In May I joined my local Buy Nothing group, and I have been on the receiving end of all sorts of generosity because of it.
But in June, settling in to having a new apartment, my own space, and being back in the consumption fueled United States, the prickling of needs have started to arise: I need new running shoes; I need a new iPhone; I need a car. And, to be fair, I spent my entire year in Korea buying very few consumables—my running shoes are shot, and there are some things I would really value having.
Balancing the true needs vs. wants vs. maybe I don’t need this but it would be really nice to haves has been an adjustment coming home. I have tried to keep in mind what I have learned about being a conscious consumer when making these purchases: buying secondhand (shoutout to my orange Craigslist couch!); eliminating impulse buys and researching decisions instead of click-buying from the targeted ads on Instagram, regardless of how on point the algorithm is.
And I’m not perfect, nor am I always consistent. But I am aware, and I am trying, and that was my focus in June (and beyond, for as long as I am consuming).
As my most basic guiding practice, I try and avoid the convenience of Amazon whenever possible. Amazon has won us over with its ease and efficiency, but there are very few things that I cannot wait a few extra days to receive from a more responsible company. Instead, I strive purchase from places who run a business in a way I find commendable, with sustainability built into their core model. This includes how they treat their employees, where they source from, and how their products can be consumed and discarded at the end of their life. Learning these things involves some time, investigation, and giving a shit.
A few companies I have been really happy with include:
Grove Collaborative. Grove is a great source for things that you do, as a functioning adult living through a pandemic, actually, sort of, need. You know, like dish soap and toilet paper and all-purpose cleaner. Grove is a Certified B Corporation that makes it fun and easy to stock up on healthy and natural home essentials. Trust me, it’s more exciting than it sounds. It is also a great place to start if you are wanting to transition to swapping out single-use items with reusables. We’ve had our reusable sandwich bags from Grove for over a year (they took the trip to Korea with us!) and I’m stoked for the Bees Wrap I got in my last order as an alternative to plastic wrap. Get a free Mrs. Meyer’s gift set with your first order when you use my referral code here.
Beautycounter. I’m starting the gradual transition to cleaner beauty products as my old products run out. Buying consciously does NOT mean throwing out all of your perfectly usable, non-eco-friendly products in order to buy new ones; instead, it means making a better choice the next time you are in need of that product. Beautycounter is a Certified B Corporation that focuses on clean skin and beauty products. In an attempt to use less makeup, I have been investing in my skin, and I am very happy with the results. Get 20% off your first order when you sign up here.
Imperfect Foods. I have said it before and I will say it again: I love Imperfect Foods. It makes grocery shopping more fun and exciting, and it gives an otherwise routine chore more intention by combatting food waste in the process. In non-COVID times, Imperfect has also responded to calls from customers by collecting and reusing their boxes. Get $10 off your first box with my referral code here.
Thrift Books. Books are my weakness; I can say no to clothes and clutter, but a shelf full of books brings me joy. That being said, I would go broke if I bought every book I wanted to. I am all for the library, and accessing their e-book catalogue on my Kindle has changed my life. However, there are some books I love so much that I want my own copy to gaze upon the shelf and lend to my friends. Enter: Thrift Books, a giant online used book store. While I think buying used and local (support small businesses!) should be everyone’s first option, Thrift Books is an alternative for those who find themselves ordering new books off of Amazon; shipping is free and the collection is large. Get 15% off your first order when you use my referral code here.
Side note: I was recently recommended Better World Books as an even more impactful book-buying alternative. They are a sustainability minded, Certified B Corporation focused on expanding literacy; for every book you buy through Better World Books, they donate a book to someone in need. I’m learning as I go! I plan to try them out next time I have books to order.
Ultimately we all have to buy stuff sometimes. What, how much, and from whom you buy is up to you. I am making an effort to be a more conscious consumer: to research companies, their practices, and their missions and vote with my dollar accordingly. I am trying to get comfortable with the idea of spending more money on fewer, more quality and sustainable items from companies I value. There is always more to learn!
Some resources for conscious consumerism:
- Explore How to Be a more Conscious Consumer, Even If You’re on a Budget with this New York Times article;
- Lookup Certified B Corporations—companies focused on promoting social and environmental good—in any industry using this directory. Use this tool as a start when investigating the impact of your purchases;
- If you want to focus on being happy with buying and consuming less, read The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan;
- For ideas on living more frugally, read Meet the Frugalwoods.