Due to a shift in attitudes ‘conscious consumerism’ is a term which has become more and more popular in recent years.
Conscious consumerism ‘is driven by making purchase decisions that have a positive social, economic, environmental, and political impact’. It’s all about knowing where your products come from and making purchasing decisions that align with your personal values.
Brands have had to adapt to these shifting attitudes and ensure transparency of their supply chain. It is a new era of accountability whereby if brands are acting unethically, they will be exposed, and judgement is left to the public whether they continue to support the brand or not.
According to 2019 PayPal mCommerce Index 55% of Australians identify as conscious consumers and 50% of consumers made at least 5 value-based decisions in a 12-month period. The millennials have the largest involvement in conscious consumerism at 66% followed by 55% of 35-49 and then 46% of 50 and above.
The study also found that 1 in 6 people are more likely to buy products which have been labelled sustainable or Fairtrade. 1 in 5 Gen Z’s boycott brands that don’t measure up to their standards.
It reports 2 in 5 Australian businesses would like to stock more ethical products, however it is more expensive for businesses to stock and the response from businesses is they can only sell what the market wants. Thus, it is more and more important that consumers use their voice and their purchase power and be conscious consumers.
Why it is important to be a conscious consumer
Protect the environment. There is no Planet B!
Support local businesses
Promote health and high-quality products
Protect animal welfare
Protect working conditions
Create sustainable economies
Conscious consumerism can be applied to all purchasing decisions, however food is the most frequently purchased item and is a good place to start.
There is a lot of information out there which can make it hard to know how best to be a conscious consumer. Here’s a few tips:
Buy Organic or straight from the farm
Organic agriculture emits less CO2, fewer emissions and relies on a more natural and local production processes. It also benefits insect biodiversity and the pollination of wild plants. Local farmers markets are not only a great place to connect with the community but an opportunity to learn where your food comes from.
Buy Free Range
This applies to meat, poultry and eggs and ensures a more humane treatment of animals. Free range poultry accreditors include FREPA, RSPCA approved farming scheme and humane choice.
Buy seasonally and Locally
It is less expensive, the produce is of higher quality and it supports your local industries. Buying seasonally also means energy is saved on transport and refrigeration and other environmental costs associated with trying to recreate the ideal cultivation conditions of the produce which is out of season.
Buy less Meat
Meat farming has one of the most harmful impacts on our environment as a meat dish generates 9 times more CO2 than a vegetarian dish containing local products, according to studies by the University of Stockholm. The meat industry also uses an exorbitant amount of water, for every 1 kg of meat 15,500 litres is used, while 1 kg of vegetables requires only 100 litres.
Buy Certified Fish
Sustainable fishing ensures the maintenance of fish populations and not harming those which are endangered. Look out for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.
Be Palm oil aware
Palm oil is in a lot of food, cosmetics and cleaning products and is responsible for deforestation, habitat loss of already endangered species and the pollution of air, soil and water. Visit Palm Oil Investigation for a list of products which use palm oil.
Look out for the Fair Trade Certification, this ensures farmers and workers in developing countries have fair wages and safe working conditions.
Try to avoid unnecessary packaging such as fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic. Australians throw away 1.9 million tonnes of food packaging a year, enough to fill the MCG 9 times. Always bring green bags to avoid single use plastic and produce bags for loose fruit and vegetables like spinach.
Being more aware of where our food is made, who it is made by and how it comes to in our possession allows us to make more educated decisions. It allows us to curve our purchasing habits to reflect our personal values and ensures less harm to the environment, working conditions, and higher quality of products.
PS Sustainable Wraps are made locally in Melbourne Australia, use local Victorian beeswax, sustainably forested pine resin, organic coconut oil and when they can up-cycled fabric.
By Beth O’Neill- communications and sustainability enthusiast