How conscious were you of your purchase decisions today? That was how we kicked off our most recent UnSectored Talk co-hosted by Blendedprofit – Choose with Your Wallet: Making Conscious Consumption a Priority. If you find your answer somewhere between destroyer of worlds and consumption sage, you’re not alone. Everyone in the discussion reflected on how conscious they were about some things and others not so much. Regret and embarrassment hung in the room as we recounted tales of non-recyclable packaging and sourcing ignorance. On a 5 point scale no one was willing to give themselves over a 3.
From there, the discussion turned to why people do or do not make conscious consumption decisions. The group quickly produced personal anecdotes of how we wished we could make more conscious choices, but many times the best options were in stores too far away or just too expensive. We also pointed to the lack of easily accessible product information as a deterrent to making more conscious decisions. One person pointed out that a lot of people he knows don’t care at all about the impact of their purchases because they feel like conscious consumption is an all-or-nothing activity. You either have to commit 100% or it doesn’t matter.
This insight completely reframes the question. Here we are, pondering how a few fairly conscious consumers can become a little better at it, instead of asking the big question: How do we get the 70% of our society who do not consider themselves ethical consumers to buy-in at all? Sure, awareness and access are big components. But the statement above gets at something deeper. What about conscious consumption is such a turn off?
It could be its inherent complexity and the endless questions you need to ask: Was it made with conflict minerals? How were the workers who made it treated? How has it affected the local community? Was the supply chain and distribution sustainable? Is it being sold from a store that treats its employees unfairly?
Or it could be that the decisions you do make never seem to be good enough. It’s free range, but not grass fed. It’s organic, but not local. It’s recyclable, but not reusable.
The reality is, these concerns are less about conscious consumption as a movement, and more about how we think about the choices we have to make. Striving conscious consumers, myself included, have developed a culture of insecurity and judgment. Is it any surprise that 70% of society sees this and just writes us off as OCD, self-righteous nuts?
So what is conscious consumption about, really? Well, I think it’s about just making informed purchase decisions. Nothing to do with figures, labels, or certifications. Conscious consumption is about doing the best we can by our global community, our environment, and each other through what we buy. It’s not a zero sum game either. It is something we think about every single day, and continue to work on. We have good days and we have bad days, but we always respect and applaud each others’ effort. Doesn’t that sound like something everyone might be interested in?
We have a decision to make. We can either continue to pursue the nirvana of conscious consumption, which as far as I’m concerned sounds an awful lot like subsistence farming, or we can build a more inclusive environment for engaging in conscious consumption. Discussions that provide an environment free from judgment, like UnSectored Talks, are a good place to start, but where do we go from there?
For those interested in taking this issue further, whether or not you were at the last UnSectored Talk, leave a comment here with your ideas. We at UnSectored would love to support you in any way we can.
photo credit: http://www.thetranquilparent.com