Be a Kind Consumer by Mary Llano
Consumerism. The world in which we are able to quickly purchase with 1-click, plus with 2 day shipping, we get the things we want, how we want them, when we want them. We like this fast reality of shopping and have conditioned ourselves to need and expect instantaneous gratification.
50 years ago, even 20 years ago, our grandparents and parents would wait by the door for a package from a traveling friend, a sweet letter from their long distance love. They would wait patiently in the driveway for the mailman to hand them these letters or packages, written in familiar handwriting, that end with a happy smile. They would have to wait to visit a shopping center for new clothes or walk to the grocery store only to carry it all back from afar.
Now we have social media for immediate updates on what our loved ones are up to. We can quickly scroll through and double tap a beautiful photo that so similarly resembles another and double tap to see where this so called influencer purchased their clothing, and we think, “if I buy these pants or visit this place, I too will be just as happy”, and in turn, we consume even more.
These earlier generations had to learn to wait. To slow down and be patient. They had to because there was no choice in the matter, no reason to speed up. Technology has put a stop to this and has taught newer generations that there is no need to be moderate or to wait. It keeps us from developing patience + appreciation + concern for where these quickly produced items are coming from and what is the cost – the true cost - behind them and wonder why they are so cheap.
If you have not watched the insightful documentary, True Cost, I highly recommend that you do. Andrew Morgan goes into detail about "the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically.” It will change your thoughts from “I want” to “do I need” and if you do, how can you obtain it in a better or more ethical way.
Despite all of the knowledge behind this, we will always be consumers. We need food and clothing to survive. We need them for everyday tasks.
But we as consumers are afforded the choice of deciding in what ways we consume/use. This change and idea can be gradual. And should be! We want to be mindful of how we modify the course of our consumerism. We can develop & advance our fast practices to kinder, slower practices. And these practices can be learned from research. Research on where the goods are made, what are they made of, to how will these affect the employees and do they affect me? This is, and will be, an ever-evolving intention. And, in order to start or continue on this journey, we need to first practice patience within ourselves. To allow ourselves to be okay when we are not 100% perfect in ethical/sustainable consumerism. Because this takes self-control, a strong willingness for compassion and a desire to hold respect for people you cannot always see. That is why it can be incredibly easy to uphold an uncompassionate life, as well as be unaffected and unaware – usually innocently.
So how can you be a kinder consumer in an unkind industry?
1. Wear the clothes, use the products, eat the food, that you have already purchased – unkind or not. Wear the clothing until they are no longer usable, then mend them and wear them again or mend them and donate them to a children’s home or pass them down to someone in your family. Finish the food you have bought and use as much of it as you can and dispose of the waste in a sustainable way through recycling, repurposing, composting, and so on. Research the recycling areas in your city or art shops that can re-use plastic or glass. Local farmers may even love your compost if you can’t use it yourself!
2. When it is time to purchase things that you need, always question, “where did this come from?”, “how was this made?”, “do I need it or can I create it?”, “who made this”, and so on. There are a number of brands that empower and value their employees from the beginning to the send off. They will develop quality products while simultaneously empowering the makers behind them. By paying fair wages, granting a healthy environment, preserving indigenous designs/traditions, and more. We have a list of these brands– that is growing – on our directory page, along with a list of bloggers who write and review on a number of conscious brands. Starting from clothing all the way to home goods.
3. Take it slow. Purchase one item at a time and only when you truly need it. This can be helpful in the financial area, as well as the minimalistic area. You do not need to be perfectly sustainable and ethical right away. It takes time to recreate an entire way of life and there will be slip-ups and that is okay. You cannot perfect anything without practice.
With time + patience + practice + growth, we will all become kinder consumers.