Before you read this article, pause for a moment; think about your buying habits and ask yourself a few honest questions. How frequently do you shop for clothing? Where do you shop? When buying groceries, do you look at the ingredients, the packaging, and the manufacturer? Whether it’s a cup of coffee or a new sweater, many of us don’t think twice about the purchases we make on an everyday basis. While there are always exceptions like financial constraints and big purchases (i.e.,buying a couch or a new laptop), navigating life as a conscious consumer doesn’t come naturally to many of us.
If you really take time to think about it (and trust us, we have), there are health, environmental, and social impacts of every product we buy. Deciding to shop with one company versus another or to buy one product over another is powerful but a lot of us get hung up when it comes to how to go about doing this. How do you know what companies are socially and environmentally conscious? You might be wondering what the steps are to becoming a conscious consumer? That’s why we put together this guide to help you out.
What is a Conscious Consumer?
Conscious consumers are people who consider the health effects, environmental impacts, and social outcomes of their purchases before they make them. They’re conscious in all parts of the word. We’ve long been told to think before we speak, but how about thinking before we buy? Conscious consumption means making informed, deliberate choices instead of mindlessly buying things we want and often do not need.
A conscious consumer is someone who also demands transparency and authenticity from brands. The intentional and well-informed mindset they embody allows them to feel more confident about the things they choose to buy (or not buy) both for themselves and their friends and families. Want to know how to positively reshape your shopping habits? Here’s how you can do it.
Conscious Consumers Consider the Companies
Products come from companies, so the first thing to do if you want to become a conscious consumer is to educate yourself on the companies from which you buy products. Several easy ways to learn more about the companies you buy from are to:
- Review “About Us” sections
- Explore how products are made
- Go on the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s website to learn about the health and environmental impacts of a company’s products
- Find out if the company is a Certified B Corporation
- Do your best to obtain information on the company’s business practices. Ask questions like, “Are their factories run ethically?” and “Do they have Fair Trade practices in place for workers?”
Conscious Consumers Consider the Products
Educate yourself on the business’ operations as well as their products. Put on your investigator’s hat and take a deep dive into the materials, ingredients, supplies, and sourcing methods.
A key question all conscious consumers should be asking themselves is, “Are the products I’m buying harmful to the planet, animals, or humans?”
While there are many resources available on dangerous chemicals, some red-flags to look out for are:
- Phthalates, bisphenols, and flame retardants. These hormone disruptors are found in many personal care products , plastics, and home products.
- Perfluorinated compounds, which are often found in non-stick cookware and food packaging. These may be carcinogenic.
- Pesticides (glyphosate for example), which have been linked to cancer.
- Heavy metals that are neurotoxins, which may affect brain development.
Conscious consumers stay up to date on the latest marketing techniques, especially as they relate to marketing and terminology. As a conscious consumer, it is your responsibility to be wary of terms like “natural” and “safe;” while these sound nice, technically anyone can claim them. Instead of taking a company’s word for it, look for certifications like USDA Organic Certified for food, Made Safe for personal care and home products, and Fair Trade Certified for food and clothing.
Also be on the lookout for reliable brands that represent sustainable fabric contents of a garment. Tencel, for example, is a fabric made using trees that are grown on sustainably-run farms certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Conscious Consumers Consider Their Contributions
After you’ve examined the company and the products, the next set of questions to ask are of yourself (last set of questions, we promise!):
- Do you really need the product or is it a luxury you can do without?
- Is there an alternative you can get that will satisfy your want/need? Think about renting, borrowing, or getting a pre-owned version.
- Is there an eco-friendly, animal-friendly, socially-conscious version of this option available?
Take these steps before you buy and you’ll likely find that you not only purchase fewer items but make more informed choices in general. Continue the conversation when you shop at IMBODHI.