A Greener World with an Extra Effort

Iceberg melting due to the rise of global temperature. Humanity experiencing more and more severe climate change. Human actions have been catalyzing the environmental destruction process. Acknowledging the seriousness of the issue, corporations have been creating products with green labeling that are confirmed by the environmental agencies in the government or independent organizations. At the same time, it had created another source of the problem: companies utilizing green labeling as a marketing strategy to maximize institutional profits. Potential points of misinformation exist, and it is essential for consumers to distinguish the products that can effectively protect the environment. Conscious consumerism is a method to combat the misinformation issue and can demonstrate a considerable effect if done correctly. As conscious consumerism is not just one individual’s act but a collective act, the potential impact it has on the economy and the culture itself is noticeable — a 20 percent increase in sustainable product sales from the year 2014 to 2019 (Wong). It is true that actual political participation is more of an immediate and practical method to alter the current environmental policies or the standards of green labeling; however, utilizing the established culture of consumerism with a careful information distribution would be more tangible and effective than encouraging the public to participate through political means.

Consumption culture is a huge part of contemporary society as it became increasingly accessible to purchase products and services both in-person and online. Meanwhile, people began to acknowledge the severity of environmental issues and how they affect the global society as well as themselves. Being aware of green labeling and selectively purchasing products became a new norm. Rather than buying products based on sheer personal preference, how the product influences the environment became another criterion of purchase. However, you may be wondering if consciously purchasing products is sufficient to sustain the environment. It is true that it may not be too significant to resolve the issue in the short term. Still, conscious consumerism is an accessible approach that starts with our everyday activity more “closer to achieving sustainability goals” (Staff). Moreover, conscious consumerism is essentially a culture, meaning that it has the power to shift a number of people’s actions. With careful self-education through researching the background of the production process of particular goods, the public becomes more aware of how their consumption impacts the environment (Staff). Education cannot be a mandate that forces people to do research but should be encouraged, indicating that the effect will be shown gradually. By frequently disclosing facts about companies’ influence on the environment through online mediums, people naturally become more aware of their choices. Specifically, institutions that help consumers to determine the magnitude of each firm’s alignment with social responsibility exist. A non-profit group called the B Lab has its “entire online directory where you can browse certified companies in different industries” (Wong).

The complacent attitude of the consumers is another issue to be addressed. Sustainable fashion expert Alden Wicker claims that “small steps were taken by thoughtful consumers” are not as significant to shift global trends and make a meaningful impact (Plante). She further argues that “conscious consumerism is an expensive distraction,” hindering the practical progress of actual changes (Plante). Rather than voicing our opinions through expenditures, utilizing actual political means such as polls would be a more pragmatic method. Although Wicker accurately contrasts each method’s pragmatism and addresses which method should be prioritized, she fails to acknowledge the potential solution that can stem from ‘conscious consumerism’. The word conscious means that consumers are putting their effort into rationally choosing the options that would minimize any damage to nature. Though the magnitude of each consumer’s commitment may vary, a common cause still exists — protect the environment for our and future generations. Admitting the same cause, constant forums and workshops can shift the end result from consumption with complacency — mentioned later in the Vox article — to actual social changes. In other words, ‘conscious consumers’ acknowledge that the problem exists, but the change we need is to alter the means to approach the issue.

Conscious consumerism not only mitigates the negative impact on the environment but also shifts the industry in an eco-friendly direction, creating a positive cycle. As the public becomes aware of what each company values and how they utilize natural resources in their production, it is important for companies to acknowledge the increasing awareness and produce in a greener method. Also, the generational shift in attitude is not negligible. The generation known as Gen Z last year accounted for “40 percent buyers,” mainly consisting of “value-driven [consumers]” (McCann). Approximately two-thirds of Gen Z consumers are “willing to spend up to 48 percent more to buy from a purpose-led brand” (McCann). In addition, although “sustainability-marketed products form 16.1 percent of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) market, they delivered 54.7 percent of the CPG market growth between 2015 and 2019” (McCann). Acknowledging these statistics, we know that consumers’ behaviors drastically change the market structure and how firms produce their products. At the same time, we have to admit the fact that fraudulent manipulation of green marketing and a distorted perception of consumers when buying products can create a negative cycle that does not help resolve global environmental issues. Therefore, it is essential that consumers be attentive to details when confirming a company’s values and production methods. You may be asking, “isn’t that too much of a burden for consumers to do so?” True, so it is integral for varying levels of the society from an individual level to an environmental agency in the governmental level to collaboratively structure the market ‘green’ — efforts ranging from individuals sharing one another information about a particular company’s environmental misconduct to credible criteria of assessing each company’s environmental efforts.

Petitioning and directly voting to restructure environmental policy are powerful tools, but to have conscious consumerism in everyday lives can be a more tangible option for consumers. Conscious consumerism has been a contemporary norm, and slight adjustment is needed to benefit its potential. With extra effort, our surrounding environment can persist generation after generation.

McCann, Kim. “Conscious Consumerism Is Transforming Industries.” The Consumer Goods Forum, 5 Oct. 2021, https://www.theconsumergoodsforum.com/blog/2021/10/04/conscious-consumerism-is-transforming-industries/.

Staff, Graziadio, and Sam Mesquita. “Conscious Consumerism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Become a More Conscious Consumer.” Conscious Consumerism: Why It Matters | Pepperdine Graziadio School, 27 May 2021, https://bschool.pepperdine.edu/blog/posts/conscious-consumerism.htm#:~:text=With%20the%20climate%20crisis%20looming,the%20degradation%20of%20the%20environment.

Weeks, J. “Buying green.” CQ Researcher, 29 February. 2008, http://library.cqpress.com.libproxy2.usc.edu/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2008022900&type=hitlist&num=6

Wong, Kristin. “How to Be a More Conscious Consumer, Even If You’re on a Budget.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Oct. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/smarter-living/sustainabile-shopping-conscious-consumer.html.

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