7 Steps to Becoming a Conscious Consumer Starting Today

 Written by Simone Santos

Written by Simone Santos

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I still remember the time when we needed to get an empty glass bottle to buy soda and other drinks. In this way, the bottle was returned to the manufacturer to be refilled and reused.

Then, the era of recyclables arose. Now, instead of reusing, we throw it all away. Things that cost dearly to be extracted, manufactured, distributed, and transported get into our hands and are thrown away within minutes after use.

Canada produced over 24,000,000[1] tonnes of waste in 2016, and only about 24%[2] of it all is being recycled. The demand is simply too much and there are not enough recyclers. That is Right! When you toss something in the recycle bin, it does not mean it will be recycled for sure.

Also, 32% of plastic packaging leaks into ecosystems and, if nothing changes, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.[3] Can you imagine that?      

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This consumerism is affecting us all. Climate change is drastically changing our surroundings and quality of life. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are rising and it is over 50% higher than it was in 1990.[4] That can cause if we do not take action now, irreversible consequences to our system. Which we have been experiencing lastly, such as increased incidence of disasters, extreme temperature conditions, rising of diseases and negative consequences on our health, extinction of a number of animal species, among other consequences.

What if I tell you that it is in our hands to change it? All of us, as consumers, can choose to change this reality. Everyday by changing little habits and becoming a conscious consumer, we can contribute to a huge change. Join this movement! Below are some ideas that you can start doing it today.

1.   Fashion

Research the origin of the products before buying. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter of fresh water, it is responsible for 10% of global GHG emissions, and it has a high incidence of child labour and human slavery. [5] Find out more about ethical brands and retailers, shop for organic fabrics (without harmful chemicals and with a lower impact on the environment), certified fair-trade products, local manufactures, and second-hand products. 

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2.   Buy local products

You will not only promote the local economy and support small businesses. You will reduce GHG emissions associated with the transportation of goods and packaging, and will enhance the sense of community. Shop for local farmers and small business in your region, also organic products are toxin-free and better for our health.

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3.   Cosmetics & Household products

Purchasing sustainable and toxic-free products is good for the environment and also for our health. These products regularly contain harmful ingredients that can cause allergies, health diseases and even cancer, as well as contributing to water bodies pollution, once it leaves our homes.5

Look for certified cruelty-free products (not tested on animals), which are confined in cages and terrible conditions and suffer to death by intense testing.[6]

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4.   Once a week, go vegan or vegetarian

Food production to feed animals, livestock and byproducts, and land use (deforestation for livestock) is responsible for about 24% of GHG emissions (more than transportation).[7]

It also takes a large amount of water to grow crops and animals, it can take over 2,500 liters of water to produce 3 liters of milk and 9,000 liters of water to produce less than 1Kg of meat.[8] Not to mention the emissions caused by land use, water quality, and irresponsible fish harvesting.

Reducing meat consumption, especially red meat, will reduce your carbon footprint and will contribute to reducing animal cruelty. Shop for certified vegan products and look for vegetables containing high-protein content, like beans, chickpeas, soy, tofu, quinoa, oats.

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5.   Reduce your waste

As mentioned before, it is a major challenge in recycling the enormous amount of waste we produce. So, the best way is trying not to produce it, by reducing as much as possible. Take your reusable mug with you instead of using plastic or paper cups for coffee and water, most cafeteria accepts to use yours if you bring your own mug. Prefer tap water than bottled water, Canada has one of the cleanest tap water in the world, studies have shown that most of the bottled water contains particles of plastic. [9] Bring reusable shopping bags with you always, you can save over 170 plastic bags from trash for one year, and you can also buy compostable bags for your home waste. And finally, use reusable cutlery and lunch box whenever you can.

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6.   Buy for quality

Start by rethinking if you really need each product or if you just want it. Impulsive buying makes us having lots of stuff that we barely use. So, if you really need that item, then opt for buying quality products that will last longer, will not break easily, and will reduce your waste production.[10]

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7.   Choose businesses that are committed to sustainability

Question your service providers and businesses you work with about their sustainability strategies and choose the ones that are taking action. Businesses can take action on climate change, reduce its environmental impact on its operations, offer sustainable products and services to their customers, engage and develop the local community.

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So, before buying that case of water or pop, think about all the waste you will be generating and how you can substitute for something eco-friendly. When buying make-up, perfume, deodorant, cleaning products, look for certified toxic-free and cruelty-free alternatives. For clothes and fashion articles, consider fair-trade options. Reviewing our habits can make a huge change to our planet and a big step towards a low carbon economy. Keep on checking on Sustainable Kingston’s website and social media to learn more about becoming a conscious consumer.

References

Images:

https://www.statista.com/chart/4470/the-countries-winning-the-recycling-race

https://sustyvibes.com/companies-working-reduce-waste

https://www.surfrider.eu/en/le-blog/reducing-waste-can-we-reach-a-zero-waste-goal

https://indianmoney.com/education/thrifty-habits-of-rich--4-always-place-quality-over-cost


[1] Statistics Canada

[2] https://www.statista.com/chart/4470/the-countries-winning-the-recycling-race

[3] newplasticseconomy.org

[4] http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-13-climate-action.html

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/leiladebruyne/2016/12/01/easy-ways-to-shop-smart-and-be-conscious-consumer-this-holiday-season/#54c0d6373d9e

[6] https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/cruelty-free-101/why-switch-to-cruelty-free

[7] http://www.fao.org/resources/infographics/infographics-details/en/c/451342/

[8] https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-environment

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43388870

[10] https://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/05/10-steps-to-becoming-an-ethical-conscious-consumer