How the heck did we get here? The world is so messy, and seemingly, getting worse each year. We often like to blame others for how bad our world is, taking little responsibility ourselves. It is easy to stand on our little soapbox, tell others how it is or how it ought to be and then shut down any opportunity for safe and respectful conversations.
The continued rise in social media usage, gives us the opportunity to put ourselves in echo chambers, giving us a false sense of safety and security. We tend to block those who disagree, all the while continuing down a spiral of misleading or false shareable posts, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into believing that what we think we understand is ultimately true, but is supported almost entirely by emotion and embellishment.
This is a story I see way too often and from every background. No one group or belief system is to blame, but rather, each of us is often becoming more hypocritical than those we try to persecute. With all the mess we have created, yes WE -- not them -- coming together feels farther off now, than it did a week, a month or years ago. Unfortunately, no one answer will do, no one religious or political ideology can fix all the crap we have done as there are too many differing beliefs, backgrounds and levels of stubbornness.
And yet, I often feel that if we all took a step back and looked at one simple, albeit complex, answer we all may be able to find some semblance of calm and peace, despite all our differences. My “solution” is something that, over the past several years, I have started to see could benefit ourselves, those around us and even the world if we all took it a bit more seriously.
I want to delve into the idea of consumerism in a few posts in the hopes to spark some dialogue and to provoke thought. Something I do not see as much of, is the conversation around our habits of consumption and how that affects us, mentally and otherwise. My belief is that if we all took consumption (not just material, but also the consumption of audio, video and media in general) a little more seriously then we can truly make an impact in the world. My hope is this idea can transcend boundaries, even the ones we often will die for, to make our lives better and to make the world a healthier place.
Being a conscious consumer is not an entirely fresh idea and I know there are millions of people who are passionate about a lifestyle filled with intentionality. The effect of being a conscious consumer is not limited to purchasing power, but translates into many areas of life, which I hope to cover more, together!
For now I want to focus on three elements, or steps, of being a conscious consumer before going deeper into the different types of consumerism.
Before we can fully understand which areas of our lives that we have the power to be conscious consumers in, it is important to know what it means to be a truly conscious consumer and how we can get there.
1) Curiosity or Consciousness
The first step to being a conscious consumer is consciousness or curiosity. This means you are aware that your consumption affects you and that your decisions also impact those around you, both close and distant. Most people stop here and do not enact the idea any further. Most are aware that their actions obviously impact their lives and to some extent also affects the lives of those around them and even around the globe.
Unfortunately, this is where I find most people tend to stop their understanding of how consumption can benefit or harm others. Being solely conscious of your consumption is a shallow way to live. Sometimes, being aware of the immediate effects or what you think are the immediate effects isn’t getting a glimpse of the whole story. Without research, we hear the catch phrases, the cute songs or the fun commercials and feel that consumption results in a certain outcome. Without a further desire to truly do good in the world or know what your purchasing power can do, we can be lulled into a sense that purchasing, listening, and subsequently forgetting, or tossing something is just how it goes. New is better, and things are meant to simply come and go. Being conscious is a start, but shouldn’t be our end goal.
2) Investigation or Research
The next step in becoming a conscious consumer is investigation or research. Here the levels of consciousness you have about everyday consumption peaked your interest enough to lead you to start understanding a bigger picture. You want to know why and how your consumption affects you and your family and other loved-ones. Then you start to be more aware of how your decisions are impacting those around the globe, as well as the environment. Unfortunately, this is where people tend to get trapped by misinformation.
When I first started to consider living a healthier lifestyle I wanted to know the best ways to do so. My awareness of my current, less healthy decisions, led me to do research on how to live better. I first started by logging onto Pinterest and blog hopping. I went from site to site trying to understand ways in which I could detoxify my home and body. I came across some amazing and informative sites, but unfortunately, they were mixed in with many more sites of well-meaning people doing half-hearted research and wholeheartedly trying to sell others on their ideas. This became a huge problem for me when I started seeing blog after blog of horrible DIY recipes with little care for scientific study, regulations and medical advice.
As a person with a research background and a desire to keep people safe, I tried my best to steer clear from others’ personal beliefs or bias and chose to stick to highly researched scientific journals and websites with articles published by respectable professionals. Things like DIY crafts, cleaning supplies and essential oils are rampant with misinformation. Whether intentional or not, many seem to be motivated by generating revenue through clicks and affiliate links.
Remember when you were in school and you were told you couldn’t use Wikipedia as a source for research because it wasn’t peer studied and anyone could edit it? Well, unlike the everyday blogger, Wikipedia pages often have specialists checking, editing and rechecking the data input by the curious middle-school students wanting to add value to a history article.
So remember that when you land on a website. Anyone, with any motivation or reason to write, can open a blog and give out information (including me!). It’s both a wonderful tool and a detriment that anyone can supply anyone else with information!
If you shouldn’t fully trust a site that does have semi-regular professional checkups and edits (Wikipedia), then you should also be wary of the sites edited once or twice by someone who is likely not an expert in their field. (By no means do I intend to disrespect bloggers as there are many wonderful and informative sites out there, but I find it important to take everything with a grain of salt, especially if it is a blogger who does not have any professional training in what they are writing on, or financial motivation to give you the information at hand.)
As you begin to mature and become an effective, conscious consumer, you should continue to keep in mind where information is coming from. Start wide and get as many ideas as possible and let your gut lead you to the places that have true data to back it up. Part of improving who we are is coming to terms with things that may have once felt right, perhaps not being all we once believed. But it is important to set the pride aside and move on so you can truly understand the importance of being wise with your consumption.
For example, you want to eat healthier so you do research and you find out that the diet soda you are so addicted to and you thought for so long is healthy for you, is in fact very bad for you and you should avoid it. Who would have thought that sugar-free substitutes and fat-free everything isn’t good for you? Scientists and dieticians do, but money hungry marketing companies and an ill-informed blogger would lead you to believe otherwise.
3) Operation or Knowledge Into Action
Off my soapbox and back to the third and final step of being a conscious consumer: operation or putting your knowledge into action. At this point you have all the information you need to be able to make the best decisions for you and your household and even the planet. It is important to take all that information you learned paired with the conscious decision to do something different and choose to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. This step is both the most important to make a difference as well as the hardest to do. We can bring in all the information in the world and have the best of intentions, but it can be incredibly hard to be uncomfortable or change the way we live to match what we have learned.
For example, I know I need to be eating better because I have seen how family members have been negatively impacted by poor eating choices. Therefore, I decided to investigate and understand how to be healthier. With all the newfound knowledge, I now feel confident to make a wise decision to consume what my body needs. But goodness gracious… if it doesn’t sometimes feel impossible to eat healthy, I would be lying!
This last stage is not always set in stone. This is the part of the action that can make a huge impact on the world. We can keep all the information to ourselves, know what is best and still choose to do nothing with it and keep eating out four times a week at fast food joints, never getting off the couch to go on walks, bike rides or to the gym. However, if you take curiosity, newfound knowledge and then act upon it, the results can be amazing for not only you, but also those around you.
Now that we understand the steps or stages of how we can be conscious consumers:
- Be Conscious
- Operate (put that knowledge into action!)
we can delve deeper into different areas of our lives where we can apply these ideas. Over the next few days I will be posting three parts of our lives that I believe can benefit the most, if we put our minds to it!