5 (affordable) ways to become a conscious consumer
Empty pockets, but still want to support ethical consumption?
Most people understand the importance of conscious consumption — it’s just good for the planet. From climate change to worker conditions, it totally makes sense to be more careful while making your purchase. Yet, it’s so much harder than we imagine. Why? Because large corporations have made it much easier to distract us with catchy ads, price competition, and/or variety of products. It is so easy to ignore the impacts of your consumption when something is cheaper, widely available, and a lot faster to access.
But, you still want to try your best to be a responsible consumer? We’ve got 5 tips for you:
- Don’t forget — consumers are king: use your voice as consumers to demand more accountability and information on exactly where your consumption comes from and its effect on the society. With the growth of innovation within the Corporate Social Responsibility sector of all corporations, it has become harder for companies to just donate part of their profit to organizations — you can demand greater action. And they will cater to you because they need you! As Elephant Journal mentions, “When doing your research and if you don’t like what you see or discover, let them know. Write to them, call them and get together a petition. It may seem daunting but I promise it isn’t. There are also many organizations that lobby our government to encourage change through laws, so attend a lobby meeting or contact your local reps.”
- Create a (monthly) shopping list: yes, it is hard to forgo some of the key things from our daily consumption — everyone consumes some things on the daily basis that don’t necessary promise a lot of social good. However, you can easily cut on the extra stuff — things you don’t need, but will buy anyways. The best way to deal with it is to create a shopping list and really being disciplined so any of the non-useful materials from that list can be eliminated. Plus, it saves you a lot of money!
- Compare: life is about perspectives but we’re not talking about comparing the non-fair, non-organic product with a fair-trade, organic product. We know, mostly as consumers with a tight budget, it is difficult to make that comparison. $17 for a bag of direct-trade coffee versus $7 for a bag of generic coffee at the shop — that’s a tough decision for most consumers. However, if you change your perspectives and look at how that spending could supplement you paying extra for non-essentials or even luxury. If you care about making a difference, but don’t have the money, we understand you’ve got to buy the cheaper products. However, there is no excuse for not buying that $17 bag of coffee to help coffee farmers, when you’re spending $30 a month on a magazine subscription.
- Recycle and Upcycle: this is another perspective solution. When you need to make the non-conscious purchase, just make sure you offset your impact. One of our close friends, Nicol, runs an exciting organization here in Costa Rica that does upcycling from household products and makes beautiful products. You can do these at your household — and, it saves you more money!
- Understand that buying local doesn’t always mean ethical — this relates to our last blog where we discuss the importance of not being fooled by the concept of coffee as a local consumption if you’re based in the U.S (unless it’s from Hawaii). As consumers, understand that it is impossible to completely go ‘local’ and that our world is interconnected in ways that makes it impossible to just consume from local producers. Plus, trade is good (when done ‘fairly’- read: this doesn’t equate to the fair trade labels) — it’s what gives income to thousands of people around the world.
Some of the tips are more practical and applicable to your daily lives than others. And we’d love to hear ways in which you are trying to be more conscious in your daily consumption! What works? What doesn’t? Do share below and we might even send you a bag of our favorite beans from Bean Voyage in return for your feedback ;)
Bean Voyage is a non profit that provides training and market access to female coffee producers in Costa Rica so they can produce specialty coffee, earn better income and lead sustainable lives.