Are your actions aligned with your values?
Many of us hold core values relating to compassion and connection, but the impact of our consumer actions may not match those values.
For example, we may believe fair labor conditions are important but don’t factor them into which brands we buy. We may value waste reduction but don’t avoid unnecessary packaging. We may believe in animal well-being but purchase products that require animal suffering. This gap in our attitudes and behaviors leads to cognitive dissonance, which we can alleviate once we become aware of it.
In its simplest form, conscious consumerism is a practice of aligning our actions with our values.
And since we consume food or material items most days, we are presented with the opportunity to practice this alignment frequently and with forgiveness.
What are your guiding values?
Write them down. Do your consumer behaviors reflect those values? Hold your values as the core of conscious consumerism, and let the resources on this page be the practical tools that support you in acting in alignment with that core.
Conscious consumerism is not one-size-fits-all.
Conscious consumers share a values-based mindset and an awareness of what we purchase and the impact those purchases have, but that mindset doesn't manifest into identical actions. We all approach conscious consumerism from different lives, places, and experiences. We have different options available to us, depending on economic status, family needs, health, location, access, ability, and other privileges. We must extend grace to ourselves when the available solutions aren’t perfect. We must extend grace to others. That’s the only way this movement becomes collective and sustainable.
Play with conscious choices in your "consumer microcosm."
Our personal consumer actions–the act of buying (or not buying) items, caring for them, and disposing of them–are an opportunity to feel what it means to align our behaviors with our values, get more connected to our environment and our communities, and inspire others.
Not only do our personal purchases cast a dollar vote that influences demand and provides feedback to companies, they form a microcosm that can inform further action in the macrocosm of our economies and cultures!
It's not easy to build conscious practices in a consumer culture where companies are not transparent about their impact, buying new is presented as the path of least resistance, advertising plays on our basic instincts, and greenwashing lurks on every shelf. May the resource toolbox to the left support you in cutting through the clutter and consuming with clear intention.
Your daily actions matter. But wait, there's more!
While our personal purchases are meaningful and model what we want our cultures to move toward, we're often responding at the point where the problem manifests (vs. at the root of the problem). The product has already been produced and gone through much of its lifecycle when it meets the end consumer, and we're just out here deciding if we want to encourage the damage that's been done with our dollar vote. Think of how we might have an even greater impact if we can also take actions that address the deeper roots feeding the problems we see manifesting on store shelves and in landfills!
Expand your actions to influence the "consumer macrocosm."
If our homes and daily purchases make up our microcosm, that microcosm interacts with the greater macrocosm of consumer-related systems woven through our societies, nations, and world. Recall from the CULTURE section the underlying systems, structures, and mindsets that influence consumption and production practices and interact with us all.
Beyond our daily purchases, we consumers have levers we can pull that nudge greater systems to take actions that contribute to a more conscious consumer culture, too.
By helping shape public policy, corporate incentives, advertising norms, and education around consumption, we can build a more conscious culture from the bottom up. Participating in a greater cultural conversation in this way can alleviate the pressure we put on our individual lives, too, especially when changing personal consumer behavior is not an available option. The resources to the right offer some entry points into consumer-related systems you may want to influence.
What is interesting to you?
We can't take action everywhere all at once, and that's okay. Start by thinking and acting more consciously around one product or industry.
Sustainable change comes when we find ways to spend energy on what we already like, deepening our understanding of what really brings us fulfillment.
Which consumables are you most energized by or passionate about? Are you a fashionista? Learn about the most humane ways to express yourself. You're a foodie? Lean into how you can make MOGO food choices. You're a tech wiz? Become a champion for making tech last!
We have substantial work to do to reduce our collective consumer impact. The good news: many people and organizations are already working on the issues! Click on the circles to the left to see some of the work being done and resources being shared within the industries from the IMPACT section (and get inspired for ways you can contribute to the cause).
You are not alone.
At its core, conscious consumerism is an act of compassion and connection. The irony is that many conscious consumers feel alone in their efforts. While the concept may be simple, taking action can be frustrating, isolating, and overwhelming. It's easy to get jaded and become apathetic when you feel like you're the only one who cares.
You are not alone in your efforts or your enthusiasm. By acknowledging that there are others on this journey, might we make the very act of conscious consumerism a balm to the isolation and anxiety a consumer culture contributes to?
If you are interested in taking the next step in your conscious consumer journey in community—be it for inspiration, accountability, or solidarity—check out the Conscious Consumer course and more ways to connect HERE.
Sources and inspiration
(1) “Exploring the Value-Action Gap in Green Consumption: Roles of Risk Aversion, Subjective Knowledge, and Gender Differences.” Oguzhan Essiz. Journal of Global Marketing, 36(1), 67-92, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08911762.2022.2116376. Published 25 August 2022. (2) "How to SHIFT Consumer Behaviors to be More Sustainable: A Literature Review and Guiding Framework." Katherine White, Rishad Habib, David J. Hardisty, SAGE Journals, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0022242919825649, Published 14 Feb. 2019.