Buy ethically. Know yourself and your role as a consumer.
Over almost the last century, consumerism has grown into a beast. With a multitude of problems including extortion of workers, wasteful mindsets, lack of innovation, lack of value of experience over objects, and more. However, each one of these reasons culminates to one looming problem that is becoming evermore pressing: Environmental impact.
Since I was a little kid, I was taught that if you saw a plastic bottle in the trash, you dive into that bin headfirst and hold on to that bottle until you find the proper recycling bin. I was raised to respect the Earth in the most obvious ways like LNT (Leave no trace); however, it was not until the last few years that I learned a whole new way to look at protecting the Earth. I learned the harmful impacts of consumerism. No Karen, you don’t need that plastic clock that looks like a mixer. I promise…you don’t.
In 2017, I watched my first tiny house video and began my own personal journey towards
minimalism which lead towards my conscientious and sustainable habits as a consumer. My first step was simply to cut down on my wardrobe and begin taking at least one foot out of the world of fast fashion. This was not easy as a person who absolutely loves clothes and does not have the money to buy that cute $80 basic shirt even if it’s from an Earth friendly company.
I decided to conduct an experiment where I was not able to buy anything “new” (other than food and hygienic needs) for two months. This meant any clothes, accessories, entertainment items, etc. had to be bought from second-hand shops or online stores like Facebook Marketplace. Overall, this experiment was not too bad because there are a lot of new online second-hand shops popping up to fill the demand for conscientious consumers.
- Patagonia worn wear
Although the experiment went well, I did run into an obstacle: my brain. As Americans, most of us are wired from a very young age to “buy buy buy” especially to buy new. Technically you don’t need those fifteen paint covered t-shirts you have sitting in your closet because you
probably only wear your favorite five anyways. Nevertheless, we live in a consumerist society where we are bombarded everyday with marketing ploys that manage to trick us (from our years of being conditioned) into believing we need a sixteenth t-shirt collecting dust in the closet.
Why are those sixteen t-shirts harmful to the environment? Like any consumerist item, there are a multitude of problems but the most applicable is water consumption. According to World Wildlife Fund, the average cotton t-shirt uses 2,700 liters (713.26 gallons) to be produced. This means those sixteen t-shirts sitting in the back of the closet equate to 43,200 liters (11,412 gallons) of water.
As a beginner conscientious consumer, I am pushing myself to think about the process behind the production of the items I buy. Not only do I think about water usage, I consider ingredients in processed food. For instance, palm oil is one of the number one contributors to rainforest destruction and it is present in fifty percent of all household goods. It was a big step in my consumer development when I put the Oreos back on the shelf after reading the ingredients list.
In 2018, scientists and activists began coming forward with more severity and honesty than ever before. They began announcing that we as humans only have about 20-30 more years on Earth before the damage we have caused becomes permanent. After reading articles about this extreme news, I kept thinking to myself “Can we as humans actually fix our mistakes?” The answer is yes.
I realized when I began my journey that I am never going to be a perfectly environmentally
friendly consumer. However, if I always push myself to put in that extra thought process and
effort almost every time I shop or think about shopping, I will be simultaneously cutting down on plastic, water, fossil fuels, and forestry land consumption.
Who are you?
If you are someone who cares about our future as humans, I ask you to begin your personal
journey towards becoming an ethical buyer and conscientious consumer. Think about the
production behind each product you put in your basket. Is your need for that item equal or
greater than the potential destruction that its production caused?
Our Earth needs us; listen to the Earth and all the stories it has to tell. Begin your own journey to being a perfectly imperfect conscientious consumer.
It all starts with putting those Oreos back on the shelf.