I do my best to focus more on creating (rather than consuming) on my blog. I believe it is important to do things from scratch when possible – it tends to be much cheaper, healthier, better for the environment, and just feels darn good to so.
In a utopian world, my life would be full of consciously-concocted creations, all made by myself, my family members, or close friends & neighbors. Yes, such a world has existed, it is possible, and I believe it is wise to try to get back to these roots as much as we can.
However, I know that not everyone can DIY everything around them. I don’t even touch on the idea of making my own clothes on this blog because it’s simply something I don’t know how to do. So for me, this is a very clear realm in which I have to source from other venues outside of my own skills.
With this, the question of where to purchase my clothes often emerges. When I can’t create something in my own home, where do I acquire it? What are the conditions in which it was created? Who made it? How much are they getting paid? Is the material healthy for me, the environment, and the person(s) who made it?
These are just a few of the questions that I try to ask myself when making decisions about my purchases. In this quick Guide to Conscious Consumerism, I will share with you some of the top questions I incorporate into my decisions when it comes to making purchases or consuming new goods.
Here are the overarching points I consider when consuming:
- Where a product is made
- How it’s made
- Who is making it
- What it’s made of
- Why I need this product or good
Where was this good made?
When considering where a product is made/created, I ask the following questions:
- Is it local?
- How far did it travel to get from its very beginning to my hands?
- If it’s from far away or possibly questionable conditions, is there a more close to home alternative?
- Is it made in a factory that emits toxic waste, for example, or a sustainably-run farm?
How was this good made?
- Are the practices used to create this product detrimental to human or environmental health?
- How many resources were used to create this product? (Water, oil, etc.)
- Do the conditions in which it was made try to minimize impact on the environment through renewable energy, use of recycled materials, or other ways of reducing waste?
Who made this good?
This relates to human/workers rights and working conditions:
- Are those that created this product or good working in positive conditions?
- Do they make a living wage?
It also ties into the concept of fair trade:
- Is every party involved in the creation and delivery of this good being treated equally and paid fairly?
And who we’re supporting with our money:
- Who is behind this product that I’m supporting? Is it a large corporation, a small business, an individual?
- Is this the kind of business/company that I feel good supporting?
What is this good made of?
This ties in to the question of how a good is made.
- What is behind/underneath/within this product? What is it actually made of?
- Are there any unnecessary (and possibly harmful/toxic) ingredients/materials in this product?
- Is this made of ingredients or materials that are nourishing and healthy for my body?
Why do I need this good?
This is a question that I ask myself far too rarely. A product can be made with “eco-friendly” practices – from sustainably-harvested materials and with positive treatment of employees – but still, I may have absolutely no need for it.
This, for me, is both the first and the last question I ask myself. I have to dig deep and really be honest with myself when considering whether I really need something or not. Of course, I do purchase things that I want and don’t just need, but in working toward simplicity, I am constantly trying to get better at evaluating why I feel the need to obtain more stuff. I help figure out my need for something by asking questions like:
- Will this item improve my life?
- Can I function happily without this item?
- Do I already own something like this?
- What unique purpose or role can this product play in my life that nothing else can?
- Where will this “live” in my home? Do I have room for it?
- Is this a high-quality product that meets my standards as a conscious consumption?
- Can I truly afford this?
These are just a few tidbits to get us all started on – or at least further down – the road of becoming more aware of what we are consuming and why.
Do you have any other questions you’d add to this list?
Share in the comments below!
And if you’d like to delve further into these questions and are looking for some good resources for consuming consciously, I recommend these books: