The Conscious Consumer in the Digital Age
2019-01-29
By S. Zimmermann

The first title I chose contained the word ‘mindful’ instead of conscious, but in order to point to the fact that none of us can make decisions while being ‘unconscious’, I chose the latter. Ironically enough, we all seem to make more unconscious decisions these days. We are tricked into believing that the bigger/faster-is-better-analogy still has its entitlement.

I remember coming across this quote: “Stop buying crap and companies will stop producing crap” (click here for the article on fastcompany.com). It did not leave my mind ever since. We have come to be so used to having everything available anytime that we may forget the production and lifecycle of products along the entire chain. Being able to (and this might be the strongest argument – just because we ‘can’ does NOT necessarily mean we ‘have to’!) order everything (even food!) anytime online, we would rather support the complex mesh of industry behind it than supporting the actual producers, who, depending on where you live, might just be in regional reach. Be it milk farmers, butchers or fruit farmers, their produce follows an intricate maneuver that we as customers are prone to ignore or overlook for the sake of the cheapest price.

We have come to confuse ‘convenience’ with saving time or cost. But usually the opposite is true. The Supply Chain as such and the additional packaging waste caused by conveniently cut fruit or vegetables instead of choosing the ‘fresh’ and unprocessed fruit at a local farmer, is taking our laziness and ignorance ad absurdum. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Transport, marketing and storage life are factors we entirely forget.

However, no conscious consumer can ignore pictures and videos of piles of rubbish, or lost containers of goods, or even chemicals in the oceans. Neither can we ignore climate change, pollution, the fine dust debate, or resource scarcity in general. Even though there are good campaigns being put forward in order to ban straws or design decomposable bags, the progress is too slow to make a real change and to make it count. And this goes not only for packaging waste. It is just the easiest item to point towards, because everybody is shocked to see the images of dying sea birds, turtles, seals and whales with their airways and organs obstructed or clogged by plastic.

We are all in this together and simply choose to ‘go with the flow’ instead of changing our habits and consequently our belief systems and consumer behavior. I am afraid that we have come to tend to ignore the bigger picture. While complaining about too many trucks on the roads or too much pollution in the cities, we forget that those trucks and the pollution are there because we as consumers make them be there.

There are tons of good projects and alternatives out there. But maybe simply honestly challenging your own consumer behavior is already enough to set something meaningful in motion towards understanding that what we truly need is much less than what we think we should need. Instead of perceiving this process as giving up on certain items as being a loss, what truly happens is a great gain resulting from a reassignment of our focus towards the long run.

Sustainability, a better overall awareness and, last but not least, a conscious contribution for a brighter future is all that we need to focus on.
 
 
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