How to…be a conscious consumer

In our era of Gwyneth Paltrow and undeniable climate change, many of us aspire to a more sustainable lifestyle. But it is not always a simple switch. Air travel and iPhones are basically requirements of modern life, even though we all know of their respective track records for pollution and poor labour conditions. And while we would all love to buy only locally grown produce and green beauty products from the farmers’ market, it is sometimes prohibitively expensively to be an earth mother (or father). However, there are other ways to become more conscious consumers that are both easy to implement and impactful in the long run.

1. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bags)

The UK proved its commitment to eliminating plastic waste by introducing a 5p bag charge last year, with projections of reducing bag use by 80 per cent. While a few plastic bags here and there do not seem significant, the government predicts that the charge will lead to a £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs and £13 million in carbon savings in the next ten years.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, and consumers should embrace the change. Reusable bags are an easy investment, and they are more practical than plastic ones. It is also worthwhile to consider our baggage in places other than the grocery store and the high street. Reuse the plastic bags provided at the airport for carry-on liquids, save gift bags to package future gifts, and invest in a glass water bottle instead of buying an Evian every other day. You will feel lighter in no time.

2. Support local businesses

Next time you need a new jumper or a gift for a friend, consider supporting a local business. Sure, it is easier to shop online or head to Zara, but with a little extra effort you are likely to find a more original (and sustainable) option. By buying books at a local bookstore, you will probably pay more than on Amazon. You will also support a local business and help to secure the jobs of its employees, who then have the purchasing power to invest in the local economy. All in all, it is a small price for such a big pay-off.

3. Take stock (and donate)

Marie Kondo your life and get rid of whatever fails to spark joy. Not only will you unload plenty of things you do not need, you will also have the chance to donate some of those things to others. Plus, cleaning out a closet or drawer is one of those incredibly satisfying tasks. By taking stock of what you have (as well as what you no longer need), you will also be able to see more clearly what you actually need. Notice you own four pairs of nude flats and no black pumps? Now you know what to purchase the next time you shop.

4. Eat less meat

We all know that eating more produce and less meat is good for our health. But did you know that producing one kilogram of beef requires 15,000 litres of water and five square metres of land? It also produces thirty kilograms of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. Vegetables, on the other hand, require much less to thrive and do not impact the environment in the same way. Committing to eating less meat can be as simple as participating in meatless Mondays. So load up on legumes, eggs, and whole grains, and glory in the knowledge that you are not only helping yourself but also the planet and its creatures.

5. Buy less

Do you really need that trendy necklace that was made in a sweatshop and is doomed to break the fourth time you wear it? Or another pair of overpriced trainers that will soon be relegated to the back of your closet as part of your “collection”? Invest in pieces you really need; thoughtful purchases will serve you better in the long run. By changing your shopping habits slowly, you will gradually become a more conscious consumer and, hopefully, feel less helpless in the face of climate change and mass marketization.

None of us will reverse climate change on our own. But by making conscious decisions as consumers, we will be able to lessen on our carbon footprint. And we might even inspire someone else to do the same.


Author: Emma Freer

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