Shifting the Tide: A Guide to Educated Consumerism, Part 1

Posted by Smita Kishore on

This is the first post in a series of posts on educated consumerismTo read the second post in this series, click here.

Four years ago a client walked into my office experiencing moderate symptoms of dementia. I specialized in progressive adult neurological diseases, so this was a typical day for me, with the exception of one key point: that client was 47 years old. No family history or genetic predisposition. No glaring bad lifestyle habits or choices. Just a typical 47-year-old on the surface.

Then why? Why such a devastating diagnosis at such a young age? While my personal belief resonates with spiritual health = mental health = physical health, I felt there was more to this than that, as this client led a healthy lifestyle in terms of wellness and exercise. That more, I came to conclude, was food - not just the food we put into our bodies, but the food we feed our skin.

I began to realize and truly understand the dangers of the chemicals that make up our daily skincare routines and the adverse long-term effects they pose on our health and well-being. I began to realize that these ingredients starting appearing on labels mostly as companies grew bigger, requiring longer shelf lives and travel stability, along with lower internal costs. I began to understand that it wasn't about providing safe, pure products that actually work, but about products that sell well. I began to realize that it's not the consumer's fault that companies get away with such fraud and, frankly, disregard for human health.

But, most importantly, I began to realize that it doesn't have to be this way. It can and will change if we, the consumers, want it to. If we demand it to, for without us, there can be no capitalistic success. So truly, the power lies in our hands. Why do you think two natural deodorant companies were bought out by the consumer monopolists (Unilever bought Schmidt's Naturals, P&G bought Native)?! They know where the tide is heading. They know there is a better way.

That way is a return to products that are good for us. Products that support the environment. Products that support the world, small businesses, and local producers. Products that allow us access to the freshest and finest ingredients. These companies know that their time will soon come to an end unless they join this movement.

And why? Because we the consumers are waking up. We're taking control and wanting the best for our bodies, our minds, our spirits, our health. We the consumer are seeing the truth and are ready and eager for something more. We the consumer are learning what we want and deserve, and thus creating the greater demand.

But there is much work to be done for the shift to become the way of business, the way of the majority, rather than a select few. A shift where all businesses stand for integrity and transparency and wellness for all, including our bodies, the environment, and the world. You might be thinking, 'This is all fine and dandy but what can I do about it?!' The thing is, you can. 

Here are ways YOU can help shift the tide. Are you with me?! :) 

  1. Shop Local. Seek out local produce and products from farmer's markets, craft fairs or local ma and pa shops. This not only ensures you're getting the freshest ingredients, it also benefits the environment (shorter distance traveled) and strengthens the local economy. It's also really cool knowing exactly where your products are coming from, meeting the makers, learning their stories, and supporting the community.
  2. Widen Your Perspective. Know how your life choices and individual actions affect the world. For instance, not buying goods produced by exploited workers or from companies consciously polluting the environment. Try to put your money where your beliefs lie. If you don't agree with what a company is doing, then why support them? And if you don't know, then check online or ask. Send them an email and let them know your questions and concerns. 
  3. Educate Yourself. Find out exactly what's in your food, your products, your clothes, everything (you didn't think those perfect blue jean dyes were natural and good for you and the environment, right?!). Look into the practices of your favorite brands. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can demand a change. So what are you waiting for? The answers are only a google search away ;)
  4. Start a Conversation. Share what you learn with others. Start conversations to get the people you know talking and thinking about where their products are coming from, how they're made, and what happens to them when they leave you. Ponder the whole lifecycle of your purchases. For instance, what happens to all those plastic bottles once you send them to a recycling center, or what's the lifecycle of a pair of jeans? 
  5. Strike a Balance. We can't remove every bad product or company from our lives overnight. That can be insanely overwhelming (and draining!), which is the complete opposite of what we're trying to do here. Make a list of the key items and principles that are most important to you and begin there. One by one, you'll make it through your list. When I first started on this path, I tried to change everything quickly and nearly drove myself (and my family) crazy. But eventually, I found my balance; one that feels right to me and makes me happy at the end of the day. I encourage you to do the same, to explore your own choices and create your own journey. The path is there for you to explore.
  6. Discover Your WHY! Do what aligns with you. In other words, do what feels right to you. Everyone's causes and beliefs are different. Maybe yours is saving the trees, or reducing plastic waste, or waste in general. Maybe it's buying from companies that support fair-trade and pay it forward. Maybe it's simply choosing brands that provide transparency and cleaner ingredients that you can actually read! Whatever your cause is, follow its path. It doesn't have to align with mine or anyone else's. It simply has to align with you.
  7. Have Faith. It can be a little disheartening when you come across so many issues and companies that only seem to be looking out for themselves. But have faith, for there are just as many brands out there trying to forge a new path and using their status for good. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them. And don't worry, we'll be getting into some companies that do in our future posts!

Read the next post in this series to learn how you can stay ahead of the curve! 

Love + Light,

~Smita :)

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