permanently and maintained long term. Ethical consumerism is the same…if you try to do too much too soon, you may think it is all too hard, when infact it isn’t, you just need to adopt a different approach to fulfilling your life requirements with enthusiasm to become more informed.
No more will you have to worry about HOW you make a difference to the way our world is, you will be LIVING the difference and walking the talk. THIS is how ultimately, ONE person’s actions really DO matter! Does it get much more empowering than that?