With a high rise of activism and awareness in today's age, consumers are striving towards being more conscious of their purchases, how their decisions have impacts and on whom. The terms ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘social responsibility’ are often used with regards to the fashion movement. These terms generally have a broad meaning, all under the umbrella of sustainability.
To put it simply, being a conscious consumer consists of being aware of what one buys and how consumption affects the economy and environment at a larger scale, than solely an individualistic level. To be a conscious buyer, one shops more sustainably, keeping in mind the intent to safeguard the environment.
The Goal behind being Sustainable
The goal of sustainability is to balance the present economic, social and environmental needs in a way that ensures a prosperous future for the coming generations as well. To do so, one needs to reduce its ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is said to be created when we consume resources and cause about waste faster than the planet can recover and replenish itself.
What does being Eco-friendly mean?
When something is labelled as ‘Eco-friendly’, it means it is not harmful to the environment. This term is often used for products that advance and strengthen green living, and these products often even have a symbol or logo, to guide consumers when shopping. These products are labelled to announce that they do not take part in polluting natural resources like water, air, and land when disposed of.
3 Important ways one can Reduce their Footprint on the Environment:
Every little effect of production and consumption is calculated and forms a ‘carbon footprint’. This hints to the volume of greenhouse gas produced and lets into the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide.
Technological advances and digitisation have allowed us to find out our carbon footprint, through E.P.A’s Carbon Footprint Calculator and The Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator. These give information regarding how individual daily activities impact one’s footprint and ultimately, the environment.
However, there are some ways one’s daily choices can be adjusted, and sooner or later, bring about a change by reducing the carbon footprint.
1. Quality over Quantity:
According to the World Resources Institute, polyester production for textiles has been found to account for about 1.5 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases only in 2015. Without a doubt, as our consumption increases, so does the number above. Instead, by switching to clothing produced in a higher standard, like organic farming methods. Organic materials are less harmful to the environment and create a significantly lower amount of carbon dioxide.
2. Transition into a minimalist lifestyle
Although switching to organic materials is a great alternative, the problem of constant and unnecessary consumption is rampant as ever. By questioning how much we consume, and how much we really need to consume, we get answers leading us to a more minimalist life. By being more mindful of spending habits, one prevents overconsumption. This preserves natural resources, curtails waste and brings about a plethora of eco-friendly decisions.
3. Choosing Biodegradable products
Biodegradable products are those that decompose naturally and do not harm the environment in its process. They are composed of natural ingredients that break down automatically, demanding far less energy in order to recycle them.
The Importance of making Informed decisions as a Consumer
All business processes influence our environment, positively or negatively. To bring about a change, consumer choices and spending patterns need to be recognised and altered. By choosing to provide support to local businesses, or those that are environmentally conscious, consumers create a demand pattern of the products and processes they abide with.
Hence, when one chooses to buy and pay brands that are ignorant of their environmental impact, they are also choosing and promoting that lifestyle.
However, there is a class difference and a privilege barrier with regards to who can choose to be a conscious consumer. While the upper class have a myriad of choices on sustainable products, communities in labour and working-class do not have the freedom to do so. Since most sustainable products are created with the highest quality, and by ethically paid local workers, it leads to a higher price in the end. Due to uneasy financial circumstances, the working class is forced to buy cheaper alternatives; as a result, leading to incognizant repercussions on the environment.
The prominence of taking it one step at a time
When implementing a change in a lifestyle that has become a pattern and a habit, it is difficult to rationalise clearly and make sense of the changes needed in particular choices and lifestyles. This often leads to unprecedented disorientation and turmoil, leading to a term known as ‘consumer paralysis’. This is why we recommend small changes one at a time. Starting slow allows time for one to understand their choices and why they are making them while trying to balance and adjust to the lifestyle change.
The Beginning of the Conscious Consumer Movement
With greater awareness through platforms such as social media where information is readily available, more and more consumers are being educated about the severe situations arising through their consumption, like climate change and overworked and underpaid labour. This awareness has led to the Conscious Consumer Movement, which has brought about large groups of buyers to change their consumption patterns and spend mindfully.
The impact of Conscious Consumers
In a recent survey, 73% of consumers, when asked if they would change their spending habits to reduce its detrimental effect on the environment, were affirmative on that habitual change.
However, in reality, only a few of them would go out of their way to change their lifestyle to one that is eco-friendly entirely. Those who learn about their spending and its effects on the environment, often don’t mind paying more for a product that is of higher quality and ultimately, does not damage the environment.
Slowly but surely, word and awareness regarding the fast fashion movement are spreading and the world is seeing a significant switch in consumer patterns. As people begin demanding organically and ethically produced goods, fast fashion begins to pass, creating room for a more sustainable way of living through organic fashion.
When one choose brands that are sustainable and ethical, they are also choosing a fair and just way of life for workers in the way that:
- Workers are paid minimum living wage or above that
- Workers are given a safe and sanitized place of work
- Prevents hiring or using underage workers or minors for work
Ways to Be a Conscious Consumer
Buy fair trade products
Fairtrade products come from trade between countries where it is transparent and respectful; every penny is paid to the deserving producer, achieving greater equity. This can also be practised in clothing, by buying fair trade certified clothing.
Buy organic and natural products
This includes clothing that is made through organic fabric like organic cotton. Any product made through an organic farming method is environmentally friendly, causing less pollution and reducing the overall carbon footprint.
Switch to cruelty-free cosmetics
This includes all products, usually cosmetics, which have not been tested on animals. When one choose products that are not tested on animals, they are also dismissing products full of chemicals and supporting the argument against brutal animal testing.
Choose air travel only when necessary
In day to day commute to work, choose to carpool with a colleague or switch to more eco-friendly ways to get around. This could be by cycling, a popular alternative with the upcoming electrical cycle market. Similarly, when touring around on holiday, choose to travel through local modes of transportation such as rickshaws and tuk-tuks.
Cut down red meat consumption
Meat consumption is a big factor that has led to climate change. For example, beef cattle raise alarming volumes of greenhouse gases into the environment. However, there are sustainable options, choosing to eat pasture-raised meat instead of farmland raised meat, which is a choice supporting less deforestation.
Eliminate single-use plastics
Instead of single-use plastics that take more than 500 years to decompose and pollute the planet, switch to reusable alternatives that are cheaper and longer-lasting in the long run. Examples of this include switching to metal straws, reusable water bottles and canvas grocery bags.
Buy second hand
Instead of the next trip to the mall, try exploring flea markets and thrift stores for some vintage gems while also saving a few bucks.
Switch to a minimalist lifestyle
While this change might not be something one may be able to do instantly, a slow and steady change into a minimalist lifestyle will benefit the environment and one’s mental health by prioritising needs over hoarding, leading to a more focused and decluttered life.