Making money is tough—between late hours, high stress levels, crazy pressure to succeed and the round-the-clock grind, how we spend each and every bit of our hard-earned money is crucial to our happiness. Not that money can buy happiness, of course, but let’s admit it: Spending it wisely can come pretty damn close. There’s an unspoken thrill when you make an “adult” purchase, or when you see the number in your savings account slowly start to climb. And when you care about spending your money responsibly, you care about where it ends up; whether it goes to a billionaire’s secret off-shore fund or helping put food on a family’s table.
We all know how social media has revolutionized communication between brand and consumer, but in an increasingly digital world, it gets equally difficult to determine a brand’s authenticity. How can we, as consumers, tell when a brand is being completely transparent with how they run their business? If they tell the truth about their products, their practices, and their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects? At the end of the day and in an ideal world, a company’s ethics should play a big part in our purchases. Taking our budget, our culture of consumption, brand loyalty and abundance (or lack) of options into account, living a sustainable lifestyle has led to an increasingly complex decision-making process—one that not all of us are ready for.
Sure, a lot of us want to live green (or, as we like to call it, leading The Wood Life), but this doesn’t always result in green purchases. It’s easier to buy one-off items, like an environmentally friendly lightbulb to replace one that’s burnt out, than to choose organic, locally-grown produce week-in and week-out at the grocery. When we go shopping for clothes, the knowledge that it was made in third-world sweatshop doesn’t always trump how good it looks on us. We tend to brush off uncomfortable truths that put a damper on our spending sprees, but sometimes we need these reminders to guilt us into more responsible purchases. Media tells us to keep consuming, but at the end of the day the accumulation of stuff doesn’t always make us happy—if anything, it lowers our happiness because they’re a waste of natural and human resources.
These days corporations can be more powerful than governments, and with the planet reaching its fixed limits, it’s up to us, the consumer, to demand that companies provide us with more socially and environmentally sound products. After all, we control the supply chain; if there’s a demand, brands will strive to supply. And if there’s one thing that social media has given us, it’s the ability to have our voices heard; to speak out and punish the brands and corporations whose practices hurt us and our planet, and to praise and promote those that help and heal it.
This is where conscious consumerism comes in. There’s no one demographic or psychographic for the conscious consumer—the term basically applies to every person who consistently and relentlessly strives to make more socially and environmentally sound purchases in their everyday life. The conscious consumer prizes value and craftsmanship over price and speed, fair wages over trends, and sustainable practices over convenience and availability.
The conscious consumer understands that each purchase has ethical, environmental, and community repercussions—that each peso that leaves their hands has the power to make a difference in the world, and all we have to do to maximize this is to put in a little more effort and time in researching companies and brands with CSR actions that we support. Spending money is an active choice, so it’s up to us to make the change and start “adulting” in all aspects of our lives.
Becoming a conscious consumer isn’t a major upheaval of your lifestyle, but it is guaranteed to change it for the better. Sometimes all it takes is choosing the beauty product without palm oil, or spending a little extra for organic produce. The power is with us.
So what have you done to save the world lately?