While attending language school in Mexico a number of years ago, I was suddenly hit with the idea that I could live without much of what I had been obsessively acquiring and consuming in the states. I had two weeks worth of clothes with me that seemed to be serving me well as I washed and wore them for months.
I rarely watched television and never saw a computer, instead choosing to read, take a swim, or socialize with others. I never stepped foot in a supermarket and instead shopped at the local outdoor market. I ate better, I felt better and I slowed down to pay attention to the world and the people in it.
Once I returned to the U.S., I tried to make that simplicity a priority in my life. Over the years, I have become more aware of my community, my world, and my planet. I visit the farmer’s market on weekends for locally grown produce, I buy more organic and even became a member of a farmer’s cooperative. I combine errands so I drive less, and I recycle every bit of paper, plastic, metal and glass in my household.
I do not buy throwaway gadgets like disposable toilet bowl wands (though I must confess my daughter did wear disposable diapers) and I try to avoid buying from companies who have no social conscience. As an e-retailer, I sell handcrafted items rather than mass-produced goods providing customers with an alternative to the big box stores, and I donate a portion of all sales.
The point is, being a conscious consumer requires setting some boundaries and holding one’s self accountable. If you’ve ever wondered what you could do to make a difference, but didn’t know where to begin, here are some ideas. Start small, perhaps making one change this week, and another next week, and so on. Every effort by every person adds up and makes a difference. Don’t wait, use your power as a consumer to make global changes today!
Check out this list of ideas you can incorporate into your life one step at a time.
1. Watch one hour less of television
2. Seek out locally grown produce
3. Start a vegetable garden and grow your own
4. Buy organic products
5. Buy from the bulk bins to reduce packaging
6. Join your local co-op
7. Rather than going to the mall, shop small businesses in your community or shop small businesses online and save gas
8. Avoid socially irresponsible companies and support progressive ones – Read The Blue Pages: A Directory of Companies Rated By Their Politics and Practices or visit The Responsible Shopper.com website for more information
9. Find alternatives to chemical-based household cleaners and products
10. Turn off lights, turn down the heat, and raise the setting on the air conditioner by a few degrees
11. Reuse or recycle
12. Buy fair trade products – Read the 32 page booklet The Conscious Consumer: Promoting Economic Justice Through Fair Trade
13. Bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store (many will offer a discount)
14. Bring your travel mug to your favorite coffee shop (Starbucks offers a 10 cent discount)
15. Avoid impulse purchases – think as you buy and consume wisely
16. Take public transportation
You can probably think of dozens more ways to make a positive change. Go ahead, I dare you!