Don’t let what you own, own you.
It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “conscious consumerism” is some sort of new phenomenon, brought into the public eye in recent years by organizations blending business and purpose. That would be the first lie. The second lie in this notion of living a more conscious life with your possessions is that it starts with what you purchase today. The consumer culture we’ve been brought up in has trained us to buy our way into the lifestyle we want, even if that is a purposeful one.
At the root of it all everyone knows that this line of thinking is false. As a result, I wanted to share with you all a few simple ways (as well as some resources) to help you think about how you can be more mindful with what you own.
1) The most conscious / ethical / environmentally-friendly thing you can do today is to cherish the possessions you already own and love.
As tempting as it is to toss everything to the curb and start from scratch with a thoughtful curation of clothes, accessories and home goods, what you would be doing in that process is creating more waste. Cherishing items that we love and doing what we can to repair and maintain their longevity is vitally important, and honestly counter-cultural in a society that says “just get a new one”.
Have you heard of “repair cafes”? The New York Times recently wrote an article sharing about the rise in pop-up gatherings where people are bringing their broken or worn possessions to be fixed and repaired by hobbyists and peers. It’s such a beautiful community expression and as the article states “there is a lot of gratification on both sides of the table”, for those who are helping repair and those who are leaving with a fixed item.
2) If you must buy something, try to purchase it second hand.
I recently posted this photo on Instagram and I was impressed by the dialogue and appetite for the conversation. I have been a thrift shopper for years, and aside from the environmental benefits of purchasing what has already been made and used, as well as the economic value, I love the fact that you can find unique pieces.
I will say, however, that it’s all the more important to ask yourself whether it is an item (even from a thrift store) that you truly need. I’m the first to admit I have made thrift store purchases that are never worn or used, that get returned to Goodwill. I’m glad to have supported a local thrift store in the process, but it served as wasted energy on my end.
If you are needing to remove clutter from your home our closet, Amazon and Goodwill have teamed up to make it as easy as possible to donate your gently worn/used items to Goodwill. You don’t even have to leave your home with the Give Back Box.
**Side Note: Did you know the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis from 2012 has been viewed over a BILLION times?
3) If you do purchase new items, do your best to make sure they are ethically produced.
We live in exciting times. Thanks to the internet and a growing number of businesses working to blend better ethics and positive impact into their business models, many of the items we need for our wardrobe or homes can be purchased in good conscious. It’s not as fast as purchasing “with 1-Click” on Amazon, however, there is an abundance of resources that can get you caught up to speed. One of my personal favorites is The Good Trade.
One last note on ethical purchasing… be aware of brands touting “social good”, as there has also been a lot of people who have jumped on the band wagon to capitalize on the rise in cause marketing (which is a phrase I detest). My simple litmus test to gauge whether I would consider purchasing from a brand is this: do they lead with their impact or is does their “social good” begin after a purchase is made? Or said another way, are they prioritizing their impact regardless of whether a sale takes place? Clothing brands that are sourcing environmentally materials, or employing underserved communities in the process are a positive example of what it means to lead with impact.
To lead a more conscious life, is to be aware of the impact your personal footprint has on this earth and you do what you can to minimize that. And in my opinion, this isn’t a responsibility that we all share, it’s actually a lot more fun. You will cherish the items that you own, you will seek out unique pieces when you purchase something new, and you will support great causes in the process.