For the longest time, my biggest hurdle to making conscious spending decisions myself, was feeling like I wasn’t in the financial position to support it. I desperately cared about the environment and the wellbeing of the people in other parts of the world who might be making my products, however there was then a disconnect between my actions and my ethics.
I’ve come to realise there doesn’t need to be an inner conflict and I CAN stay congruent to my values by making informed and conscious purchases. All the whilst, actually sometimes saving money – or at least not spending any more than I would have already.
(Check out this post to learn more about conscious consumerism and why it matters.)
Here are my best tips to start your conscious consumerism journey without spending any extra money – and even maybe saving money!
Conscious consumerism isn’t always a question of what to buy, but also if you need to buy it at all. By minimising our purchases, it also minimizes our waste – and the amount of money we are spending!
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I need this? Can I borrow this? Could I re-purpose something I have to fulfil what I need?
When we start asking these questions, we might be surprised to find how many initiatives are available in our local area to help us, such as street libraries and Free / Swap community groups online.
Socially responsible investing / Super
In Australia, we all have money in superannuation… it’s often the largest pool of money we have. Whilst we know it is hopefully growing for our retirement, sometimes we forget to see that it is a large amount of money which we are actually at the same time investing.
Make sure your super fund is investing in projects which align to your values. So often we may have been inadvertently investing in fossil fuels, industrial farming and large corporates whose ethics leaves wanting. Contact your superannuation and ask about what socially responsible portfolios they offer. With the rise of consumer interest in this, most superannuation companies have something they can offer and you won’t even need to make a switch if you don’t want to.
Even better, given the world trends and investments in green energy, these socially responsible portfolios are often performing even better than others.
Rethink your female hygiene products
Save from monthly purchases and adding to landfill and invest in reusable period products. These will change your life. As a user of both menstrual cups and period pants, I can vouch that these are so much more comfortable and easy to use once you’re in the swing of it.
Eat in season
With each season comes a new variety of colourful fruit and vegetables to enjoy. During these seasons, there are certain produce in bountiful quantities and they are therefore cheaper. Choose to eat with the seasons. Not only will your diet be richer in flavour and nutrition from fresher produce, these organic produce will be much cheaper than if bought out of season and transported.
Eat more plants and choose your meat carefully
By adding in a few more plant based meals a week, we are not only increasing the vitamins and fibre in our diet, we are also saving money. Having a few extra plant based meals can help you offset the cost of switching to organic, regeneratively farmed ethical meat.
Regenerative agriculture aims to rebuild organic matter in the soil and restore soil biodiversity, working to reverse the effects of climate change. Use this as an opportunity to support a local regenerative farm. To save money on your meat, look for a buying group which purchases the whole animal and splits between members.
Cook from scratch whenever possible.
The more food you make at home from unprocessed ingredients, the more you will save on groceries and the less plastic you will send to landfill. You’ll also be healthier too! Try making your lunch at home and bringing it to work too! You’ll be amazed at how much you save from that one small change!
Visit the farmers market at closing time
Farmers market produce is not only local and fresher, it can be cheaper too as it misses the middleman. Even better, to save money, turn up to the markets near closing time. Vendors don’t want to take fresh produce home with them again as it doesn’t save well. There are usually amazing deals to be had which benefit all!
Sign up to a co-op
Buying groups are becoming a very popular way of purchasing premium organic produce at conventional produce prices. By buying in bulk and splitting it, the buying group buys at wholesale prices – whether it be nuts, grains, fruit and vegetables or meat from a whole animal. See if there are any buying groups near you by searching on social media.
Take advantage of the consumer myth of perfect produce and enjoy the specials provided by the discounts given for imperfect ones in the bargain bins instead. Not only will you benefit from great tasting produce at reduced prices, you are supporting produce not going to landfill. As a bonus, they are usually without plastic packaging too.
Only buy what is on your list
Along the lines of minimising consumption, make your shopping list as specific as possible. Meal plan before grocery shopping and check the pantry before you go out. This will save you money and also minimise food waste.
When buying local products, we are not only supporting those in our community buy also reducing the carbon footprint of the products we are buying.
Online shopping drastically adds to our individual carbon footprint, so always look to support a local shop first.
- Start by shopping in your own wardrobe first. So often we have something we’ve forgotten about which can be re-worn or meet the need.
- Can you buy it second hand – at a thrift shop or social media? This will save you a lot of money and is much more environmentally friendly, both from saving clothing being manufactured and stopping it going to landfill.
- Buy quality – when buying new clothes, be sure to buy well made, high quality, ethically made clothes which are well made that you love. Choose clothes which you will wear often. High quality clothes will wear better and last much longer than fast fashion.
Wait for sales
If there’s an ethical brand you love which is out of your price range, sign up to their newsletter and watch for sales! Whilst this requires patience, if you are looking for a long term quality purchase, this will save you a lot in the end and the waiting will really make sure it is something you wanted and will use.
Shop second hand
Our consumption does not have to create more production or waste. Buying second hand not only saves you a lot of money, it is much better for the environment saving on extra raw materials, manufacture and landfill.
Nowadays you can buy almost anything second hand – from clothing to furniture, toys and household products. I picked up some free garden hoses off a buy/swap/sell last weekend and I feel so good I saved so much plastic going to landfill and it was something I needed.
Do your research
There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you’ve made a conscious purchase and then finding out it wasn’t so! Ignore marketing buzz words on products and look to make sure they really are what they say they are. Find it confusing or don’t have time? The Clean + Conscious directory was created to make this process easy for you.
Here, you’ll discover honest information on each product’s ingredients / materials and further information on how each product is ethical, sustainable and responsible.
Move smarter by being aware of your carbon footprint and making informed choices in your travels. Check out our Tips for Sustainable Travel.
Invest in good quality reusables
Make sure not to contribute to the large plastic crisis we are facing and invest in high quality reusables – a drink bottle, coffee cup, reusable bags, stainless steel lunchbox and cutlery.
Also, make an audit of the reusable plastic products you use at home – plastic bags and wrap can be swapped for reusable silicone or fabric alternatives. This will save you in the long term and save an enormous amount of plastic going to landfill too!
Through our purchases, we support brands which share our values of supporting the planet and its people. By making intentional purchases of things we truly need or really want and will use for years to come, we minimise our spending and the impact on the environment as well as support our vision for the future through the brands we give our loyalty to.
Conscious consumerism is not an exact science and there is no right way to do it. Identify the values that mean most to you and watch what your spending dollar support and that will steer you. It won’t happen overnight but is well worth every ounce of effort given and you’ll feel happier and more powerful for it. The planet and its people will thank you too. Let’s change the world together.