The moment I decided to become a more conscious consumer around six months ago, one of the first things I realized was how much there is to learn about sustainability.
There’s always something new to discover about it, which makes sense considering how relevant it is right now. Every sustainability-related article you read, every video you watch, every podcast you listen to on your morning commute – they all add to your pool of knowledge, constantly influencing the decisions you make and giving you new perspectives.
There are some things about sustainability, however, that I find really important yet easily forgotten. Here are three of those things.
It’s More Than Just about Our Shopping Habits
When I read Alden Wicker’s piece on conscious consumerism, I was struck why how true it is. Although there are parts of the article that I question or disagree with, I absolutely agree with her main argument, which is that conscious consumption alone isn’t doing much good.
At the risk of merely echoing her views, I want to emphasize that focusing obsessively and exclusively over our shopping habits can’t make the world a better place. There’s so much more that needs to be done.
It’s important to do the things that are hard but necessary. Taking interest in the government’s decisions, including how they’re going to affect climate change, for instance. Or volunteering for organizations that need our help.
To me, this also means remembering that the struggle towards a more sustainable future is not about us. Browsing the internet to find an organic cotton dress is easy and fun, but it does nothing much aside from giving us the affirmation that we are doing the right thing. Difficult but important actions, however, are necessary if we care about others.
It’s More Than Just about the Planet
The phrase “conscious consumption” tends to be connoted with environmental issues and working conditions. Although those are undoubtedly really important, there are other aspects of it that we sometimes forget.
One thing in particular is the fact that conscious consumption is inextricable from the issues of race, gender, sexuality and equality as a whole. An important part of being a conscious consumer is supporting demographics that are so often marginalized by mainstream discourses.
I believe that the first step is to support companies that care about these issues. And I’m not just talking about companies who donate some of their proceeds to social causes. Consider those who actually try to remedy social issues by directly involving those affected by them. Elegantees, for example, support survivors of sex trafficking by employing them.
But beyond such companies, there are also local artists and makers that are worth supporting. Websites such as Etsy and Ethical Market are your friends. Just remember to look into not only how products are made, but also who make them.
It’s More than Just about Which Products to Buy
Imagine buying something fairly-produced, responsibly-sourced and made of a sustainable material, only to wear it once because you don’t really need it or because you don’t think it suits you. It’s wasteful and definitely not sustainable.
We tend to get caught up in researching which products to purchase, only to forget to consider if the product is necessary at the first place. But ethical considerations aren’t limited to materials and production processes. A significant part of it is our decision to buy only the things that we know we need and going to treasure for years to come.
But what if you want to experiment with new items that you wouldn’t normally wear, you might ask. Shopping secondhand is a great option, and so is renting or borrowing items whenever possible. Or, how about upcyling your old items?
What are important sustainability-related issues that you think we tend to forget? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think!