Despite our exposure to an increasing amount of information, it goes without saying that you can’t know everything. But when it comes to consuming consciously, if we can all keep learning and improving every year, the better off the planet and perhaps humanity will be. Sometimes I resent reading articles about all the sustainable practices that I haven’t been incorporating into my life (see: bees wax wraps) because it just gives me a giant guilt trip, which in turn can result in inaction.
So, I want to set out some of the essentials I have found on my attempted path to becoming a ‘conscious consumer’ that might provide a bit more insight or motivation into the whole movement. Here is my conscious consumer manifesto:
- If you buy well, you buy less.
- If you know the consequences, then you buy things that counteract that.
- Wherever you put your money (e.g. your bank, your superannuation, your purchases) is a consumer choice that drives corporate behaviour.
- There is a certain premium on quality that has become out of sync with our current trends of consumption. We’ve all become accustomed to items costing far less than they really should – considering materials, labour and logistics behind products. So when we’re faced with the conundrum of choosing the dirt cheap Kmart product or the slightly higher priced product with more traceable origins, it almost becomes a knee-jerk reaction to choose a lower price point without much thought to the durability. In principle, if you’re having to buy a new lamp every three years instead of ever 10 years, then your cycles of consumption seem to be really out of whack! The cost of replacing low-quality products on a more frequent rotation can actually be a large drain on your long-term savings.
- Once upon a time, no one knew about the detrimental effects palm oil was having on our environment. Once upon a time, it wasn’t common knowledge that micro-beads in your face scrubs were actually an unstoppable plastic poison once they reached the oceans. The point being is that once you know more, you can do more. Sometimes science unearths new knowledge or the debate changes in support of one argument so the ongoing shift in consumer knowledge can be a lot to grapple with on a daily basis. But perhaps if you’re able to maintain an open mind to hearing new information and doing a bit of research of your own, then you can incorporate a new perspective into your spending and purchases.
- In Australia, the big banks and superannuation funds hold a massive amount of power in influencing the direction of policy, businesses and investment. Considering that all Australians hold money in superannuation and most Australians would have had their money in at least one of the big 4 banks at some point in their life, you can understand why. They essentially have the keys to the kingdom and have a loyal audience in their customers. So if you’re savings are held with a bank that has been known to enable child sex trafficking (ahem, Westpac!) or your superannuation fund is funnelling the majority of its funds into coal mining, does that sit well with you? Perhaps you’re personally not too concerned with climate change but the issues that you are concerned with could be directly addressed or adjusted through these corporations. By making your consumer voice heard on the issues that matter to you, by either shooting an email to your superfund to ask where your money is invested or investigating the most sustainable and ethical banking products in Australia, you are actively influencing change for the things you want to see happen.
If you’re at least attempting to do these three things, you can safely call yourself a conscious consumer. Hopefully you’re also saving a little money on the way with less wasteful spending and feeling chipper about how mindful you’re being with where you put your money.
Important: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. Consider the appropriateness of the information in regard to your circumstances.