Staying Ahead of the Curve: A Guide to Educated Consumerism, Part 2

Posted by Smita Kishore on

This is the second part of a multiple-part series on educated consumerism. To read the first post in this series, click here.

Now that you know the basics of where to begin and how you can help shift the tide, it's important to stay ahead of the curve. Brands are changing overnight, and if you forget to take a closer look every now and again, you'll be surprised to learn that the company you love is no longer what it once claimed to be. 

Here are some tips to help get you started :)

  • Don't Be Duped! The second you see a commercial for a skincare or food-related product, stop buying it. Think about it: how often do you see a commercial for a product that is actually good for you? I really began paying attention to this once I saw a Kashi commercial about 9 years ago. Kashi was the only cereal I ate for years for its clean ingredients and company values. After seeing the commercial, however, a red flag went up in my mind. To my surprise, a google search revealed the sale of Kashi to Kellogg and, not to my surprise, when I went to review the ingredients they certainly contained new GMOs and other not-so-good-for-you items. This was the first time I truly understood that I have to stay on top of brands, even those I love, as companies are changing and being bought out faster than we realize. Tip: Organic brands owned by corporations often have little say in how their parent company makes decisions, often resulting in a loss of their original values. Here's an informative infographic to give you an idea of just how many organic brands are corporation-owned. 
Who Owns Organics Inforgraphic - Philip H. Howard
Click here to view in high-resolution; this graphic is courtesy of Philip H. Howard, Associate Professor in Michigan State University’s Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies program, and was updated in January 2016.
  • Look Beyond Labels. Just because you see the word natural, organic or ethically sourced on a label doesn't mean the product is nontoxic or good for the earth. Unfortunately, many of these products still contain harmful ingredients hidden amongst the "clean" ones. These are simply marketing ploys. Companies expect you to fall for the pretty packaging and tag words, but just like that dangerously charming guy or gal, look beyond the superficial to take a deeper look and ask yourself: What are all of the ingredients? Does it align with what you see? If a product only contains 1% of toxic chemicals does that make it okay? If I gave you a glass of water and told you that there's only 1% of poison in there would you drink it? Then why feed it to your skin?!
  • Know Your Ingredients. Know the top 10 NON-GMO foods to avoid, the Dirty Dozen, the Clean 15, the most toxic ingredients, etc. Do a Google search to help educate yourself and learn to trust your common sense. If an ingredient or message feels odd to you, trust your gut! Tip: For a list of ingredients to watch out for, check out our free e-book
  • Love is Not Blind! Don't get carried away by beautiful ads, pretty packaging or hefty prices. What looks great or expensive isn't always great for you! Remember larger companies spend a lot on psychological research as it's their job to market and sell their products to you. It's the consumer's job to decide where they place their trust. If a product is truly good for you and a company believes in what they are doing, why would they need to spend millions on research and advertising to convince you to trust them? Show these companies that you're an educated consumer and don't fall for their marketing ploys! Tip: Why would an organic company not support GMO-labeling if they have nothing to hide? 
GMO labeling support
  Click here to view in high-resolution; this graphic is courtesy of The Cornucopia Institute.
  • Watch More Closely As Brands Grow. I used to get so sad when I'd watch my favorite companies lose touch with their roots as they made it big, but I've come to expect it. While I understand that it's not always a company's intention to lose sight of their values, I've learned to watch brands extra closely as they grow, precisely because it's harder to stay clean and green on a larger scale. Tip: Another thing to look out for is expansion into tons of new products rapidly (e..g, Burt's bees with makeup and protein powders) as this is typically a red flag. 
  • Know What to Look For. Are they organic? Do they give back to their workers and communities? Are they eco-friendly? Who are their partners? What's their mission? Where do they source their ingredients from? What do they stand for? A lot can be learned about a company's true intent by searching the answers to these questions on their 'About Us' and 'FAQs' pages. Tip: The harder these answers are to find on a company's website, the warier you should be of trusting them!
  • Be Choosy! This is your health (and money!) we're talking about here, and you have a choice as to what you support. Today, we have access to so many more brands that are committed to the earth, workers, and the world that it's more than possible to find many brands growing transparently, thanks to the internet. Do your research to find the ones that speak to you, that you love and trust, and begin there. Here are some of my favorite brands to help you get started :)
    • Clothing
      • Alternative: 80% of Alternative clothing is made with sustainable processes and materials that use non-toxic dyes, organic cotton, and recycled materials. Tip: Be sure to read the labels closely! Some of the items in their eco-line contain less than 7% organic cotton. Just another example of how important it is to not trust any company (even those you love!) blindly. I usually opt for their 100% organic cotton items for men and women ;)
      • Pact: Great for everyday basics that are made from 100% organic cotton. I love the transparency of this company. All of their products clearly state the fabric content so you know exactly what you're getting. 
      • Threads For Thought: Certified B-Corporation with a focus on social responsibility and sustainability. They use organic cotton and other recycled materials. Their clothing is super comfy but can be pricey, so I typically wait for their large sales ;) Tip: Their website is a great example of transparency and a company that has nothing to hide! 
    • Shoes
      • Veja: I've written about this brand before, but they are my favorite! From sustainability to fair-trade to ethically-sourced materials from the Amazon, Veja is leading by example. Tip: They run a couple big sales a year where most of their shoes are 40% off or more, which is when I buy. Although, my shoes are still going strong since I purchased them back in 2016! 
Stay tuned for the next post in this series where we'll discuss conscious grocery store swaps.  Read here!
Love + Light,
~Smita :)

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