So what’s the solution? There's not one easy answer when it comes to finding humane ways to consume, but there are many ways to ignite personal and cultural change.
High impact consumer categories
Consumers spend a high amount of money in the category
The current consumer norms in the category have a generally negative impact on the planet, animals, and humans
Alternatives exist and choosing them can make a difference
Where can you have the highest impact?
High-impact industries in which the current consumer norm has a negative impact on the planet, people, and other animals. When these are industries that many of us use frequently—and perhaps must use to some degree—building consumer habits that do the most good (MOGO) can lead to considerably less harm.
What are you interested in?
What area are you most interested in? If you like fashion, make this a reason to dive deeper into fashion and learn about the most humane ways to find meaning in it. If you are big into cooking, lean into how you can have the most positive impact with your food choices. This makes conscious consumerism about spending more energy with what we already like AND deepening our understanding of why these things bring us fulfillment.
Many of us consume food daily, and our normative practice around animal agriculture and unconscious food waste are huge contributors of emissions, heavy land and water usage, rainforest and habitat depletion, and animal suffering. Consider starting your conscious consumer journey with food.
Our acceptance and frequent use of single-use items, unrecyclable plastics, styrofoam, and wrapping creates massive amounts of waste, toxins, and marine-life death. It's so meaningful to be conscious of packaging with how present it is in our daily lives with food, deliveries, and other goods.
Few of us are without electronics today, and many of us require them for school, work, and communication needs. With that, electronics have made a large impact on resource depletion, e-waste, and demand for unfair and volatile mineral mining practices in their relatively short existence. Influence the future of electronics consumption.
We require clothes, but we don't need to consume it at the rate or to the extent our culture makes us demand. The fast fashion industry contributes to resource depletion, textile waste, demand for cheap and forced labor, and—depending on the material—animal suffering. Consuming clothing more consciously can be a rewarding, creative process.
Swap one product for another
When you learn that you are consuming a product that causes unnecessary harm, look to see if MOGO alternatives exist. For many products, you can switch to used and antique alternatives, which extend the life cycle of items already made rather than creating demand for new items. When you can’t find a used swap, compare the companies that are available to you. You can use the help of resources like the Better World Shopper public research project, which has a directory for searching a company's "rating" for human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection as well as for their community involvement and social justice efforts.
Stop buying a product entirely
Consuming fewer goods entirely and lowering quantity demand lowers raw materials, pollution, and waste. As you examine what you buy and why more consciously, you may find that the need you are seeking to fulfill with a product can be met through other means. For example, you may find that you’ve been consuming xyz because you desire xyz, which you can get from xyz. Unburdening ourselves of products can be freeing, as many people who have adopted more minimalistic lifestyles report.
What leverage points are available to you?
Consider the leverage points available to you in your life and your community. Sometimes, changing personal habits feels like a small solution to big problems, but these habits influence demand, inspire others and allow us to act in accordance with our values. There are also meaningful leverage points beyond our personal purchasing habits, like using your voice to question unconscious company and policy practices.
Share what you've learned
Influence more conscious policy
Urge companies to be more MOGO
If you stop consuming products from a particular company because you learn it is causing unnecessary harm, the absence of your dollar vote tells them that in a way. Take it further by using your VOICE to tell them, by writing them an email or a public review asking them to change the practice that is harmful to the planet, people, or animals.
Build your conscious consumer toolbox
Ingredients to avoid
A quick list of ingredients that often cause harm.
Greenwashing to watch for
How to tell if it's ethical or just advertising.
Labels to learn
A list of labels that signify responsible practices.
Disposal dos and don'ts
A nuanced look at waste, recycle, and composting.