The Conscious Consumer
22 Feb 2011

The Author

Profile photo of Abbey Beal
I love spreading my Sparkle!

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We live on a finite planet that is rapidly running out of resources. This is a household fact these days, but how many of us really have taken all the steps at our disposal to forestall the drivers of climate change? From zeroing our carbon emissions to refraining from the consumption of products responsible for deforestation and mounting waste, there is something we can all do about our environmental crisis, and becoming conscious of our consuming habits is a great way to start. Conscious consuming is the idea that we can change the world we live in, simply by changing the way we consume.

There are two main facets to becoming a conscious consumer:  buying local and make an effort to reduce waste. American consumer habits have programmed us to always want the ‘next best thing’, or ‘the best version out there’, or ‘the cheapest way to get what you need’. We have become obsessed with convenience. Many Americans are so dependent on one-stop shopping that they remove themselves from one of the best parts of living: supporting others. Which would you rather support? The Wal-Mart that exploits its resources for its own gain (which usually means the gain of its upper management, not its employees), or the local Charlestonian who’s opening their own Remedy Market on Spring Street dedicated to selling fair trade local produce and other locally made goods? It’s local business that keeps schools, churches and non-profits going; they’re the ones who donate to local causes, not Wal-Mart! Local business gives our cities their flavor, an essential part of creating a diverse, dynamic, and thriving culture.

Being conscious of our consuming habits and how they influence the growing environmental crisis inspires other people to do the same. The chain of action can spread far enough to stop and eventually reverse the damage we have done to our planet. I feel that many people get discouraged or give up on the idea of being able to personally contribute to saving our environment, but it really just starts with each individual, and each of their individual choices. Below are a few things you can do to reduce waste and support your local economy. Challenge yourself, even just for a week, and see how fulfilling and possible it is to make an impact and help save our earth.

  1. Buy Local! Check out your local farmers market, or see if the chain grocery store near you has a local produce section. You can even buy products that have traveled a lesser distance to get to you.
  2. Give up bottled water. The production of plastic water bottles together with the privatization of our drinking water is an environmental and social catastrophe. Americans use and dispose of 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, which would have every person using 167 single-use plastic water bottles every year; get a reusable Nalgene!
  3. Observe a consumption-sabbath. For one day or afternoon per week, don’t buy anything.
  4. Commit to donating part of your paycheck (even just $5!) to a non-profit of your choice.
  5. Commit to getting around by bike, by foot or public transport more often. In turn you will use fewer fossil fuels and create less greenhouse gasses, and we’ll all breathe cleaner air.
  6. Commit to not wasting. Wasting resources costs the planet and your wallet. Don’t overheat or overcool your home; turn off the water when you brush your teeth; write on both sides of the paper; take home your left overs and actually eat them; stop putting too much milk in your cereal; use only as much as you need.
  7. Buy recyclable products! Many every day necessities (paper towels, notebooks, toilet paper) are now offered in brands made of recycled material.
  8. Find out your neighborhood’s recycling schedule! Recycling is often as convenient as taking out your trash; make it a habit. In fact, paper waste makes for about 35 percent of the total material filling up landfills. Considering that most of this paper could be recycled, much of the waste problem is easily avoidable.
  9. Read your local newspaper, which features local businesses, and become more conscious of locally operated stores and restaurants; spend your money there. Products from locally operated stores and restaurants travel a much shorter distance than products at Wal-Mart and Applebee’s
  10. Every step towards living a conscious life where we consider the consequences of our actions provides support to everyone else. Don’t ever think that your efforts don’t make a difference. We are all interconnected. Lets start taking responsibility for our actions.

The point is that we can start to examine our lives and make even minor adjustments that can make a huge and positive impact. We all need to be more aware of how our choices, even the seemingly innocuous ones, affect our world. There are copious amounts of complacent people in our country: the people who hear about our impending climatic disasters and choose to ignore and do nothing to help the problem. The sad, hard truth is that we are slowly killing our planet- a planet that has given us so much. I hope that, someway, somehow, the people of our world will stop being content watching our global issues arise via television and Internet, and decide instead to be part of a societal revolution!

Here are a few websites you can go to get more interesting  information about how we can change our consuming habits. Storyofstuff.com and Noimpactman.typepad.com. ‘Story of Stuff’ gives an in depth explanation of where our stuff comes from, how we should use it, and where it goes. ‘No Impact Man’ is a documentary of a family that attempted to have a zero carbon footprint for an entire year; totally inspiring and the documentary is amazing! Go watch it!

Much Love and Light!

Abbey

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