Being a conscious buyer may sound like a big effort is required but it really isn’t that hard. There are some super simple ways you can make a massive impact on the way brands do business, from simple things like packaging all the way through to their supplier chain and environmental policies.
Let’s take a look at some easy ways in which you can be a conscious buyer in today’s consumer-oriented world.
Bring Your Own Bags
This is possibly the simplest change you can make in your buying habits. Invest in some quality reusable bags – they’ll last a lifetime and you can relax in the knowledge that you aren’t contributing to more plastic ending up in landfills or the ocean (where it can have a devastating impact on marine life). Also where possible, keep the plastic bags you use each week to pack your fresh groceries – re-using these each week makes a big difference to the environment. And when you can’t use them anymore, recycle them at your local supermarket – most major supermarkets in Australia have a plastic and packaging recycling bin.
Take some time to research the social, ethical and environmental policies for the brands you normally buy from. You may be shocked at just who owns what brands and what their policies are. Whether it’s using sweat shops in Asia to produce their clothing or other material products, or exploiting farmers in the third world (or even in Australia), it’s important to know how workers and suppliers are treated if you want to be a truly ethical and conscious buyer.
Also look at whether companies give back to any communities, organisations or causes. Investing some of their profits back into great causes, whether they are local community programs or major international charities, shows there is an element of caring and social responsibility. This isn’t the be all and end all though. Just because a fast food chain invests in kids sports programs doesn’t mean they’re completely socially conscious or ethical in other ways!
Another really simple way to be a conscious buyer is to minimise your purchases of heavily packaged products. Some products are often so over packaged it’s ridiculous. Once plastic is created, it can never decompose. Think of how many items you buy that are made of plastic – straws, cups, plates, plastic cutlery, bags of processed foods like sweets, chips, nuts, rice, oats, frozen vegetables, fresh herbs, coffee beans…the list is seemingly endless. By refusing to buy over packaged products, you’re sending a message as a consumer that this is unacceptable. Often you’ll be able to find a less packaged option so shop around and the environment will thank you. Of course, there are some things that will always be packaged, but you can make a conscious decision to opt for a less packaged product. Alternatively, take a look at some of the awesome retailers like The Source Bulk Foods – where you bring your own packaging and there is no waste at all!
Reading product labels allows you to get a greater sense of what sort of ethos the company has. When it comes to food, many conscious buyers have an unwritten rule: “If you can’t understand the ingredients, don’t buy the product”. When a product is chock full of ‘ingredients’ that sound like they belong in a laboratory instead of in your pantry, are you really sure you want to consume it? It’s more tricky with products like clothing and homewares – for these, you can research the supply chain for the brands you currently buy from and see where their raw material come from and how they are put together.
Following these simple tips for how to be a conscious buyer will not only have a positive impact on the environment but will also send a message to brands that you do not support their practices. This is the only way to effectively bring about change when it comes to how brands operate at all levels. Big brands like Cadburys and Nestle have been forced through consumer action to look at their cocoa supplier policies and treatment of their suppliers, so the action does have an effect.
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