We live in a world today where we could circle the Earth twelve times with the amount of K-cups we throw away each year and where 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste. We buy $5.99 shirts at big box retailers just because they’re on the sale rack, only to throw them away after they fray or shrink after one wash.
We also live in a world where 50% of Americans have more debt than savings and yet, we continue to spend.
Where’s our breaking point? At what point do we - as an individual, community, and nation - stop, re-evaluate, and adjust our habits to one of wastefulness to one of mindfulness?
I think Intentional Solutions says it best:
“Conscious consumerism is a movement to revolutionize what we buy, why we buy it and from whom. It inspires a curiosity about the origins of the goods we consume, and a commitment to ensuring those purchases support sustainable life.”
Conscious consumerism is being thoughtful about your purchases. It’s about understanding where your products come from and who created them. It’s about only buying what you need and taking the time to share, donate, or resell the things you have that you no longer need.
Conscious consumerism is about buying repurposed products rather than those made with virgin materials. It’s about supporting your local shop owners, farmers, and artisans. It’s the simple things, like using old newspaper to wrap a gift bag than buying new tissue paper that gets thrown after one use. At the end of the day, conscious consumerism is knowing that you are leaving a positive mark on people and the planet with every thoughtful purchase you make.
Five simple ways to become a more conscious consumer right now.
Regardless of your budget, your schedule, or your lifestyle, there are a few things we can all do right now to become more conscious consumers. Some of these steps might be small, but imagine if we all tried this? Imagine what all these small changes could add up to!
1. During your next closet clean out, ask yourself if there is a way for you to repurpose each item you plan to toss (like using old t-shirts for cleaning rags).
For items that you can’t repurpose, donate or resell (try Plato’s Closet or your local consignment) instead. Or, have some fun with your next closet cleanout. My girlfriends and I coordinate an annual closet clean out, then bring all of our clothes together for a clothes exchange and girls’ night out. Anything not taken home gets donated to our local Women’s League.
2. Opt for the farmers market or your local co-op for your next produce run.
Some of the items are more expensive than what you’ll find at your grocery chains, so start small if your budget is tight. Buying only what we really need will help cut down on all that food waste we’re accustomed to. Also, just because a fruit or vegetable doesn’t look perfect, doesn’t mean it’s bad! Keep that in mind before tossing that bruised banana or peach.
3. Buy your next outfit at your local boutique or thrift store instead of a big box retailer.
You might be surprised at how affordable these stores are compared to what you’re used to at the mall. And, you’re likely to find higher-quality items that will last you more than one wash. Or, you could opt to rent clothes from online stores like Rent the Runway and Mud Jeans (more on them here).
4. Round up friends for a little DIY for your next home decorating project.
Though it takes a little more labor and love, there is no better feeling than seeing your own hard work on display in your home. The next time the redecoration bug hits, call up your friends and hit local garage sales or thrift stores to find treasures that you can repurpose for your own home. Pinterest, anyone?
5. Always carry reusable bags in your car or in your bag.
We’ve all experienced last-minute trips to the grocery store or Target. Always be prepared by keeping reusable tote bags in the back of your vehicle. If you travel sans car, you can find bite-size totes that fold up and fit perfectly in a purse or laptop bag. Think about all the bags you’d save!
Small steps can add up to big changes if we each do our part. And for those of you who already practice conscious consumerism, let us know in the comments how you do it!