You Are What You Buy: Conscious Consumerism

They say you are what you eat, and you normally buy what you eat, right? So that means that you are what you buy! 

Before the 1700’s the world was economically stagnant. The majority of people lived in what we consider poverty today with just enough income for food and housing. However, during the 17th century, Western Europe experienced an economic boom and as a result, people started to have larger expendable incomes. This increased spending across Western Europe and further bolstered the economy. Thus, consumerism was born.

 Consumerism is the theory that a country that uses goods and services in large quantities will be better off economically. Then came the industrial revolution, where mass production began and intense labor. Demand for goods and services only increased multiplying the workforce.

As such, a new way forward was needed. Popularized in 1989, the term conscious consumerism is a relatively new term. According to Frederick E. Webster Jr., a conscious consumer is a consumer who considers the public consequences of his or her private consumption, or who attempts to use his or her purchasing power to bring about social change. 

The laws of consumerism are dependent on the flow of money; where the money goes the industry goes. To become a conscious consumer is to take a critical look at one’s consumer footprint and to improve it where possible. 

For example, shopping at the farmers market is conscious consumerism on a small scale and yet, is still highly impactful. Farmers markets generally have fresher and healthier foods. Moreover, purchasing goods from a farmers market injects money into the local farming community. Ultimately, buying goods at the farmers market changes the value and quantity of naturally grown foods all the while using consumerism to create a positive impact in the shopper’s neighborhood. 

Eco-friendly and fair-trade clothes tend to be pricier, buying organic meat won’t leave slaughterhouses penniless, and companies will still pollute water. But consumers can influence and change the way that companies run their businesses in the long run. Though mindful consumers are still a minority, the demand for ethically sourced products is rising. This demand has created a budding social enterprise (SE) industry which aims to ensure better lives for the coming generations by allowing consumers to express their values through their purchasing power. Conscious consumerism is about understanding your power as a consumer and exercising that power for good.


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