“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”
— OSCAR WILDE
I have a friend who always carries with her a huge bag, even when we're just going grocery shopping. In this Mary Poppin-esque bag, she has an array of utilities that allow her to be environmentally friendly. The first time I hung out with Christie, we were getting food at the food court in a mall and when I reached for the plastic fork and knife, she reached into her bag for her own stainless steel ones. When we shopped, I saw her reading the back labels on items that she picked up. I asked her what she was looking for, and she responded, "Organic cotton. It's more environmentally friendly." At the coffee aisle of the grocery store, I looked to stock up on whatever coffee brand looked decent. Meanwhile, Christie picked up two bags and compared the backs. "This one is free trade, you should probably get this", she told me. It took her less than 20 seconds to make a more conscious choice. At the checkout, I bought two plastic bags, while Christie pulled out a cloth tote from her bag. I regarded her with respect, as she understood her role as a conscious consumer so well and acted upon them. It made me feel slightly self-conscious as I realized how wasteful my lifestyle was, and how easy it was to be more environmentally friendly.
Conscious consumerism. You've probably heard of it before, but what does it really mean? How do we become conscious consumers?
To become a conscious consumer, one must be aware of their individual purchases and choices. You must be aware of where the items you spend your money on come from, whether they be food, clothing, or anything inbetween. Consider if the item had been outsourced from another country where unethical practices such as child labour or sweatshops are used. Consider if the item's manufacturing process is harmful to the environment or its manufacturers. Consider what each brand stands for, if they abuse animals or exploit farmers. These are all considerations that can be easily answered through one quick Google search or read of a back label. Once you learn the shortcuts, you will be able to make these decisions as quickly as my friend Christie.
At this point, you probably know the notorious brands and the sustainable brands. Make a conscious decision to cut unsustainable brands and products out of your life. Once you make that conscious decision, actually taking action becomes so much easier.
Conscious consumerism is about making choices beforehand so that sustainable living can be made easier. After all, every dollar we spend is one vote of support. Every dollar goes towards sending a message. It tells the market what you value and thus what to continue producing. So cast your vote wisely. It's not about your personal choice; every choice is bigger than you. You are part of a bigger market that is connected to a huge network of people and places that affect the environment.
People may say these small choices are insignificant and that they don't sum to much, but I'd like to argue otherwise. I'd argue that every vote is a voice and I really believe in the power of a single voice. You influence your friends and they continue that influence. It's like how Christie influenced me, and how I continue this influence to my mom, my friends, and hopefully now you. It's called the ripple effect. Imagine thousands of ripples starting at the same time. How quickly will the surface of the water be tremulous? If we all believe we are part of something bigger, then we will be.
We can be part of that ripple together and create a storm.