The Unrealistic Luxury of Conscious Consumerism

05.08.15 / Retail Voodoo Alumni

The idea of conscious consumerism is inherently elitist. It’s a first world club for city dwellers who make enough money to be worried about where their $300 tee-shirt is sourced from.

Yes, sometimes worrying is a luxury.

For a much larger portion of the world, worrying is devoted to making sure there is enough food on the table, enough money for rent, heat and clean water. They are not actively supportive of the terrible labor conditions or havoc wreaked upon the environment in order to manufacture a cheap pair of sneakers. But sending their child to school without shoes doesn’t feel like an option either.

In a world where “consciousness” is commoditized and “sustainability” is a buzzword, how can we make sure the world doesn’t disintegrate before our great-grandkids take their first steps?

The answer lies in businesses themselves. Instead of an elitist club of “conscious consumers” we need an overall enlightenment of the world, particularly in the companies that keep it turning. The truth is no one wants to be responsible for killing the planet, but similarly it shouldn’t be so absurdly difficult to avoid it.

If that thrift store dress you need to scour the racks for is the same price as the mass-produced romper from Forever 21, can we really blame anyone for choosing the latter?

Many consumers have woken up. They want the things they buy to be less traumatic to produce, but they need help.

Efforts such as Everlane and Toms Shoes prove it can be done successfully. Data from the National Resource Defense Council detailing the cost of cutting water, energy and chemical use, demonstrate it can even save companies’ money.

Obviously businesses can’t adopt new practices overnight. So if you are one of the lucky members of the enlightened who know too much to justify spending money on cheap mass production, it is also your duty to spread the word.

Refrain from judgments and share the wealth of knowledge.

Encourage people to buy local, shop at farmers markets or Community Supported Agriculture, and make a sport of finding those hidden gems at the thrift shop. Help them realize that while the dress at the independent boutique might cost more upfront, it will last for ages, compared to a few washes. In the end it’s better for them and the planet.

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