This article has been translated and adapted from the Idealistas Blog.
As consumers, we can create habits that contribute positively to our environment, social impact initiatives, and daily living. Part of becoming a responsible consumer is building awareness of how our purchasing habits affect the world around us. One small conscious decision to change our consumer habits can be replicated and, over time, generate significant changes.
Here are some ways to become a responsible consumer:
Stop using plastic bags
The obvious one! And yet sometimes, we forget. Plastic bags produce harmful toxins, are cancer-causing, and kill about 100,000 animals annually. Always carry a reusable, recyclable bag with you, so you don't have to depend on plastic grocery bags. When you’re heading out, as you check to make sure you have essentials such as your cell phone and wallet, make sure you have your reusable bag on hand as well.
Buy the contents, not the packaging
When a product grabs your attention because of its attractive packaging, stop! Without realizing it, you may be falling into a marketing trap. Remember that the packaging is not the product you need. When choosing a product, look around and select the brand that generates the least waste, not the one that looks the best.
Do I need it, or do I want it?
Asking ourselves this question could easily reduce the purchase of unnecessary items. You can cut down on your purchasing through simple actions such as using reusable BPA-free water bottles or using a travel mug with homemade coffee. Look for ways to reduce spending on items you want, as opposed to those you need. Not only will it be beneficial to our environment, but it also allows you to save money!
Repair (and make friends)
Today’s consumer products are not always made to last. But often, things can be repaired. If you don't know how to fix something, join an initiative like a Repair Café, where you can meet with volunteers who have the skills to repair your item(s). Additionally, if you love fixing things and desire to meet others with the same interest, you can find a repair cafe near you.
Are you eating locally?
Choosing to eat locally grown produce and food is an environmentally friendly choice that supports your community. Some of the benefits include decreasing pollution from transporting imported goods, reducing delivery costs, and helping to stimulate your local economy. You can find locally grown produce and food in farmers' markets and retail food co-ops, as well as restaurants that use locally sourced food. Purchasing seasonal produce is another way to ensure that you’re supporting local sources.
As a consumer, you play a vital role in your environment's sustainability and economic reactivation by buying your items from local retailers. Local purchases keep employment opportunities in your area, help maintain a lower carbon footprint, involve minimal transportation, and provide a way to stand up to the growing big monopolies. You choose!
Consider ethical banking
Ethical banking offers an alternative to traditional banking. Ethical banks engage in investment and loaning practices that promote social impact and environmental sustainability. In addition to not supporting harmful industries, ethical banks invest in local initiatives to help strengthen communities and exhibit customer-friendly policies such as having no or few fees and minimum balance or deposit requirements.
What clothes do you wear?
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries globally, based on a constant rotation of garments, quality standards, and production. In response to this, a growing number of brands are choosing a more sustainable approach to the production of clothing through slow fashion, which advocates for buying better quality clothing that lasts longer, and emphasizes the fair treatment of animals and the environment. Consider purchasing from slow fashion brands and give second-hand clothes a try.
Let us continue to practice being more responsible consumers and inspire those close to us with our actions.
Check out other tips for making an impact in your community, like how to donate to food banks in our Ideas for Action blog.
As Program Manager of the Idealist Action Incubator, Carol offers guidance and support to our community of action-takers.