As consumers, we have the final say over what ends up on store shelves because we control the demand. Marketers and advertising agencies do their best to steer us toward one product or another, so it’s important that we do our research and use our “shopper’s power” in positive ways. Practicing conscious consumerism means choosing brands that place importance on conserving the Earth and protecting people, instead of simply making a profit.
5 Ways to Practice Conscious Consumerism
Whether you are starting a journey towards conscious consumerism or you are a long-time ethical shopper, it’s always good to stay informed about new ways we can do the most with our purchases. Below you will find five tips to help you determine which brands and products deserve your dollars, and which ones it’s better to leave behind.
Beware of Greenwashed Goods
There is nothing worse than falling in love with a product you believe to be sustainable, only to discover there is nothing eco-friendly about it. The term greenwashing was first used in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, who realized that hotels were encouraging their guests to reuse their towels under the “green” guise of conserving water. In reality, less washing really only helped hotel management spend less on laundry.
Companies continue to greenwash their products because the demand for sustainable products continues to grow. Today around 90% of Gen X consumers say they would pay up to 10% more for greener goods. It’s great to see more consumers demand sustainable products, but it also has given companies more incentive to stretch the truth about their products to make them more appealing to the conscious consumerism crowd. This video explains seven deceptive ways that companies greenwash their products, and the big-name corporations responsible for using them.
Choose Organic and Fair Trade
Nearly 40% of the Earth’s landmass is now designated for agricultural use. Farming poses many different social and environmental issues, including chemical pollution, irreversible destruction of soil and land, and dangerous, unfair working conditions for farmers. One way to ensure your favorite fruits or cotton clothing came from ethical, eco-friendly origins is to look for organic and Fair Trade products.
When looking for organic for Fair Trade products, make sure you look for official labels like GOTS certified organic cotton or Fair Trade certified. Farms that produce certified organic products must adhere to strict guidelines that protect the environment from pollution and over-use and prohibit the use of dangerous chemicals. The Fair Trade standard also aims to protect the environment and ensures fair and safe working conditions for farmers or employees. It’s now possible to find organic and Fair Trade foods, clothing, and even kids toys.
Repair, Repurpose, or Donate Old Items
Part of practicing conscious consumerism is knowing when to shop and when to repair or repurpose. Before you throw away torn or broken items like clothing or kids toys, consider repairing them if possible. Long before fast fashion was wreaking havoc on the environment, our grandparents wore clothing made of long-lasting, naturally decomposing materials like cotton. They also made a point to fix torn or broken items instead of simply running out to buy a new one.
Another great option for unwanted or unneeded items around the house is donating them to a local charity organization. Family shelters will happily accept gently used clothing and toys, and animal shelters can utilize old blankets or worn-out plush toys. If you have new or gently used home goods including furniture, appliances, and building materials, they can be donated to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, who will sell the items in one of their ReStores and then use the proceeds to continue providing homes for families in need.
Say No to Single-Use Plastic
Over 300 million tons of plastic are created each year and about half of that is used for single-use plastics. Single-use plastics are plastic products that are used and then immediately thrown away, like a plastic bottle of water or a restaurant to-go container. Plastic can take hundreds of years to break down, yet we continue to create massive amounts of it for just a few seconds of use. Cutting all single-use plastics out can be a challenge, but it is possible to make a difference by committing to a few smaller lifestyle changes.
You can save money and cut out plastic by purchasing a reusable water bottle, using reusable grocery and produce bags, and bringing your own take-out containers to restaurants. For those single-use plastics that still manage to make it into your home, there are many ways to repurpose them. Plastic food containers like peanut butter jars can be cleaned out and reused. Larger plastic containers can be cut and turned into planters or bird feeders.
Give Ethically to Spread the Word
Next time you give a gift, choose something that sends a deeper message. Gifting products like Equal Exchange Fair Trade coffee or Sjaak’s organic chocolates help to introduce your friends and family to reputable, sustainable brands that they can feel good about supporting. Smaller, ethical brands are unfortunately up against large, greedy, multi-million dollar corporations that continue to produce cheap goods aimed at winning over customers. We can help ethical, eco-friendly brands to thrive by voting with our dollars for the same values they stand for, each time we shop.
Small Conscious Choices Make a Difference
At Donor360, we believe that consumers hold great power when it comes to determining the direction our world is heading in. That’s why we work hard to form connections with trustworthy, sustainable brands that believe in protecting the environment and providing better futures for all. Each time you make a purchase in a Donor360 eShop or fundraiser, you can rest assured that the product comes from ethical, eco-friendly origins. Practicing conscious consumerism is something we can all take part in. With a little bit of research, a few lifestyle changes, and the dedication to choose better for ourselves and the world, we can all move towards a more sustainable future.