Our last post talked about the idea of what it means to be a conscious consumer and how it will benefit your life, others and the environment. When most people say the word consumption, I think two things stand out most:
- Material Consumption
- Media Consumption
Today’s post is going to focus on the former -- material consumption.
Material consumption is something we can each do to our own degree of comfort and has and can have huge implications for the world, as a result. What people fail to recognize is how powerful our spending habits can be. It is so easy to complain about the multi-billion dollar corporations squeezing every last penny out of people by influencing the purchasing power of individuals with crafty, manipulative advertisements.
But at the end of the day, we are the contributors that make this abuse of Capitalism possible. Although there are always flaws in economic systems, the biggest flaw in Capitalism is not the uncontrolled growth, power and money hungry CEOs, but how easily the consumer fails to recognize the marketing ploys and lip service often employed by big companies.
We like to complain about Walmart and Amazon and yet we still purchase from these massive conglomerates without question. If we considered taking our business elsewhere, like the local merchant down the street who will bend over backwards to make sure you are happy, these big businesses would no longer have such a hold on our economic and political policy.
“But shopping at the ‘big box’ stores is cheaper and more convenient!”
Yes, I know it is hard to compete when all the small businesses are charging twice the amount for the same product, but let’s be honest, that product was made by the hands of a member of your little community, going to feed their family, not underpaid workers and an overpaid CEO. Plus, most handcrafted items last much longer than those made in mass quantities by overworked and underpaid employees overseas. Not to mention, the regulations are much stricter in the United States than in China, Indonesia or the other 3rd world countries making your stuff.
At the heart of the issue of being a smart consumer is the over consumption of material goods. When we have thousands of choices for one product it is no wonder we get overwhelmed, stressed and just pick what we have probably seen the most ads for. I believe the most powerful way to be a conscious consumer is by placing that power and money in the hands of those hard working people around our country who don’t compromise their craft by shipping their work overseas.
Instead of purchasing twenty new outfits a year from cheap companies that often use laborers who are severely underpaid and undervalued -- choose to use that money on a handful of high quality, long lasting and multi-season outfits that benefit our local economy, protect the environment, and can be better for your mental health.
Don’t have the money to purchase new items? Utilize your local thrift stores! You can purchase higher quality items for much cheaper while the money you spend goes back into your community!
What minimalism can teach you.
Let's take a sidebar. I would like to take a moment and speak about Minimalism. An idea that has caught fire these past several years and is asking the same questions that I am asking you to consider. At its core, minimalism seeks to step back from the noise of advertisements, media, and peer pressure and asks simple questions. Do I need this and does it add value to my life?
Minimalism is not a cult or religion and has been a practice for people from all walks of life and backgrounds. In our world of so much noise and ease of access to cheap and fancy items, we can easily play into the idea that more things add value to our lives. We rarely stop to ask what truly matters. Instead we listen to who? Advertisers who want you to think that you need their products.
As a product-based business owner myself, I do not believe advertisements and people who use advertisements are evil, wrong or intentionally deceiving. Maybe some companies do use psychology to manipulate, but most businesses just want to succeed. I understand the pressures to try to stand out from the crowd to grow a business to a successful and sustainable long-term company. Businesses can still stand out without compromising and manipulating the purchasing power of the consumer. Unfortunately, many businesses end up inadvertently manipulating the hearts of the consumers by using famous people or even “Influencers” to gain sales. Again this isn’t inherently wrong, but it does mean that the smaller businesses, that don’t have the money or connections to pay for well known people to promote their brand, tend to fall behind in the race to make a name for themselves.
Steps you can take.
- Buy from small businesses! (local ones, if you can!)
- Purchase high quality goods, you’ll need less of them!
- Use thrift stores to make new homes for items that are perfectly useable
If we are truly aware of our choices when making purchases, we can start to see the major impact we can have on our communities by choosing to purchase from smaller businesses with less brand recognition, but more care for the planet and other people.
In order to be a conscious consumer of material goods, we need to be aware of how our purchases impact our lives, others around us, others overseas, as well as the environment. When we become more aware and start asking more questions we will, hopefully, seek answers by researching where our products come from, what they are made with, how they impact our health, as well as how they impact our world and others. When we know and care about where our possessions are coming from, then we can make our purchases with joy, not obligation or without thinking, and appreciate what we do have far more. Hopefully, then we can start to understand that it is not more things that make us truly happy, but more human connection and authenticity in our day to day lives that can bring us a purer sense of joy than any fleeting material good can ever offer us.