Conscious Consumption: What it Means, Why We Should Care, + What We Can Do
Conscious consumption. I hear myself say it so often these days that I nearly forget it may not be the first thing on everyone else’s mind at all times. But with only one inhabitable planet to call home + an ever-suffering ecosystem, conscious consumption is something that we could all stand to work into everyday consideration. In short, to be a conscious consumer is to – at the very least – acknowledge the social + environmental impacts of our purchases. This sounds broad… ++ it is! As humans, the effect of simply existing accumulates to environmental + social impacts much larger than any of us could have bargained for when we showed up. But now we’re here + our planet is filled with people [7.5 billion of them], all trying to clothe + feed + house themselves.
I believe that most of us inhabitants are well-intentioned optimists; the kind of people who teach their kids to share + live by the golden rule. We donate money to rebuild devastated communities after natural disasters or to save endangered species. But then we turn around to our factory-farmed chicken salad lunch, go shopping for a $4 dress from Forever 21 + throw it in a plastic bag at the register. What is keeping us from making the connection between our seemingly innocent habits + human suffering with a side of environmental destruction? Is it a lack of education or understanding? Is it the fear that sustainable choices would mean sacrificing things we love? Is it the assumption that individual action can never amount to much without the strength of governmental regulations?
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Being a conscious consumer is holistic. It isn’t simply cutting out meat, reducing single use plastic, rejecting fast fashion, or even voting for policy change — it’s everything, truly considering the lifecycle of what we consume + the part we play. I can say, for me personally, my restless thought loops revolve around just how many people will suffer if our environment is not cared for. So much of my work + life choices have been made with this in mind.
Last year, the U.N. released a report from about 150 scientists around the world that told us some pretty major things:
#1] We have eleven years to change our ways before climate change is out of our control
#2] If we are unable to, we will likely start seeing + experiencing the catastrophic effects within the next 30 years
*This means things like, 1 million plant + animal species going extinct or 153 million people dying from air pollution alone [the equivalent of 25 Holocausts].
There is no denying the overwhelming nature of it all. Where do we start? How will we convince those we love to care? Perhaps even more heartbreaking, how can we protect the people we love…the children born today?
Whatever it is that may be holding you from shifting towards a more conscientious lifestyle, I just want to say – I get it. Most of us have not been raised on a truly holistic understanding of the space we occupy. For this reason, a shift towards conscious consumption can feel like relearning the most routine daily actions – shopping for food, eating on the go, cleaning our homes…the things we already struggle to get done in time to sit our asses down + just enjoy life.
However, habits + expectations are formed over time + people are adaptable. Once you start seeing plastic as trash that never disappears, but only breaks down + pollutes our soil + water, perhaps you too won’t un-see it. You won’t feel like it is an inconvenience to bring your own produce bags or grocery totes, because you will forget that those terrible plastic bags were ever an option.
Once you start to see animal products [dairy, factory-farmed chicken, processed meats, etc.] as the cause for increased heart disease, colorectal cancer, staggering land + water use, devastating air + water pollution, + inhumanity towards sentient beings, perhaps you too won’t un-see it. ++ Once you begin to see fast, cheap fashion as human exploitation, + yet another deeply polluting industry, perhaps you will happily take pride in researching ethical brands + second-hand options.
So let’s all take a collective deep breath, watch documentaries like Cowspiracy + The True Cost, read books like Eating Animals, join local conscious consumption Facebook groups, download apps like Zero Waste Home’s Bulk Locator, ++ VOTE people into office who may one day actually do something about all of this. [+ Don’t forget: if it’s yellow, let it mellow.]
++ Allie Kushnir @alliekushnir