The purchases you make have an impact that goes far beyond your bank balance. Each choice you make as a consumer will affect the world around you. It’s hard to make conscious consumer choices and do your bit for the planet and its people. Fortunately, a few small changes can turn you into a better buyer throughout 2020.
Make clothes last for longer
More than 100 billion new pieces of clothing are made every year, at an enormous cost to the environment. You can improve this situation by wearing your clothes for longer. You don’t need a new outfit for every occasion, and can usually breathe new life into existing clothes with a little extra creativity.
If you need to add something new to your wardrobe, consider buying second-hand. Buying from eBay, or a local charity shop, means that you’re not adding to the demand for brand new clothes.
Purchase ethical jewellery
Many people don’t think twice about where their jewellery really comes from. But sources of diamonds are a big issue in the jewellery industry.
The impact of diamond mining has a huge impact on the countries where those diamonds are found. In addition, children are often used for dangerous diamond mining jobs. Communities are disrupted and, in some cases, see little to no money in exchange for the mining that has torn up their homes. Though they’re sitting on enormous wealth, the residents see almost none of it. In fact, diamond mines stand alongside some of the world’s most impoverished people.
Natural environments are filled with wide craters, including the Finsch Diamond Mine in South Africa that’s 1,750 feet wide and more than 1,000 feet deep. Many workers earn barely enough to survive, and they’re only paid on days when they find these precious stones. Water supplies have been contaminated. Conflict diamonds are another concern. The revenue from selling diamonds has funded civil war in Sierra Leone, for example.
Again, you can reduce your impact on the environment by buying second-hand diamond jewellery. Alternatively, you can look for jewellery that has been made from recycled diamonds. Find sellers that can guarantee the diamonds are ethically sourced, following the supply chain back to mines where people are paid fairly, children aren’t used for labor and local communities see the rewards.
Think about your diet
Increasingly, people are becoming conscious of the impact of their diets. Vegetarians and vegans are increasing in number, with a 2018 survey finding that 7% of UK people are now on plant-based diets.
You don’t have to go vegan, or even vegetarian, to be a conscious consumer. Small steps can make a big difference, whilst still allowing you to enjoy the meals that you’ve always had.
Meat-free Monday is a popular initiative, encouraging people to avoid eating meat for just one day each week. Other people are taking a different approach, evaluating each meal independently and deciding whether it would be just as easy to eat something without animal ingredients.
As vegans and vegetarians make up an ever-larger proportion of UK residents, it will become even easier to find plant-based alternatives in shops, restaurants, and even fast food outlets.
Avoid single-use plastics
Plastics are one of the biggest challenges of our time. Statistics show that 91% of plastics never get recycled. Plastics are not biodegradable, and microplastics are found in plants and animals.
You can be a conscious consumer in 2020, by thinking carefully about the products that you buy. Do your children really need more plastic toys that they’ll use just once or twice, or would they be better served by wooden toys, books, or tickets for memorable days out? Can you buy drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic, or buy a reusable bottle? Do you need a plastic wrapper around the fruit you buy, or could you carry it home another way?
We all have a part to play, if we want to improve the world as a conscious consumer in 2020. Being a conscious consumer requires an awareness of the issues that we face, and a little time to think before any purchasing decision.
About the author
Hubert Day is a freelance content producer and researcher from Plymouth. Apart from his projects, he also attends different conferences and events on business marketing, SMEs, sustainability, ethical standards, and safety. Hubert is a busy member of an organization of researchers that is focused on studying the growing unethical diamond practices in Africa and the world.