Conscious Consumerism: Using Intention & Product Energy to Guide Your Buying Decisions

Around the holidays, we are inundated with marketing campaigns, editorials galore, and social media blitzes telling us how and where to spend our money. Terms like “socially responsible,” “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” and “ethically sourced” are plastered everywhere. Shop here, don’t shop there, consider this, consider that. It’s enough to make your head spin. What if you tried a new approach? Let’s focus on how conscious purchases can make you and your space happier with the fun bonus that it makes your community and world a better place. Today we’ll cover:

  • What it means to be a conscious consumer
  • How it can make you and your space feel more aligned and joyful
  • Provide some tips to start shopping more consciously and intentionally
  • Integrating these tips into your daily habits

What is a ‘Conscious Consumer’?

Conscious consumers take the extra steps to think about the impact of their purchases on the environment, society, and communities they live in. They recognize how purchasing decisions can be affected on a global scale and then consider those impacts in the decision-making process. A conscious consumer will consider the following when purchasing products or services:

  • How a product is made
  • The materials from which it’s made
  • How a service is performed
  • Wages paid to workers
  • Working conditions
  • Business practices, greenhouse gases, and carbon footprint

Conscious consumerism is a part of the overarching idea of “conscious consumption,” the practice of being aware of the impacts of one’s buying decisions on the environment and society at large. This includes the conscious choice of what not to buy, as well.

A man and a woman in warm clothes, smiling as they peruse shelves of housewares and artisan goods in a store

The moment we pause to think about what we are buying and where we are buying from, we become conscious consumers.

We are a part of this movement. Even better, we don’t stop being conscious consumers simply because we make other purchases without following that intention. Conscious consumerism is not something to achieve, it’s a way of being. The more we do it, the more it’s a part of who we are.

What to Consider in Conscious Consumerism

There are a lot of terminologies thrown around in the arena of decisions-based consumerism and buying behavior. Note that for many of these terms, there isn’t a standard definition. And, even when there is, it’s possible that the term isn’t being applied effectively. Therefore, it’s always a good practice to ask retailers what they mean when using a term.

Sustainable & Eco-Friendly

“Sustainable” and “eco-friendly” (also called “environmentally friendly” or “ecologically friendly”) aren’t regulated terms. They relate to how producing a product impacts the environment and what the company is doing to mitigate the impacts. Sustainable usually focuses on whether the product can be continually produced without depleting certain resources. An example of sustainability is the use of bamboo, which is fast-growing, naturally renewable, and less draining on its environment than some comparable crops. Eco-friendly generally focuses on more general environmental impacts. Other considerations include how the product will be used and disposed of, like a paper product made of recycled material that can be recycled or composted for disposal. Companies can also make their production more eco-friendly by mitigating their impacts, like implementing carbon offsets. Companies can determine their carbon footprint and act to offset its impact by planting more trees or switching to electrical vehicles.

Ethically Sourced & Fair Trade

“Ethically-sourced” doesn’t have a regulated definition. It generally means that the way a product is created, like a crystal mined from the ground or coffee grown and harvested, employs ethical practices. Ethically-sourced can refer to:

  • Socially ethical—paying workers appropriately for their work and having safe working conditions
  • Environmentally ethical—minimizing negative environmental impacts and using sustainable practices
  • Wholesaling and transportation process— ensuring that they are sociologically responsible
  • Fair-trade—products certified as meeting standards of independent nonprofit organizations like Fair Trade USA on sustainability, working conditions and wages, and business practices

While ethically-sourced products can include these considerations, they may not. An assortment of crystals, some tumbled and some raw specimens,  centered with a larger piece of clear geode cluster

The term ethically sourced is very popular in the crystal retail world. This is a place to ask questions of the retailers about what the term means to them. Does the retailer have a relationship with the mine owner or stone carver? Has the seller visited the worksite? Why is ethical sourcing important to the seller?

— Bethany Ace

Socially Responsible

Socially responsible companies commit to more than their bottom lines or profits – they commit to improving and positively impacting the society around them. Everything from committing to diverse hiring practices, to charitable donations, to lobbying for improved social conditions are all a part of being socially responsible. Something to keep in mind: a company can be both socially responsible in what they do outside of their company and not be socially responsible in their internal business practices.

Shopping Local & Shopping Small Businesses

There is a huge initiative in supporting locally owned businesses, especially small businesses. Shopping locally saves on shipping costs and reduces environmental impacts. It ensures that those living in a locale are sustaining their economy by investing their earnings back into local purchases. It also builds community as you directly interact with someone in your town as you shop. Buying from small businesses, those with one or a few owners that have small operations is another great way to make a positive impact. These can be freelance artists selling their items on Etsy or a nursery with a few locations throughout the state. The smaller the business, the more impactful your purchase will be. Each purchase helps validate their work and vision. It puts money in their pocket to make ends meet and reinvest in their local community. There’s an extra benefit for shopping small or local as a conscious consumer. Purchasing from a small or local business usually means you can talk to someone in real-time to find out how and where an item was made. It makes learning about the supply chain so much easier! A blue and white sign reading "Local Shops" and pointing to the left on a street post before a row of three-story white townhouses

Second-Hand Purchases

Purchasing from vintage retailers or thrift stores reduces the need to manufacture another item and keeps that used item out of the landfill. It’s a great solution when you’re looking for a name-brand item or something that cannot be produced on the small scale of local or small businesses like a major appliance. This cuts down on plastic waste and the harsh environmental impacts of certain industries like fast fashion.

Other Considerations

The list of factors to consider in conscious consumerism is endless, like supporting:

  • BIPOC (Black and Indigenous Persons of Color) businesses
  • Womxn-owned businesses
  • LGBTQIA+ businesses
  • Vendors in the country of origin
  • Businesses in line with your personal beliefs

Know that adding any of the considerations is part of becoming a more conscious consumer. Two women working in their clothing small business - one drinking a coffee and reviewing paperwork while sitting at her laptop, the other carefully packing an order for shipment

Why Does Being a Conscious Consumer Matter?

Being a conscious consumer can change how we feel about ourselves and change the energy we feel from our purchases, all while benefiting our community and world.

It Affects Our Energetic Bodies

When we align our intentions, thoughts, words, and actions, we live as our authentic selves. Living in alignment, in turn, relieves areas of conflict in our lives. It is a noble goal to live in alignment to the best of our ability, and every effort we put into this alignment is effort well spent. The peace we gain from living in alignment, committing our entire being to something, is irreplaceable. Every step in living with more alignment and intention brings us more peace. When you’re making decisions that support you and bring you joy, you’ll create a new habit. You will do it more and more because you will begin to see the fruits of your labor. Think of consumer buying behaviors as a muscle. Every time we use this muscle, we grow a little stronger in our practice and our commitment to that way of life. When we don’t, the impact is a bit weaker but the muscle—our way of being—is still there. So, let’s learn how to flex it.

It Affects the Energy of Our Purchases & Therefore Our Space

We are all beings of matter and energy and so are the products we purchase—every article, to some degree, absorbs the energy around it. Objects specifically designed to carry this energy, like crystals, absorb and reflect more of that power. The energy that our purchases absorb from their production and the people who handle and sell them is something that can affect us deeply. For example, many believe that pulling crystals from the earth unethically stores negative energy into the gems and can damage their energetic functioning. An amethyst that you buy to help transmute negative energy into the positive may not work as effectively if it’s unethically mined. Now we do believe there are ways to cleanse some or all of this energy from the crystal, but avoiding the energetic trauma in the first place is ideal. We may not feel the strength from one small, single purchase, so consider what it can feel like on a larger scale. When we decorate our personal space, we are creating both the aesthetics and the energy of that space. Every item we bring into a room has energy within it, inherent in the material. Just like the vibration energy of crystals or earthy warmth of wood, infused through craftsmanship or manufacturing, and inherited from past ownership, this energy not only gives the space a certain look but creates a certain feel. Now, let’s say you want to create a room with a Moroccan vibe. Getting some mass-produced garlands or lamps at a big-box store fashioned in a Moroccan style may create the look of Morocco. But where is the energy of Morocco? Where is the attention to detail? The hand-crafted, perfect imperfections? The life it led in Morocco? The soul of the item? You may have replicated the look, but you could be miles away from the feel. What if, instead, you bought pieces that are ethically sourced from Morocco by a local small business, one where you can talk to the owner and hear the story of the artistry behind the piece? You will have some of the energy of Morocco residing in your space, infusing it with everything that made the Moroccan feel so appealing in the first place.

It Affects Our Society and World

If we care about the world we live in—the environment and the people and creatures in it—we have to do our part to make it a better place, moment by moment, tiny act by tiny act. Conscious consumerism is part of this act of loving-kindness to the world. We are co-creating the world we want to live in. It will also shape the marketplace, keeping your local businesses afloat and rewarding companies that take care of the world around them with your business. Our money speaks. Where—and how—we spend our money is a great way to express what is important to us. A woman wearing a white face mask, green sweatshirt, and backpack shopping in a freezer section of a store

Okay, I’m Sold, Now How Do I Buy Consciously?

Let’s put these intentions into action. Here are some tips and strategies on how to make this part of your daily life.

Ask “Do I need it?”

Overconsumption, even when it’s with conscious consumerism, creates unnecessary production and waste. Reducing consumption and leaning towards sustainable products is therefore an important part of being a conscious consumer. Buying only what we need also allows us to live more simply, with less clutter, and with more financial freedom.

  • Take a moment to ask what the purchase is doing for you
  • Be clear about what feeling or need it’s addressing
  • Can you repair what you’re trying to replace?
  • Can you barter or purchase secondhand?

There is no right or wrong answer. The act of pausing to think about the purchase creates room for intentional and conscious buying decisions.

Commit to Your Go-To Stores & Product Lines

It takes time and effort to figure out how products are made, how companies spend their earnings, and so on. No one has the time or resources to research every single purchase. And, there is a cost to be considered. It would be great if purchasing with conscious consumerism cost the same as purchasing from mass production, but it usually doesn’t. There will likely always be some additional cost (sometimes a lot) to purchase this way because mass producing items, shortcutting safety or environmental corners, and shortchanging artisans or workers is designed to be cheaper. Try focusing on getting the biggest bang for your buck, both in terms of time and cost, as well as the energetic impact of the purchase. Instead of trying to exhaustively research each purchase, focus on the places you expect to shop the most and items you buy frequently. This way, your efforts will have maximum impact and you will have some go-to shops and products. Similarly, when you’re looking at the energy of the pieces, consider putting in the extra effort and cost to purchase consciously for certain items and pieces that will tie the room together—anchor pieces. Pieces that are likely to warrant the extra effort are:

  • High-use furniture and dishware
  • Featured artwork
  • Large area rug
  • Sacred items like meditation tools

You’ll feel the positive energy of your consciously-purchased and eco-friendly products and be reminded of your dedication to shopping more intentionally every time you see them. From there, you can purchase with more leniency in your budget and research efforts. If you’re shopping within bigger businesses, there are resources to help you learn about the social and ecological impacts of businesses. There are Certified B Corporations, like Patagonia, that are evaluated on a host of their environmental and social impacts and practices, and must meet certain corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards to maintain B Corp status. A stylish woman in a white and black sunhat, sunglasses, and black and white striped top perusing racks of artisan clothing and bags in a large marketplace An organization that also evaluate labor practices, charitable donations, political contributions, and other activities of companies:

  • Done Good, which includes easy-to-read icons for its featured company like being eco-friendly or giving back

When you find a business that feels aligned with what’s important to you, you can make a purchase knowing that it’s serving your conscious consumerism.

Remember—There Is No Way to Be a “Perfect” Conscious Consumer

It’s all about trying your best and compromising. Will you find a second-hand carved quartz figurine that you can determine was made of ethically sourced quartz, mined with ecologically and socially sound practices, carved by artisans earning fair wages, shipped using carbon-conscious packing materials and shipping methods? Maybe. And, if you do, your next purchase should be a lottery ticket. Realistically, we have to pick our battles in our consumerism. It can be confusing and daunting for a consumer to balance these considerations for every purchase. Every purchase has its pros and cons; a consideration that a consumer may not be able to discern without hours of research. Conscious consumerism is a process—a way to be—and not an end goal or a suffocating restriction. Start with the big and important purchases and then challenge yourself to do a little more each time. When we commit to at least one or two of these practices in our everyday purchases we are making major impacts. Every little bit helps improve the marketplace and the world. And, when we aim to put in a little extra effort to purchase consciously for our most important purchases (like the piece that will energetically anchor the room), we will see that effort and intention manifest in the energy of that purchase. Energetically, we will reap the benefits of the joy infused in the item. Spiritually, we will be reminded of those efforts and our commitment every time we see our purchase, fueling our drive to continue on that path in future and earth-friendly purchases. Follow your heart and conscience on how you want to shop. Then enjoy the energetic benefits of living in alignment and having positive energy in your space.

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