Conscious consumerism is our weapon as individuals to fight for the world we want. This movement is already effecting widespread change, however it becomes even stronger with every extra individual who joins in. Not only does making conscious purchases make us feel congruent with our values and good about ourselves, it’s also incredibly empowering knowing that our individual actions are having a true impact.
What is Conscious Consumerism?
Conscious consumerism is the understanding that every time we spend money, we are making a vote with our wallet, on the kind of world we want to support. It involves making informed and intentional purchases, which align with one’s values.
It can be as simple as asking yourself: Do I really need this? How long will I use it for? Where was it made? Who made it? How far did it travel to be here and will it end up in landfill at the end of its life?
Conscious consumerism can take many forms and be taken to many levels. You may choose to focus on one particular value – such as being plastic-free, having a low carbon footprint or avoiding child labour. Or, you may want to include the whole package as we at Clean + Conscious do, by choosing products which are Ethical and Sustainable in their materials, manufacturing and life cycle, as well as Non-Toxic in ingredients and materials, and made by brands who are Socially Responsible in giving back to their local and global communities.
Why does it matter?
Conscious consumerism matters because consumers have real power to effect change. The products we purchase and the companies we thereby support, perpetuate the actions of that company into the future. If consumers choose to support products made ethically and sustainably, the market will shift in order to prioritise these values too.
If we want companies to change their ways, then we as consumers need to make purchase decisions which have a positive social and environmental impact.
How do I begin?
Start small. For long term change, it’s important to choose some achievable, bite sized swaps at first. It’s more important that a million people do something imperfectly, rather than the one person nailing perfection. Just beginning is an achievement!
1. Work out where you spend your money
For a month, keep a track of your purchases and see where you are spending. This can give you an idea of what businesses your spendings are supporting. Include your banking, superannuation and energy companies on the list.
2. The most impactful swaps
The more money you spend with a business, the more impact you can make from giving to or removing your support from a company. Look at who you are supporting and if they are aligned with your values.
The large spends / supports we often don’t think about are Superannuation, Banking (including mortgage) and Energy. Super is often the biggest pool of money we have and many super portfolios invest in fossil fuel projects for example. Making a switch to a Socially Responsible portfolio within your current super fund or swapping to an ethical fund can have a large impact. With the world increasingly having a green focus, these portfolios often give strong returns as well, so there’s nothing to lose for you, just for the fossil fuel companies.
3. Minimise consumption
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!
It is amazing how many things we don’t actually need. – from straws to takeaway to an extra bag…
4. Can I reduce, re-use, borrow or buy second hand?
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.
5. Slowly but surely
Every week, focus on a regular product or service you buy or use and do some research on it. Ask yourself:
- Where was it made? Who made it? What is it made from?
- Does the business support a good cause?
- Where will the product and packaging end up at the end of its life? How long will it exist in the environment?
- Will I use it once or often?
If you aren’t satisfied with the answers about the product you are using, have a look for a swap which aligns with your values. Maybe choose an alternative product which is in home compostable packaging or from a brand which has made efforts to avoid child labour.
This can be done for every product you buy – even your chocolate! (Child labour is unfortunately very common in the chocolate industry, read how to choose ethical chocolate HERE)
Save time with this shortcut
Often the product choices we make are due to a lack of time and necessary information to make a better choice. 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. You can also read hands-on product reviews from our Expert Panel.
Also make sure to check out the Social Responsibility Award winners. These businesses not only create exceptional products that are safe, ethical and sustainable, but make outstanding efforts to give back to society, create change and help pave the way for other businesses to adopt similar ideas and practices.
Another way to assess if a business is practicing consciously is to look to see if it is B Corp certified. This certification represents a strict criteria having been met in regard to social justice and environmental impact throughout a company’s whole supply chain.
Remember that every change makes a difference. Good luck!