The Benefits of Conscious Consumption
As women, we are often faced with making many of the decisions that contribute to the smooth functioning of our households, whether we work outside the home or not. The reasons behind this and the implications of it are many, and constitute the basis of another article beyond the scope of this one. To be sure, many men contribute significantly to household decisions, as well. But by and large, many (though, of course, not all) women seem to experience a unique relationship with their home lives, even women who love and excel at their careers. At least, that has been my experience. Of course, this connection could be merely the result of cultural influences and social mores, but it seems to exist for many women, nonetheless.
Therefore, it is beneficial for women to appreciate the ways in which their household’s consumption habits influence their community and their environment. This is certainly an area of my life in which I’d like to make significant progress. This weekend, I will be attending my second food swap in Oakland, California. Local residents grow food or prepare dishes at home, then bring the food to the swaps, where they essentially barter for produce and prepared dishes brought by others. This is an excellent idea, as it allows participants to enjoy high-quality foods that they are not likely to grow or prepare themselves, while also saving money. In addition, it circumvents the corporate food system. Rather than benefiting the corporations that own the chain grocery stores, food swaps benefit local communities. They represent a kind of consumption that creates value for those who participate, whereas most forms of consumption simply create waste.
In addition, joining community-sponsored agriculture groups and patronizing farmers’ markets are excellent ways to purchase healthy food while avoiding the corporate food system, as well. Simply choosing to prepare healthy meals from whole foods, rather than relying upon convenience foods and fast food restaurants, reduces waste and combats corporate food production.
Similarly, peer-to-peer transactions create less waste and benefit local economies. Purchasing items on Craigslist and at thrift stores cuts spending and serves to recycle consumer goods. Utilizing Craigslist prevents those items from being thrown out and winding up in landfills. It is also environmentally responsible, because producing new consumer goods uses more resources. It is a socially conscious decision, as well, because the money being spent benefits local residents, rather than distant corporations. Of course, one must be cautious when interacting with others via Craigslist, and always plan to meet potential buyers or sellers in safe, public places.
Repairing and repurposing items is also important. I purchased my computer bag new three years ago. Last week, it finally began ripping at one of the seams. In the past, I most likely would have thrown it out and replaced it without a second thought. But instead, I sewed the seam back together. I am not a particularly skilled seamstress, so it looks a bit sloppy. And sewing the tear back together was more labor-intensive than going online and buying a new bag. But I created less waste and saved money. Small decisions like this add up over time.
Reducing consumption benefits us in several ways. In addition to helping us save money and benefiting our local communities, it allows us to enjoy a greater sense of self-sufficiency. Knowing that we do not always need to rely upon large corporations to satisfy our wants and needs is certainly empowering. Striving to become conscious consumers also provides an opportunity for us to live according to our beliefs and, in turn, to contribute to the creation of a new zeitgeist that is more compassionate and responsible than the one the mainstream currently promotes.