To be a conscious consumer doesn’t only imply to be careful with what we eat, and it’s also not just for our own sake. Consumerism not only relates to all that we eat, drink or ingest but also to all that we buy or use. The footprint of this daily practice is not limited just to ourselves, it affects an entire range of people, animals, and environments. The way in which we choose to do this, changes the outcome of a grander scheme of things. In the end, once you get informed, something which I plan to deliver in this article, it will all come down to making the right choices. The right choices for ourselves, for our loved ones and ultimately the world.
Consumerism as a social and economic order and ideology encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. This is a problem for a world with limited resources that are being drained at an ever alarming rate. We are encouraged to buy in times of crisis, when resources are most scarce. We celebrate holidays by buying stuff, wheather it’s Christmas, a friend’s birthday, Valentine’s or Halloween. And let’s not forget to mention our commercial institutions, the corporations, which have a tendency of doing everything in their power, no matter the cost, to get us to buy even more. In a society driven by all these incentives, it’s very hard to see over the shine of a new gadget. But today we are going to learn the story of our stuff, and I take full responsibility if your new phone won’t be as shiny as it was before.
Have you ever wondered where all the stuff we buy comes from and where it goes when we throw it out? The Story Of Stuff a documentary by Annie Leonard tells the story of material economy: extraction -> production -> distribution -> consumption -> disposal.
What I liked a lot about this documentary was the fact that it’s explained in a very simple way, so that everyone understands the message. It’s also nice to see that they are very transparent with the factual information presented here, the entire script as well as the sources are documented in this document (link here).
Now, don’t get me wrong, my intention is not to make you feel guilty nor to make you live a minimalist lifestyle. After all, to live is to consume and what’s done is done. The past choices will matter very little, if the future ones are the right ones. That’s what being a conscious consumer is all about – if you were to put it simply – making the right choice. Consumerism becomes excessive when it extends beyond what is needed. When we begin consuming more than is needed, boundaries are removed.
Banks trigger us to consume more, by offering personal credit that enable us to make purchases beyond our income level. Advertisements excite us subtly and thus reshape our desires around material possessions, making us wanting “the new” every time. All this in a global society where the only culture that transcends all differences – religion, class, gender, ethnicity and nationality – is consumerism.
In the almost complete absence of other sustained macro-political and social narratives – concern about global climate change notwithstanding – the pursuit of the ‘good life’ through practices of what is known as ‘consumerism’ has become one of the dominant global social forces, cutting across differences of religion, class, gender, ethnicity and nationality. It is the other side of the dominant ideology of market globalism and is central to whatManfred Steger calls the ‘global imaginary’.
– James, Paul; Szeman, Imre (2010). Globalization and Culture, Vol. 3: Global-Local Consumption
This type of living, transforms us into zombie buyers, always in the want for the more, shinier, trendier, bigger, faster. A type of living that promises happiness, but never delivers. A type of living that leaves us in a permanent state of desire for… more. Take control and be(come) a conscious consumer.