How I Am Becoming A Responsible Consumer

It’s been about two years now since I started approaching my life from a “less is more” perspective.

After binging on numerous YouTube videos, podcasts, and books on the topic of minimalism and intentional living, I realized that I don’t really need a ton of material things to be happy in life.

That’s what started my journey.

Then, last year, I started becoming more and more interested in the social and environmental impact of societies where people are addicted to consumerism.

Merging the two concepts — minimalism and consumerism — I came up with a few lifestyle changes to become a more socially and environmentally responsible consumer.

In this post, I will walk you through a few changes I have introduced in my life with the intention that maybe this will inspire you to make a few changes in your own life that is better for both the environment and society.

Buy Fewer Clothes

I never realized that I was using less than 20% of my wardrobe.

Since moving to the United States in 2015 (with my clothes), I never really threw anything away. I have been carrying all of it wherever I went throughout the United States.

On top of that, every now and then, I bought a few new ones, but I never took a second to evaluate if I really needed anything new. I was on autopilot most of the time. Whenever I liked something, I used to just buy it, as long as I could afford it.

This changed in 2019.

I realized that I needed only a few clothes to live my life happily.

I went ahead and donated all the clothes I never wore before, and threw away the ones that were in horrible condition.

Since then, I have been very mindful whenever buying something new. As the years have gone by, I have bought fewer and fewer clothes.

The 48-Hour Rule

I picked this up from somewhere. Most probably it was a podcast called “The Productivity Show”that introduced me to the concept.

The idea is very simple: After you like something and want to buy it, you wait up to 48 hours before actually pulling the trigger on that purchase button.

This simple idea is very powerful.

In today’s world, companies like Google and Facebook know you better than you know yourself. It’s very easy to come across a perfectly personalized product while you are wasting time on one of these apps, and then go ahead and buy the product immediately.

The moment we see the marketing pitch and very persuasive advertisements, our dopamine levels reach an all-time high with the anticipation of the product. It’s very easy to just buy it immediately.

However, since I adopted this rule, I have seen my number of purchases drop immensely. After that 48-hour period, you are more likely to make a better decision. At that point, you will buy the product if you really need it, or if it genuinely gives you happiness.

The effect of marketing and advertisements hopefully would have faded away by then. It’s not a perfect solution, but one that has worked for me more often than not.

Forget About Sales

We are surrounded by email and social media marketing.

We are bombarded with 50% OFF, 40% OFF, and 90% OFF!

It’s very natural for our brain to justify buying something at a discount. After all, you are paying less than you would normally. Surely that’s a good thing?

Not really.

By adopting this mentality, you end up buying something just because it’s on a discount. Not because you necessarily need it. Your brain’s primary justification is the price of the product, not the need.

Instead, I look at Sales differently.

I have a list of things that I need to buy. I keep it on Apple Reminders. Whenever there is a sale, such as Black Friday, I specifically search for products from that list to buy.

That way, I am using the sales to my advantage, not the other way around.

1 In 1 Out

One of the most important ideas I picked up from Minimalism is the concept of one-in-one-out.

The idea is simple: whenever I buy something new, one item of a similar category that I already own needs to go. That means, either donating, selling, or throwing away whatever I am replacing.

Having practiced this philosophy for almost 3 years now, I can see its full value. You don’t end up with junk.

Every item I own has a purpose. I don’t own things for the sake of owning them.

Buy From Sustainable Brands

I hope by now I have made it clear that I started buying fewer and fewer items with every passing year.

Less quantity of course means less money spent.

That’s why recently I started looking at the brands I buy things from a little more deeply.

Now, whenever I am buying something, I look at the brand, its mission statement, and its environmental and social impact. Of course, sometimes it’s not possible, but I try to do this as often as I can.

Usually, buying from sustainable brands can be a little expensive. However, I can justify spending those extra few dollars because my overall quantity of purchases has gone down massively.

So, in the grand scheme of things, I will be paying the same amount (if not less) for fewer but better-quality products.

Less Packaging

Packaging is a very underrated aspect of a highly consumerism society.

Every time we buy something, we have packaging to throw away. Most likely, the packaging is made from plastic, which of course means it might not get recycled and will end up in a landfill.

Also, some companies go really overboard with packaging. For the smallest of things I used to order from Amazon, they used to come with layers and layers of packaging that I just ended up discarding.

I still buy things of course and that means dealing with packaging. However, I have started being more mindful of it.

When going to groceries, I take my own grocery bag. When going out shopping, I get one big bag from the first store, and then put everything in that one. When ordering takeout, I tell them not to give me the shopping bag.

Of course, sometimes it’s not possible. But I try to do this wherever I can.

Avoid Delivery

Similar to the environmental impact of packaging, the impact of delivery is underrated.

In countries dominated by Amazon’s sprawling delivery network, anything you want can be at your door the next day.

How does that happen though?

Behind the scenes, a lot of transportation logistics have to go right to make this happen. That of course means, lots of trucks and storage facilities. Yet, more energy is spent and a higher carbon footprint of course.

That’s why I started placing pickup orders wherever I can. Sure, I am still using up gas to travel to the shop in my car. However, I think the footprint of one person driving to the location to pick something up is less than the complex delivery networks for Amazon, FedEx, and other shipping services.

No Fast Fashion Brands

In the recent past, I became aware of the horrible environment and social impact of fast fashion brands such as H&M, Zara, SHEIN, Forever21, and many more.

They encourage consumers to buy low-quality clothes often and throw them away to replace them with new ones.

This has a really bad impact on the environment.

And then you have the social impact to think about too. How can they afford to keep prices so low? That’s because they barely pay for labor.

The people making these clothes work in terrible and unsafe conditions. They don’t get fairly for what they make.

As a result, I stopped buying from these brands.

In the future, I plan on writing extensively on this topic, as I research it some more. However, from what I already know, I cannot buy from these brands anymore in good conscience.

Buy Local

If you are not buying local products, then whatever you are buying, had to be transported to your location through a convoluted transport network.

That means more carbon emissions.

Instead, I buy locally whenever possible. Luckily, my grocery store has a Local section where only products from the area are sold.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, there are also some good Farmers’ markets near me.

The majority of my purchases every week are still not local. However, when presented with the chance, I try to buy locally as much as possible.

Buy Used

I never liked buying used products.

Growing up, my parents instilled the following mentality in me — you should never use products that other people have used. They preferred not buying things, rather than buying them used.

However, that changed in me.

Now, I prefer buying used products whenever possible.

The thing with a used product is that all the environmental cost is already behind you. Resources have already been used up to produce it. Now, the next natural step for it is to end up in a landfill if the current user decides to throw it out.

Instead, you can give it a new home. By buying used you are essentially doing two things at once:

    Stop it from ending up in a landfill

    Not contribute to more environment costs that an additional unit of that item would have come with

Irtiza Hafiz