Being a Conscious Shopper

Right now I feel that I am going to sound very boring and maybe a bit like a granny by saying the next line… Maybe I will, but that is fine and it needs to be said again, even if many people have said it before, so here goes:

To do great shopping you need great preparation.

What do I mean by doing ‘great shopping’? Well, to start with, one with zero plastic, zero food waste, as little packaging as possible, and good quality products. You might think that’s enough, that this is all that is needed to be a conscious shopper. Well, actually it is not. Don’t be disappointed about yourself if you really want to be a conscious shopper but are still having many struggles to become one. Honestly, we still didn’t reach that level all of the time either, but we are very aware about the importance of the choices we make while shopping and we are improving all the time, if you are reading this then probably you already are as well.

Perhaps it would be good to begin with a definition of conscious consumption. As I don’t want to just copy and paste some super smart and complicated sentence I will try to explain it in my own words:

Conscious consumption first of all is our awareness of our choices to use (take, buy, exchange) any products or items while considering how to preserve our environment, how it will impact society, economy and making as little harm as possible.

Following on from that definition, we could say that a person who looks ‘beyond the label’, who cares about the company which created the item and if they are socially aware, if it was manufactured sustainably and ethically, which materials are used, what is the CO2 and waste footprint of it, and similar things is probably a conscious consumer – a conscious shopper. I don’t know the right term, maybe a socially conscious consumer, a responsible or an environmental friendly consumer, or a smart shopper. Probably you will find many other possible title, but maybe the semantics don’t matter, the point is to be aiming for the goal of being, as much as possible, an ethical and environmentally friendly consumer.

There are a lot of buzz terms in there, it all sounds kind of fancy and new, but it is much more simple than we would like to think. In some ways this is just like stepping back in time, before the industrial revolution people were all far more aware of where things came from. Since then we lost sight of how harmful human activity can be to our planet and how many negative consequences the massive levels of production of, often unneeded, things bring.

No new inventions, just looking back in time and consuming like older generations did. Maybe their choices were forced by lack of options and relative poverty compared to today, but still they are an excellent example to follow.

People, get prepared…

So, coming back to that first boring sentence, if you are a super great conscious consumer then probably you will need to do some smart preparation for your shopping.

It starts with a plan of when will you do your shopping, how many times per week or month, and where to get different things from, this not only saves you time, but if you need to use transport then you will make less miles. Next comes which products you will buy and how much you need so that you will avoid food waste, and will not buy unnecessary items.

Find the places where you can buy as many packaging free products as you can, that are ecologically friendly, as locally grown and produced as possible, and generally of good quality.

If you are a great conscious consumer you won’t go without your reusable bags and containers, you will never buy plastic bags and you will probably ask checkout staff not to pack your goods. After shopping you will pack and store your groceries in the way that they will stay fresh for as long as possible, maybe you will conserve or freeze some things if you do not need to use them all right away.

If you are looking for some ‘new’ furniture or clothes, then while being an environmentally friendly shopper you would visit some second hand stores. Surely it is better to renovate and to give a second life to an old sofa, chair, table, or maybe mirror. Probably you would be very happy to find an old, but still in great condition jacket which was maybe only used once and is now left behind hanging in the second hand clothes store. Of course, I’m not saying that buying new clothes or household goods can never be a reasonable and good choice, they can be if you are careful about choosing locally made products, from ecological materials, and long lasting slow fashion items.

All exchange

One more important thing to remember is that a consumer is not just a person who buys items using money. There is another simple way of trading goods or services – to exchange. Of course it can be a massive trading of commodities between countries and big businesses, but as well it can be on a micro scale between people themselves, like neighbours. Once again this is nothing new, people bartered and exchanged things long before the concept of currency existed and we have never really stopped… probably it is the first trading concept in the world.

For example you may have a great harvest of tomatoes while your friend has a great harvest of pumpkins, so why not to swap some? Perhaps you just baked a delicious apple cake why not to share it with a neighbour, or to lend them a tool? I believe that in exchange he or she will bring you some eggs or honey, maybe they have keep chickens or bees. Exchanging clothes or shoes was and still is so normal in my family, it is not just good for environment, but is also a practical and cheaper way to get new to you things. If you would look at the internet nowadays you can find people who offer and give many things for free or exchange valuable but unwanted things for a very low price.

It seems like a lot of things, but perhaps to be a conscious shopper we really have to think about ethics and the environment from a holistic point of view. To make it super easy here is a small list of tips on how to step up and try to be a more conscious shopper/consumer:

  • Always have reusable shopping bags with you
  • Start to read labels, buy quality
  • Choose natural and organic products as much as possible
  • Shop locally as much as possible, and buy locally produced things
  • Do not buy things if you do not need them – “oh, it is cheap maybe one day I will use it”
  • Avoid unnecessary packaging, especially plastic
  • Buy and use reusable packaging and storage
  • Use reusable cups and bottles
  • Become a regular at the second hand stores
  • Look for exchanges instead of buying

To sum up we can use those four great R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose. Always aim to create as little waste as possible and before buying anything just spend a couple of seconds to think about it.

The awareness and information are spreading, each of us can be an example to change everyone’s shopping habits, and small steps really do matter.

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