What makes a Conscious Consumer?

You shop local when possible, you look for organic, fair trade, and sustainably sourced items, and you want to make a difference in the way the world does business. Congratulations, you’re a conscious consumer!

Simply put, conscious consumption is the desire to be more responsible while shopping. Our current economy has made it easy to forget about the intensive labor, energy, and resources that go into the things we buy on a daily basis. By choosing to be a conscious consumer, you’re making a “conscious” decision to dig deeper and ask the tough questions.

At EarthHero, conscious consumption is possible (and easy!) because all we do is support and promote companies that are making a difference in this world, Mother-Earth approved.

what-makes-a-conscious-consumer-industrial-revolution

How did we get here?

Let’s step back into the 1800’s. The Industrial Revolution took the world by storm–manufacturing products and making them more affordable and available to the public almost instantly. Initially, this was good! The overall quality and safety of people’s lives were (in a lot of ways) improved.

This, however, triggered the rise of mass consumption. Now, everyone had to have the best and newest item, because newer is better, right? Not quite. We live in a world where companies are continuously making “new and improved” models that persuade consumers into “needing” that next mainstream thing.

Thanks to years of continuous marketing of the more-is-better mentality, our society has transformed from truly valuing, protecting, and repairing our possessions, to the need for more, newer, and cheaper items. This constant routine of buying, tossing, and buying again has led to extreme amounts of waste and resources in landfills, as well as a slew of environmental issues such as deforestation, ozone depletion, water shortages, animal extinction, climate change, and soil nutrient loss. Our job as conscious consumers is to minimize and reverse the damage we’ve done, one step at a time.

Living in a Material World

Let’s face it–making mindless purchases has never been easier. So effortless, in fact, that websites have one-click ordering features. We live in a time where you simply ask your smart speaker to reorder that bottle of dish soap you’ve been putting off buying.

Sadly, it’s also easy to ignore the rest of the story. Where did it come from, and how did it get to your door? Was it shipped from a facility where exploitative working conditions are the norm? Does it contain hundreds of toxic chemicals you can’t even pronounce? Were limited resources extracted without a way to replenish them?

The fact of the matter is, many people look at price and convenience first, social impact second (or not at all). We don’t blame them! When we’re isolated from the true cost of the products we buy, it’s easy to forget–or simply, not know.

what-makes-a-conscious-consumer-shopping

 

The True Cost of Consumerism

Everything has a price. Mass production has serious effects on the health of our environment, including greenhouse gas emissions, land and ocean pollution, ecosystem damages from resource extraction and deforestation. If that wasn’t bad enough, most consumers are unaware of the harmful working conditions associated with unfair labor, wages, and trade. To meet the extreme demands of modern-day consumers, many companies are over extracting non-renewable resources and destroying the planet for a quick buck.

Being a conscious consumer means taking all of these factors into consideration, instead choosing to spend their money in a way that creates positive social, environmental, and ecological change.

Now, becoming a conscious consumption guru isn’t going to happen overnight, but there are some practices you can incorporate into your everyday life to make a difference.

First off, do your research!

In this day and age, a simple Google search gets you millions of hits in under a second. Look into where your food and clothes come from, and then think about who and what your purchase supports. Every time you buy something, you’re investing and supporting that company and its practices. Search for which of your favorite companies are giving back to the community and planet, and support them with your dollar.

what-makes-a-conscious-consumer-produce-bags

Want vs. Need

Another important aspect of conscious consumerism is recognizing a want vs. a need. I think we all can identify with the experience of going into the store for one thing and coming out with an entire cart full (oops!). Being mindful of purchasing only what you need (or really want) is not only better for the environment, but also easier on your wallet.

Quality over Quantity

Seek out items that are made to last, so you can have it for years to come! Try to invest in quality (when you can), take care of what you do have, and seek out ways to repair, rather than replace, your items. Not only does this save you money in the long run, but it saves landfills from unnecessary waste.

A Package is worth a Million Words

Finally, read the labels and pay attention to packaging. If the ingredient list on a beauty product is a mile long with unpronounceable chemical names (can you say “phthalates?”), it’s probably not too good for you or the environment. Seek out products with labels such as fair trade, sustainably harvested, and cruelty free. Look for items with reduced or, even better, no plastic packaging, especially at the grocery store. Shopping in bulk can be a quick and easy solution, as long as you remember your produce bags!

Check out these 4 questions you can ask to help you shop more sustainably!

EarthHero is Here to Help!

Consumption is inevitable. Even if you’re living off the grid, on a self-sustaining, solar powered farm (props if you are!), you’re going to have to buy things here and there. By being mindful about your purchases and actively working to educate yourself about better practices, you can transform your consumption into a healthier practice. We’re here to make that a little easier.

EarthHero doesn’t have all the answers, but we tell you everything we know and aim to make your sustainable shopping journey a little easier. Using the same convenience you’ve come to expect with modern day shopping, we provide a collection of products that are suited to the conscious consumer (AKA- you!). We label each item using our sustainability icons which tell you exactly what we love about each product. You can sort products and shop using your values, so it’s easy to find cruelty free, recycled, organic, fair trade products, and more! Don’t know where to start? Check out our 7 zero waste essentials!

We believe that by purchasing products that are aligned with your values, you also support businesses that are passionate about creating a healthier future. Bigger impact is possible when we come together as a community to stand for the environment. At EarthHero, all of your purchases support companies who produce products in a way that you can feel good about. So go ahead, you’re free to consume consciously!

About the author

 

 

Madilynn Martinson is an optimistic environmentalist with a passion for sustainable business and green marketing. When she’s not involved in the University of Colorado Environmental Center or the Colorado Ocean coalition, she can be found playing the piano, traveling, or scuba diving.

 

 

 

Can you say “Phthalates”?

Chemicals: They’re Hard to Avoid

In today’s world, convenience wins. Most of us are 100% down to avoid toxins, make less waste (insert “new year, new you” goals here), but why be bothered to make your own deodorant at home when you can buy some at the store with a fraction of the time and effort? Between the research, the practice, and the reality of having very little free time, few people have the time and discipline to DIY their entire life, and we get that. But if you truly stop to think about what toxins may be hiding in everyday products like your face wash, food storage containers, water bottles, and more–you’ll want to take action.

More often than not, products are filled with ingredients that we know very little about (*cough* BPA) and things we can’t even pronounce (can you say “phthalate”?). Big companies don’t take the time to explain chemicals to consumers, and that’s a problem. Products we’re exposed to on a daily basis contain all kinds of weird ingredients, which then begs the question: What impact do these ingredients have on our health and our planet?

This is the first in a series tackling some of your questions about what to look for in personal care products. From phthalates to parabens to those little “microbeads,” we’ll dive into what these beauty companies are really talking about.

What are phthalates anyways?

In recent years, this little word is appearing more and more on products bragging to be “phthalate-free.” That’s great and all, but these claims are rarely backed up with why it matters, what it is, or why we’d want to avoid it. Are products labeled phthalate-free just a marketing gimmick, or do they have real meaning?

They’re kind of in everything.

Phthalates (f-THAL-lates) are man-made chemical “plasticizers”, meaning they’re used to soften plastics and make them more flexible and durable. Another prime use of phthalates is to help dissolve ingredients into a solution. They’re what makes plastic wrap bendy, nail polish smooth and resilient, and shampoo “goopy.” They’re in almost everything we touch: food containers, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, children’s toys, medical devices, art supplies and so much more. New car smell? That’s phthalates! Pesticides on conventional produce? Yep, filled with phthalates, too. They’ve gotten so ingrained in our culture, that roughly 95% of the population has detectable levels of phthalates in their urine (yuck!).

what-are-phthalates-in

So, it’s time to face the facts: we’re eating them, applying them to our skin, and even using IV drip bags filled with the particular phthalate DEHP. This certainly sounds scary, but what does it really mean for our health? Some groups, like the American Chemistry Council, say that phthalates are “totally safe” and are “the most thoroughly studied family of compounds in the world.” Despite this council being a noted lobby group for phthalate manufacturers, some experts see merit in their claims. However, when we look at some of the consequences, a different picture is painted.

They’re hazardous for your health and the planet.

Some types of phthalates have been labeled as “endocrine disruptors.” These impact the natural hormones that help our bodies grow and reproduce, leading to a slew of nasty side effects, including lower fertility and higher risk of some cancers.*

Phthalates have also been suspected to cause developmental issues, obesity, and even asthma. It’s important to note that there are some regulations on phthalate use, particularly in regards to products for young children. While studies on the human health effects are limited and opinions differ, it’s probably smart to play it safe and avoid phthalate exposure when possible.

In addition to the health impacts of phthalates, these chemicals also pose risks to the environment. If chemical plasticizers can break down and enter your body, it’s not that far off to assume they could harm the bodies of other animals and marine life that come in contact with it. Phthalates are also synthetic and petroleum based, meaning that purchasing products containing phthalates is promoting the extraction and production of oil–not what you thought you were doing with your new manicure, huh?

Kick the Chemicals

Sadly, it’s next to impossible to completely remove phthalates from your life. But, by making simple switches to your daily routine, you can reduce the amount of these chemicals that you come into contact with. Here are a few tips on how to minimize phthalates in your life:

Plastic can’t take the heat!

Never heat your food in plastic! There’s always the possibility that plastic may leech into your food during the microwaving process. Containers labeled “microwave safe” are better than containers without that label, but it’s best to reheat your food in glass to enjoy some chemical-free leftovers!

Eat organic!

Phthalates are used in pesticides for produce and in animal feed for meat and dairy products. To best avoid exposure in your meals, it’s best to purchase organic produce and cut down on meat and dairy consumption.

Plastic, Plastic Everywhere!

Go into any supermarket and you will find a sea of plastic! Not only is this bad for the environment, but it’s bad for our health, too. With some zero-waste inspired tips and tricks, you can avoid phthalates in your weekly shopping trips.

  • Avoid plastic packaging–buy in bulk when possible!
  • Use reusable bags or jars for bulk food
  • Store food in glass or stainless steel containers
  • Ditch plastic water bottles & invest in a reusable one

Phthalate-free Personal Care!

Many mainstream cosmetics, lotions, hair care products, body wash and more contain phthalates. Too often, they don’t even label their product as having phthalates. That’s why it’s important to shop with companies dedicated to toxin-free, zero-phthalate products, such as Avalon Organics.

Do the best you can.

It’s simple: when you know better, you can do better. Although it’s basically impossible to live a phthalate-free life on planet Earth, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Opinions and facts are varied, but it’s better to play it safe, especially when it could impact your health. So check those labels, rethink your food, reuse those plastic-free bags and go on your merry way to a less-phthalate life!

*Sources:

https://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors
http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/phthalates/

About the author

 

Alyssa Landi is an enthusiastic environmental and animal activist living in Boulder, Colorado. When she’s not standing up for animal rights, she can be found climbing or hiking with friends!