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Oct 11, 2021
Climate Action

Conscious Consumerism

Conscious consumerism is not a phrase that gets tossed around much in society. This article will go in-depth on what this phrase is and the various components that build the overall scope of this topic. This article will discuss:

  • What is Conscious Consumerism?
  • The Benefits of Conscious Consumerism
  • How to Practice Conscious Consumerism

A simple definition of "Conscious Consumerism" is the effort of a consumer to be aware of the social, economic and environmental impacts of the products and services they buy. It’s an opportunity to vote with your dollars by supporting businesses and products that seek to provide benefits for all stakeholders, people and planet.

While the principles of conscious consumerism have been around for many generations, these concepts have grown in popularity and importance in recent years. 

The development of social media and internet-based companies have made the dissemination of information much more accessible. It’s now easier than ever to learn, identify the potential benefits or moral hazards of certain products as well as engage with values-aligned businesses that were previously out of reach.  

This movement will undoubtedly gain more focus in the years to come as more and more people come to understand and embrace the role they can play in developing a more just, equitable and sustainable world. 

The Benefits of Conscious Consumerism

What is the impact of conscious consumerism? 

Actively exercising your purchasing power is extremely powerful. Each time you buy a product or use a service, you send a signal back into the marketplace. That signal tells businesses that you value and prefer their product or service so that they build or offer more of those products and services. 

When you shop with your values and actively exercise conscious consumerism, you are sending those same signals to values-aligned businesses so that they continue to provide that product or service to you. 

It’s a pretty simple concept! 

If you want to see less internal combustion engines on the street, buy or lease an EV. If you want to see more internal combustion engines on the street and maintain a fossil fuel based economy, buy a car that uses gasoline and gets low miles per gallon. 

The benefits of exercising your purchasing power can be diverse and really depends on the product or service you are supporting. Benefits can be generally grouped into two broad categories, though it is important to recognize that all of these concepts are intrinsically linked. 

  • Environmental benefits
  • Societal benefits

Environmental Benefits

Did you know that over 70% of individuals said that they would be willing to change their consumption habits to help the environment? 

Most products and services have a carbon footprint associated with them. This sad reality is generally unavoidable. 

Companies that use raw ingredients and limited natural resources tend to have a higher carbon footprint than those that use recycled materials. 

Terms like “sustainable” are generally referencing a more sustainable production process that lightens the carbon footprint of that specific product. Terms like “regenerative” claim to have a production process that is net-positive for the environment. Keep in mind that there aren’t regulated guidelines around how these terms are used and some products may be falsely representing themselves. Navigating your way through the greenwashing is just a part of becoming a conscious consumer! 

Examples of certifications that help consumers navigate environmental issues include Climate Neutral, FSC and the LEED.

Environmental benefits of conscious consumerism are incredibly important because it sends a signal to businesses that consumers want products that are less harmful to the environment. This incorporates issues like biodiversity as well. As consumers substitute better, more conscientious products for conventional versions, the collective environmental benefit can be immense. 

Industries that have the power to greatly impact the environment include: 

  1. Transportation and shipping
  2. Clothing and fashion
  3. Banking and finance
  4. Agriculture and food production
  5. Construction and furnishings

Societal Benefits 

Conscious consumerism goes beyond the environmental footprint of a product. There are also large societal implications that you will want to examine. 

Historically, some companies have implemented unethical work practices that have exploited communities of people along the supply chain. This is true in developing countries that may be rich in natural resources but are underdeveloped in economic and/or political terms. Examples of worker exploitation within the fashion and metals and mining industries are well documented. 

Societal benefits are also realized at the point of consumption by increasing health and well-being for consumers. The agricultural industry and increasing presence of organic, nutritious foods serves as a great example. Consuming foods that are produced without the use of industrial pesticides and fertilizers has been shown to generate significant health benefits. While organic foods are certainly better for the environment, they are also much better for people. 

As you dive into this mentality more, you’ll start to see the overlap between environment and societal benefits disappear. 

Examples of certifications that help consumers navigate societal issues include Fair Trade Certified, B Corp Certified and the Real Organic Project.

Without coincidence, many of the same industries that greatly impact the environment also have profound societal implications: 

  1. Clothing and fashion
  2. Commodities, Mining and Metals 
  3. Agriculture and food production
  4. Banking and finance
  5. Waste management 

How to Practice Conscious Consumerism

In order to start adopting the practice of conscious consumerism, here are some helpful tips: 

Practice Minimalism

Minimalism doesn’t have to be binary. You can practice minimalism without retreating to a commune in the desert. While it isn’t necessary to reduce your consumption to zero, making a conscious effort to purchase only what you need or will use over and over again is a great way to reduce your footprint and practice conscious consumerism. You may also consider limiting a minimalistic approach to certain areas of your life so it’s less overwhelming. 

Consider the Entire Lifecycle

Considering the impacts for the entire lifecycle of a product is incredibly important when making consumption decisions. Companies are increasingly starting to evaluate the life cycle assessment of their products. Items that are meant for single-use have a very high carbon footprint associated with them versus options that are meant to be reused over and over again. An easy example is to swap out a reusable water bottle for those nasty single use bottles sold at convenience stores around the world. 

Research Your Most Frequent Purchases

Whether it be food, clothing or household goods, make an effort to research the manufacturing and production processes behind the brands you shop for most. Start with your favorite brands and most frequent purchases to get to know those products more closely. Regardless if it’s good or bad, you’ll surely be surprised by what you learn.  

Research Renewable Energy Providers

There are an increasing number of renewable energy companies that can help source clean energy for your home, regardless of where you live. Some examples include Arcadia Power and Elephant Energy. Renewable energy providers can drastically decrease your carbon footprint, and many renewable energy providers are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives.

Minimize Your Transportation Footprint

Depending on where you live, public transportation may be more or less accessible. Cars that run off of gasoline emit multiple tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year. Eliminating the number of cars on the road will substantially reduce our collective footprint. On an individual basis, public transportation, human-powered transportation (biking/walking) or electric vehicles are effective ways to minimize your footprint while having positive environmental and societal benefits. If you’re in the market for a new EV in the California area, Cartelligent is a great option you’ll want to take a look at. 

Align Your Money At Rest

Where you bank matters. While most people don’t realize it, the money in our checking, savings or investment accounts has a carbon footprint. Banks use your money to make loans and the loans that are made may have a very negative effect on the environment and society at large. On the other hand, there are a number of banks and financial companies that offer customers an opportunity to align their money with their values. If you want to have a positive impact on the environment and reduce your carbon footprint, Atmos offers savings and checking accounts for individuals. 

Conclusion

Conscious consumerism is an effective way to have a positive impact on the environment and society at large. There are lots of ways to practice conscious consumerism, but it all starts with taking a deeper look at your relationship with money and the products you purchase. There are a number of certifications and resources to help you explore the many facets of the values-aligned economy. 


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