Creation and consumption are a necessary part of living. On a daily basis, we are required to buy and consume from brands in order to feed our families, clothe our bodies, or replace a well-used item in our homes. Now more than ever, as the threat of the global climate crisis draws near, both brands and consumers alike must consider ways to create and consume differently, being mindful of the ever-present impact that we as humans are having on the environment.
For Consumers: The Art of Mindful or Conscious Consumerism
Conscious consumerism is a practice in mindfulness, beginning with an awareness and understanding of the fact that behind every product is a life cycle of processes. All products come from somewhere, are made by someone, and are created through the use of certain materials. Conscious consumerism requires an individual to first ask themselves the question of whether or not consumption is necessary. Once that choice has been made, consumers can then turn to the brand, company, or corporation from which they might be buying from to ask questions such as:
- Where is my product made? What is my product made from? Where did those materials come from and under what conditions were they produced? Were the workers harvesting, producing, and creating this product working within ethical conditions and being paid equitably for their work?
- What are the values of the brand, company, or corporation that I am buying from? Are they transparent about all of the processes that encompass the creation of their products?
- What impact does the industry that I am buying from have on humans and the environment on a global scale?
There are more questions that could be asked of brands, companies, and corporations, but this is a good place to start. Beyond purchasing new items, a decision can also be made by conscious consumers to reuse or repair an item, shop second-hand, swap, exchange, or borrow an item from a friend, community member, or tool library. Consumers who want to be more conscious about their own personal consumption habits can also choose to extend the longevity of their items through repairing and maintaining their products. At the end of the life cycle of an item, materials can also be used in unique ways to avoid disposing of a product in the landfill by turning old t-shirts into rags or selling an old bike for parts to a repair company. Ultimately, conscious consumerism requires a process of checking in with yourself each time you may feel the urge to purchase something new.
Ask yourself: What kind of world do I want to live in? What kind of future do I want to see? What is my urge to consume really trying to tell me? Do I truly find lasting happiness in material things?
For Brands: A Warranted and Necessary Response
If conscious consumerism is on the rise, then brands must respond to meet the changing needs of our global population and economy. So, what does the future of conscious consumerism look like from a brand’s point-of-view? This future requires a value and behavioral shift in regard to the ways in which brands operate on a global scale. This involves re-thinking and transforming away from the ‘business-as-usual’ model towards a more circular, ethical, and holistic way of operating. Brands must consider the Corporate Social Responsibility that they have to the planet and to people everywhere, implementing practices throughout their supply cycle based in sustainability and Extended Producer Responsibility. All of the questions posed above to consumers can also be asked of brands, leading to a final transformative question that is, how can brands better shift their practices towards sustainability and care for all people and the planet?
Lessons for Brands and Consumers Alike
Conscious consumerism is not about brands and consumers working independently of one another to achieve this future. This shift in practice is about creating a life-long relationship between brands and consumers alike based in transparency, accountability, and ethics. Here are some helpful tips and words to live by for both brands and consumers alike in moving forward together towards a more mindful and conscious future.
- Practice the art of mindfulness.
- Lead with transparency and accountability for your actions.
- Establish strong ethics and values.
- Keep accessibility and affordability in mind for everyone, always.
- Discover alternatives to the ‘business-as-usual’ model.
- Get creative!
- Practice the art of storytelling.
- Remember the 4 R’s: Refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- People remember your actions, not your words.
- Keep sustainability, love, and gratitude for the earth and all people at the centre of everything you do.
With all of these ideas in mind, I hope that a seed of inspiration has taken root in the minds of both brands and consumers alike. The future of conscious consumerism requires both parties walking hand in hand together towards a future that is more sustainable and just for all.