A Beginner’s Guide To Green Consumerism
Last week we talked about our consumer habits and what it is that drives us to make the decisions we do. This week I wanted to give you a list of actionable ways you can start to become a green consumer, or you could also call it a conscious consumer.
Someone who makes decisions based on informed, deliberate actions with the intention to create a more sustainable world (versus mindlessly consuming, uninformed, without regard to the consequences). A green consumer asks:
- Is this safe and healthy for my family and me?
- Is it harming the planet in any way?
- And what is the impact on society?
As with anything, we aren’t striving for perfection. Having the intention to do better behind you means you’re on the right track, and you can implement what works for you based on your values as you move forward.
What Drives You
So hopefully you’ve already started on step one – to realize what drives you so you can start to stop some of your negative habits in their tracks. (If you haven’t check out the last episode – Consumer Behavior: What Drives Your Decisions?) Say, for instance, unfollowing people online who constantly share items that have negative consequences on people and the planet – like fast fashion, so you don’t feel the need to buy from them. Understanding ourselves and what we value will help lead us into a life where we feel confident about our consumer decisions.
Do Your Research
I challenged you to start paying attention to the big decisions you make and what situation led to them. I’m sure that may have led to some reflection on the products you buy. Trust me, even if you’ve been a long-time listener, I understand how hard it is to make the best decisions for yourself and the planet regularly. Maybe choose a few products or services you use and take some time to look at the About Us section of their website and ask yourself those questions I mentioned earlier – is this safe for my family and me? Are they harming the planet in any way, and what is their potential impact on society?
If you need help trying to figure this out, I love going to sites like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Good On You, or the Think Dirty App to learn about the health & environmental impacts of products. Here’s a hint – if they don’t mention how they’re making a difference, you might want to reconsider.
Read the Labels
Something that goes hand in hand with this is to look at what’s on a product’s label. You might not have the time to research everything every time. Still, you can familiarize yourself with harmful chemicals you want to avoid, know your plastic numbers and what you can and can’t recycle, and keep up with where the product is made so you can make better decisions. The label is there for a reason – to inform the consumer of what went into it – so take the time to read it and choose accordingly.
Look for certifications
Something that may be included on the website or the label is a certification that says it is certified by a trusted organization to be good for you and the planet. Say, for instance, energy star certification, which will tell you how energy-efficient something is. USDA Organic Certified for food. GOTS or Global Organic Textile Standard means the textiles have been responsibly grown, manufactured, and labeled, prioritizing the environment and people first. Or even Fair Trade Certified for food and clothing. There are tons of certifications out there – if you see one you don’t know, look it up!
Consider the company, and it’s alternatives.
Beyond looking at the about page of a website – you can take a second to consider the company, and it’s alternatives. Have you heard about this company in the news for something good or bad? If you do a quick google search of that company, does another alternative that might be better come up?
One big example I can give here is Amazon. Amazon has consistently been highlighted for not treating its workers right, negatively impacting the environment, taking advantage of small business owners, and more. There are so many Amazon Alternatives out there that would be a better choice.
- Package Free Shop (for personal care and home items)
- Thrive Market (think a sustainable version of Costco)
- Made Trade (for home products)
- Libro.fm (for audiobooks)
- Bookshop.org (for physical books)
- Etsy (for pretty much anything else you need)
The good thing about these companies is that not only do they show up with products for the green consumer, but they usually give back in some way or another – to help people locally, to a non-profit organization, to the environment directly, or to use their profit for a positive change.
I think this is a hard one to implement because Amazon has become king for getting everything cheap and fast, but ask yourself how they can make it so cheap and fast, and what impact does that have?
One of my favorite hacks to transition into choosing alternatives is to search and find the product you want on Amazon, then look at who the actual seller is (if it’s not Amazon), and go to their website and buy from them directly.
Reconsider your utilities and services
Another way to think about this is who you’re paying for your utilities and services. We’re talking internet, electric, gas, lawn services, and more. Do you know anything about the companies you’re giving your money to or if there are other options out there? Sometimes there really isn’t another choice, but I promise most of the time, there is. Say, for instance, if you don’t have another utility provider, maybe you see if there are options from the state or tax refunds to get solar installed to reduce your impact and invest your money as a green consumer instead.
Buy locally and consciously.
If you remember from episode 62, Rethinking #shopsmallbusiness, I encourage people to think about not just buying from a small business because it’s there. But choosing local, small business options prioritizing people and the planet in some way or another. For instance, buying fresh organic turmeric products from the farmer’s market or choosing to browse a thrift store over heading straight to a business you know churns out new clothes weekly.
Invest your money consciously.
And finally, invest consciously. Many people don’t see where they choose to keep their money is a consumer habit – but it is. One that can significantly impact the planet – for better or worse. Your money is an investment into that business holding it, so you need to ask yourself what they are doing with the profit they’re making from you. But we’ll talk about that more in next week’s episode on Green Banking!
Something to grow on
For this week’s something to grow on, I’m going to challenge you again. Start by giving yourself at least 15 seconds to think before hitting buy now, swiping your card, or signing something.
- Why do I want to buy this?
- Do I really need it?
- Can I rent or borrow it?
- Is there a used or pre-loved option out there?
- Is there a more sustainable alternative available to me?
Taking the time to slow down and be mindful will 100% put you on the path to becoming a green consumer.
Slow down, ask yourselves some of the questions above, and see if you still want to move forward.
Choosing to be a green consumer can sometimes be a privilege, but it’s one that if we can do, we should do it and share it with others.
I’ll end with a quote by author James Clear, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single tiny decision.”
So start planting that seed and see where it grows.
Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.
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