Ethical consumerism is on the rise. Restaurants and food companies proudly emblazon the word “vegan” across their products and menus; wonderful independent cosmetics brands give industry leaders a run for their money with skincare and beauty to meet a range of needs without compromising on animal welfare. In short, we have options – lots of them. So if you thought going eco-friendly was going to limit your ability to buy stuff, you’ll find it’s quite the opposite situation.
My growing concerns over plastic and the sheer volume of it we produce which goes on to clog up our land and water led me to strive for a less wasteful lifestyle towards the end of last year. As galvanised as I feel about the movement, how I can play my part to reduce my waste and share tips to help others do so too, it’s given me a much higher standard to reach which – because I’m human – I haven’t always met. It’s been difficult in a way that veganism and cruelty-free living have not been – it’s caused me to quite drastically take control of my shopping impulses, which I have done to varying degrees of success over the months.
You know that guilty feeling you get when you buy something which doesn’t fit in with your ethical structure, or what you want that to be? Say you’re trying to avoid buying from brands whose parent companies test on animals, and you end up splurging on an overpriced Urban Decay mascara (I’m sorry but they are overpriced, don’t @ me). How about if you’re trying to stop buying clothes from fast fashion retailers, yet find yourself with a tenner burning a hole in your pocket in Primark? Once the initial thrill of the purchase subsides, it can feel pretty rotten knowing you’ve bought something which has contributed to injustices you’ve decided to no longer support, when you didn’t really need it in the first place.
This, my friends, is how it feels to fall victim to consumerism.
I try hard to lead an ethical lifestyle, so I don’t like to make myself feel bad for not always being the perfect consumer, but I do want to keep working to curb my desire to buy things. Join me – resist consumerism and the societal injustices it perpetuates, starting with these 5 tips:
1 | Assess what makes you happy
Try to define experiences – spending time in nature, going to the cinema, etc. – which fill you with joy, and focus your energies and finances on them.
2 | Research minimalism
I’m not sure if minimalism is truly for me, but for some it offers a fresh and life-changing perspective – an opportunity to embrace simple living and conscious consuming. If you’re sick of that overwhelming dissatisfaction you feel after shopping, it could be worth checking out. Aside from the Minimalism documentary on Netflix, YouTube is an absolute treasure trove of minimalist and zero waste videos – I’ve listed a few of my favourites here.
3 | Remind yourself of the ill effects of mass consumerism
I’ve spoken before about how overwhelming ethical living can be, so I’m certainly not saying you should aim for nothing less than perfection, but do be open to discovering new details and letting them inform your consumer habits, even in small ways. Watch a documentary on scandals in the textile industry, educate yourself on the environmental impact of palm oil or the treatment of activists in other parts of the world. Read an article about why people boycott goods produced in and companies operating out of Israel. You don’t have to cut things out straight away, but simply let the seeds of information take root, and think of them next time you’re on a spree.
4 | Support small and independent businesses instead
Got this far and still certain you won’t try to reign in your shopping habits? FIne – buy from one of the hundreds of ethical retailers and businesses out there instead! Look for smaller brands who use sustainable packaging, organic ingredients or produce in small batches. Give money to businesses who support charitable causes or offer a source of independent income to their founders.
5 | Go through your collections and pick out old gems
Makeup drawers spilling over? Start wearing that lipstick you once adored but only wore a handful of times. Too many clothes to know what to wear? Reorganise your wardrobe and put together outfits made of pieces you haven’t worn for a while but still love. TBR list getting out of control? Stop adding to it – go through the books you bought for their pretty covers and read them instead. Rediscovering the gems in your collections will give you a kick just as joyous as the one you’d get in the shops, I guarantee it.
We shouldn’t hold ourselves to impossible standards, or sacrifice everything we enjoy for the sake of pursuing a more ethical lifestyle. But when it comes to contributing less to mass consumerism, I feel like it could benefit us all in big and small ways. If you have any tips of your own, please leave them for me in the comments!