You might well be thinking, “what does it mean to be a conscious consumer?” Well, to me it means looking at the bigger picture behind what you buy. For example, rather than seeing a leather jacket as a cute addition to your outfit, it’s about considering what animal that fabric has come from. Or not just thinking, “oh what a lovely cheap price tag” but considering why it is able to be that price, and at what cost? A conscious consumer will be more aware of where products come from and think before they buy something.
Before I came to university I hadn’t really considered these things. I would just buy stuff and not think about where they came from because it never crossed my mind that a product had a story behind it. What is it about university that can open your eyes to these things? Is it the new people in your lives? The higher education? Or the self-sufficiency? For me it was definitely a combination of all three.
It started with living with people who had values that were new to me. Nobody in my life had been vegan before I came to university. But at university, suddenly the idea of not consuming animal products was normalised. Combine this with a better awareness of animal exploitation, the environment and sustainability, and suddenly you’re thinking more about what you can do to help. The final tipping point I believe is living independently and making all your own buying decisions. When you live at home, meals are often made for you and you eat them without questioning where things have come from.
But when you’re given free rein over what to make for dinner, you are suddenly forced to make a conscious decision about what products to buy, cook and eat. Slowly I found myself thinking more and more about what I was eating and where it came from. This thought process then spread to not only what I ate, but what I wore, and the products I used as well.
If you are like me and interested in conscious consumption, here are some changes you can make in your life. Remember you don’t have to do all these things; it is truly the case that every little thing can make a difference.
- Becoming a Vegetarian. This is a great thing to do and is super easy, trust me! I stopped eating meat two years ago and have never looked back. You could even consider going vegan, but I would recommend a gradual transition, so becoming a vegetarian might be a good first step.
2. Going cruelty-free in fashion and beauty. This means only wearing clothes and using products that involve no cruelty to animals.
3. Buying second-hand. Why buy new clothes when there is so much great stuff already out there that you can get second-hand? Or you could rework that old garment you already own into something new.
4. Using sustainable alternatives. Ditching reusable coffee cups and plastic bottles, buying bags and straws that last for life, and investing in bamboo (reusable) face pads – the possibilities are endless.