The excitement of an endless array of deals around the holidays drives many of us, myself included, to go card-swiping crazy. The Kindle you were going to get your cousin for Christmas is 80% off on Amazon? Perfect time to buy it! The air fryer you were going to get your college-bound son for his birthday is 81% off? What a steal! The deals we see for holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are quite tantalizing indeed, so it’s important to keep yourself locked in and aware when you’re shopping on these days.
Let’s tap into a topic called conscious consumerism, which is defined by Pepperdine University (bschool. pepperdine.edu/blog/posts/conscious-consumerism) as “buying practices driven by a commitment to making purchasing decisions that have a positive social, economic, and environmental impact.” Pepperdine further explains the importance of conscious consumerism as a drive for helping achieve sustainability goals, especially considering that conscious consumerism tends to greatly cut back mass consumption.
Conscious consumerism also works to stop rewarding or enabling companies who implement unethical business practices, for which I’ll use Amazon as an example. Green America recently published a report about Amazon in which you can find some issues with their business practices: Their carbon footprint increased by 15% in 2019 (bad considering businesses should be focusing on reducing their carbon footprint); workers weren’t paid fairly during the pandemic; workers are barred from exercising their right to a union; injury rates at Amazon facilities are reportedly double that of industry average, with workers sustaining more than 24,000 serious injuries in 2020; and they don’t have a public chemical management policy for apparel, which means that there could be harmful chemicals in the clothing purchased from Amazon.
In saying all of this, my aim is not to demonize any particular company or tell you that you can’t shop somewhere; every company has their own flaws – some are just a wee bit more severe than others. I am attempting to open your eyes to conscious consumerism so you can make your own decisions. So, here are some tips that you can implement this sale season to be a conscious consumer.
EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT COMPANIES YOU WOULD LIKE TO BUY FROM
This is my biggest tip. If you’re browsing through a company’s website and taking a peek at their values and mission statement, you’re never going to find “We strongly value forced labor.” But, this does not guarantee that they are not implementing a practice such as forced labor. Let’s use Shein as a mini case study here.
For those who are unaware, Shein is an online fast-fashion clothing brand based overseas that has been exposed for their use of child labor in their factories. (When you Google “Shein child labor,” one of the first questions that pops up, verbatim: “Is Shein still using child labor?” Red flag!) They’ve also been under fire for their poor sustainability practices, which is common among fast-fashion brands. All of Shein’s poor business practices have been meticulously reported on social media and online news outlets. Before buying from a company, give them a quick Google search and see what’s going on. Once you’ve educated yourself on a company, you can make an informed choice on whether or not to purchase their products, thereby supporting that company’s possibly shady practices .
GRAVITATE TO ITEMS THAT ARE OF GOOD QUALITY TO AVOID OVERBUYING
This one might seem obvious, but it’s something that has definitely been a bit lost in the age of rapid consumption. Many of the items that have extreme sales on Cyber Monday or Black Friday are really cheap gadgets that will probably break in a couple of months, or a sweater that’s going to turn into one long piece of yarn after just three washes. To eliminate the need to repurchase items that you’re buying, gravitate toward something of higher quality. Sure, the no-name stand mixer is 70% off, but a KitchenAid stand mixer is on sale for 40% off. That KitchenAid mixer rarely will be that much cheaper again, and it will last you a hell of a lot longer. If you can afford to splurge a bit more on something that will last you longer, it will definitely make a big difference.
BUY PRODUCTS THAT YOU KNOW WILL GET SOME USE OR LOVE
To reduce the overall waste that comes about in the holiday season, try to buy products that you are pretty confident will not get pushed aside. For instance, if you’re absolutely captivated by a fancy milk frother that’s 50% off, evaluate whether you’re going to actually use that frother. Sure, it’s cute and would make for an elevated latte, but if you don’t see frothing fitting into your morning routine, it’ll end up in a landfill somewhere.
All in all, my goal here is to help you, dear consumer, learn how to shop consciously in a way that aligns with your own morals and values. Staying educated on different companies that you choose to shop from allows you to understand who you’re buying products from, and who you want to support. Keep in mind, there aren’t really any morality police that are going to come and handcuff you because you bought products from Amazon. (They haven’t come for me yet!) Shop as you wish, but don’t fail to educate yourself on who you’re buying from.