What is conscious consumerism and what is the point of it? Conscious consumerism is being an aware and informed consumer of the product and what the product entails behind the scenes. How it was made, where it was made, and what type of ethics are are associated with the product. These are the types of questions I ask myself before purchasing most things. I think that in the United States it is almost impossible to be a completely ethical consumer because 98% of the products on the shelves are made in China, Pakistan, Uganda, Vietnam, and other similar places. All of which are known for their poor working conditions and lack of care for their employees. This essay is not to tell you that you are bad if you purchase unethically made goods, but I hope to bring more awareness and better decision making when it comes to being a consumer.
Why is it important to shop ethically?
I believe in the power of the dollar. When consumers come together and boycott products, the companies (if they wish to continue to have your support, which they do because they are in the business of making money, not being ethical) have shown that they will conform to the needs of the consumers. If there isn’t a demand for change (because they aren’t losing money) then there will not be a large scale change in the industries we support.
Now some people are already defeated and they just give into and ignore the unethical practices of the companies they continuously support. Different people do it for different reasons. Maybe they are unaware, maybe they choose not to think about it, maybe they really need this item (underwear, socks, shoes, etc), maybe their child really wants this toy and you’ve already told them no so many times (me). There are so many reasons why we might purchase these goods, we are consumers after all. However, the reason we need to become more conscientious in our shopping activities is just due to the simple fact that things are wrong. These companies are employing a means of slave labor onto the poor people of these countries. These people are left with little to no options for other types of work and many of them need to support their families. Yes, you can justify that it is “their choice” but when your children are hungry and there is no way to make money but to work in a broken down building that may fall apart at any moment or to subject yourself to long hours breathing in toxic chemicals, what do you do? You probably go ahead and work there. I know I would.
These people need jobs, obviously. The thing is, WE the consumers, have the power to change their work environments. We have the power to provide and DEMAND a safe environment for these people to work in. Someone is still going to make your iPhone, but the conditions and practices can be adjusted if we stop buying into what they are selling
I think it is important to do our best at this because we can change how these entities interact with their employees. Instead of ignoring it we need to be actively taking our dollars away from them. They will change, they have in the past, but more of us have to do this together.
Not only is it important to shop ethically in order to change what is accepted in these industries, but it is also necessary for the conscious evolution of our species and world. I believe that we are facing a conscious growth and that we have to all actively pursue peace in all the ways we are capable of, no matter how small or big the action is, creating a space where peace and love are the main sources of energy output are so critical. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, that is a law (according to physics). That means love, ultimately an energy, peace, also an energy, are not created nor destroyed. It is flowing around us at all times. It is our choice to add to the wave of construction or destruction. Let’s grow these waves of love and peace and unity by taking away our support for companies that employ manipulation, that steal from the Earth’s resources, that subject people (our brothers and sisters) to toxic environments. Let’s keep the output of energy on the love side rather than the destroy side.
Again, no one is perfect. I am not here to tell you not to buy your daughter that Barbie dreamhouse (UGH.. my problems). I am here to say be AWARE of what energy you subscribe to and at what price you subscribe yourself to it.
Where can I purchase ethical products?
This is something I currently struggle with. If you have good places, products, etc. please let me know because I need more options out here. So from my little knowledge there are basically 3 options to purchasing ethically made products:
- High end, super expensive clothing and toys.
- Thrift stores (second hand, not ethically made items)
- Local markets
Alright so let me go through these three options beginning with option number one.
High-End Clothing and Toys
So, this option is my least favorite, although it is totally valid and if you have the means to afford this option, by all means do so. I cannot afford these things and I know most of my friends and family would and could not as well. Unfortunately, ethical clothing and toys are expensive because it isn’t the norm. The norm is to outsource production to third world countries where you pay the workers a dollar a day, so yes, ethically made goods actually employ ethical methods and those methods allow people to survive off of their jobs (unlike today’s standards).
So, if you are in a position to support great companies here are a few I can definitely recommend. Number one on my list is Nicora Shoes.
Nicora has to be my all time favorite shoes to look at and wish I owned (lolol). I absolutely love the style of the shoes (the boots specifically) and this company only uses vegan leather and pays their shoemakers a good portion of the shoe you purchase. These guys work hard and you can tell by the quality of shoes and service they provide not only to the consumer but to the employees.
Sinclair Boots from NICORA.
Green Toys is another company that employs ethical means in order to create their products. They have reasonable prices and make everything from playdough to toy cars. I wouldn’t classify these guys as “high end” because their prices are not that bad, and they also use all recycled plastic and produce their products in the USA.
Little Tikes offers some ethically made toys on their line as well! This was a pleasant surprise to me as a mother because Toys R Us is filled with little tikes toys. Not everything is made in the USA but they do have a lot of options available to the consumer. Although I am unsure of where the parts are made (could be China and therefore still employ unethical means) it is at least partially ethical and easily accessible to the general US population.
LUSH cosmetics happens to be one of my absolute favorite eye liners AND they are vegan and handmade. They offer a range of items from bathbombs to eyeliners to lipsticks. These aren’t super expensive either, but are not exactly cheap (my opinion). The small bottle of liquid eyeliner (that lasts me for 6-9 months) cost about $30 at the store.
Reformation is another company that I just look at from afar and hope I can afford at some point. They sell really beautifully made dresses and clothing for men and women. This company is based in LA and even composts their fabric scraps. They source their products within the US and pay above minimum wage to their employees.
The Vanessa Dress by REFORMATION.
Thrift stores are my FAVORITE way to shop. I have found so many awesome things from books to kitchen necessities to blankets and jackets. I consider this the second best option to option number one. Most of us are struggling out here, trust me, I know, and we cannot afford a $200 dress or a $45 tea set for our kids. Thrift stores do not completely remove support from unethical companies (because we are still supporting, although minimally and indirectly) it at least minimizes the overall effect. The way I think of it is that these companies are sustaining their products because people are buying them directly from the source. When someone buys an unethical product and then resells it to a thrift store (or donates it) the company itself does not receive funding and may (in some sense) lose funding. So, this is not a foolproof method, but considering the consumerist society we live in and how hard it is to find ethical products, I strongly encourage this alternative.
This is the absolute best way to redirect your financial support (my opinion). Supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs is the way of the future (agorism). I think if we want truly accountable and responsible companies it will have to be done through a much smaller medium than it is being done today. These massive large scale operations keep most of their consumers in the dark (and for good reasons). They do not want you to know how they produce their products because most people would respond negatively to it. I have a strong core belief that the majority of people are good people and they don’t want to hurt others. When people become aware of how they aid in the pain of others they tend to avoid that. We have an innate desire to be kind to each other. If you want to be completely aware of where your product came from, how it was made, and who made it, this is the best way. There are local markets in every major city, you just have to reach out and look for them (and also spend extra time figuring out when you can attend one).
This is not the easiest option. The easiest option is to ignore everything I have said and buy whatever it is you want from wherever you want. However, change is never easy. It is a constant battle to adapt to what is the “best” way of doing things. Living in this society I know how difficult it is to go out and buy a pair of shoes. Nothing is ethical and the ethical options are not always available or afforadable. If we want to change the way these companies run their businesses we have to redirect our money to companies (and small, locally based entrepreneurs). Change is not easy, but I full heartedly believe in the saying “be the change you wish to see in the world”. We can start whenever and wherever. Choose what works best for you, minimize the amount of unethical goods your support, redirect your money to people making things for people. We can do this.
In the end, we all have to do our best. I cannot tell you what your best is, but I can describe what is mine. Now whether I am that all the time is another topic, but I strive to be that at least most of the time. I cannot say I always purchase ethical goods. Sometimes I buy things that I know were produced via unethical means. This doesn’t make me a bad person, however, the less I give in to that, the less they make. Even though I am one person, and alone I cannot stand a chance to make a difference in the market, I hope that I can inspire more of us to redirect our energies and money. We have the power to change the world. The first step is realizing where we contribute to our own suffering as a species on this planet. Once we become aware we can make changes in our everyday activities, but it all starts with awareness. I hope that with the holidays approaching we can choose (as a collective) to be more mindful. That is where the change starts, with us.
Be the change.