The Consumerism Addictions
—On Consumer Prudence and Discretion—
You’ve done your research. First off, congratulations on making the efforts necessary to investigate and discover what products, companies, and ingredients you’ve found you need to banish from your diet and shopping agenda. Be it as it may, that we as individuals are very small, as a whole, when moving towards safe, healthy products and choosing to support environmental sustenance and human rights, it is one of the greatest things you can do in your lifetime to assist your world. However, only a very select few can take a routine or habit and change it (or cut it out entirely) after only making an initial mental commitment to change.
I highly commend those of you who have become educated on our food and industrial systems and have outright ousted any consumerism practices that are detrimental. Nevertheless, for most of us, quitting the consumerism system composed of addicting food, haphazard products, and support of corporations with “bad business ethics” is a continuous battle due to the power of advertising and habitual behavior—and is a bit like overcoming any addiction. Quitting the cycle of purchasing products or shopping at corporations that you know (or suspect) are unethical and/or toxic is a process. This process, at times, can feel time-consuming, disappointing, even outright outraging.
However, we as a people are partially responsible for the current state of affairs from not taking time to make the decisions of who we are empowering, who we are hurting, and how our world is being damaged by not thinking about where our stuff comes from and where our stuff goes. It is now the time to take a stand, as an individual for the whole, for your fellow human race, or even just for your immediate bloodline, to banish those addicting consumerism practices that are toxic, unethical, and environmentally damaging.
People need to be educated on cause and effect and how we all play a part.
- Educate Yourself: This is the most time-consuming part, but it is an important part you play in taking responsibility for your actions. Information is out there and is being spread rapidly by the internet, on social media, and by word. Discretion is to be used when using these sources, but use them! Discover where your products come from, how the companies treat their workers and source their products, how the company works to help or harm the environment, how the products might harm you or your family, was there slave labor involved? Were there toxic ingredients added? What happens when the item stops working? Where will it go? Some helpful apps include:
- Use Deductive Thinking Skills to Separate Fact from Fiction The Truth of False Advertisement: Deciphering truth from fiction in today’s world can be very difficult. It is an important skill to when doing personal research to be able to decipher bad sources from better ones. When investigating be sure to pay attention to who wrote the article, what is their background, what might their motives be, and who do they work for. Also, when investigating facts, look for citations and look to see who others support these conclusions.
- Prioritize What Causes (Civil, Environmental, Human Rights, Health) are Most Important to You: While it would be wonderful if we could be advocates for everything we believe in and do all that we can, when trying to initiate change, taking the first steps can be overwhelming. Therefore, it can be helpful to prioritize what issues are most meaningful to you.
- Memorize or Make Lists What to Avoid, What to Look For: After doing your research, you will come across brands and ingredients that you will have found to be toxic or unethical. It is helpful to make lists for keywords to keep your eyes out for or brands to avoid.
- Find Stores that Support (but don’t think everything is ok in a “health” store): It is a great feeling to find stores that cater to your beliefs, advocate health and civil rights, and make initiatives to make the world a better place. In these sort of special places, you can find like-minded people, great ideas, new brands, connections, etc. However, do not be fooled into thinking that everything that you find at a “health food store” or in the “health food” section is healthy. There have been many times we have been disappointed in finding toxic, environmentally-unfriendly, products in these sorts of stores, as well as products that had been produced by forced labor.
- Shop Local, Buy Direct from Artisans: Not enough can be said about the importance of supporting local artisans who handcraft their wares. It is a tremendous support to families, to the local economy, and to skilled labor as opposed to large corporations and aiding monopolization of local economies.
- When in Doubt, Look it Up—Be Patient: If you are uncertain whether a brand, organization or product supports a healthy you and a healthy environment, don’t be afraid to do a little research. You may be amazed as to how much information you didn’t know about common household brands. It is never too late to make small changes to something a little bit better for your family and your world – no matter if you have been loyal to a product or brand for ages. Advertising has had a large grasp over societies for decades and sometimes it takes a bit of work to undo their “magic”.
- Make a Gameplan—Replacements, New Places to Shop, etc.: If you know what you want – you want to eat healthier, you want to stop supporting horrible organizations, you want to make a difference in the world, it is best to make a game plan before you ever even leave the house. Find local shops that have the items you are seeking, go to the farmer’s markets, go to the specialty stores. Sometimes simply avoiding big box stores is the best way to not get lured into buying cheap, toxic products and feeding your consumerism addiction.
- Peers and Family Interference — When investigating social consumerism and marketing it is found that often times individuals prefer certain brands or products due to social influence. Whether abiding by family traditions, or peer influence, humans are social creatures who observe and learn by others and are very influenced by social observation. Below is a list of suggestions to steer in a new, healthier direction:
- “Traditions”: It is never too late to start a new tradition. Most would be surprised to discover that many traditions now upheld at family gatherings are the byproduct of corporate marketing efforts from within the last century. While understanding your roots and your heritage is commemorable, never be afraid to question traditions and start new ones with your own family and lead by example.
- Find Like-Minded Peers: One of the easiest ways to stay on track and uphold your beliefs is to find friends and colleagues that uphold similar beliefs. It can be motivating and fun to discover new motivational ideas with them. There are also vast amounts of online communities to join and find inspiration and support.
- Plan Ahead: If you know that you will be heading to a gathering and there will be toxic foods there, plan to bring your own dish, or snack ahead of time.
- Relapse and Guilt: Just like any other addiction, it is so easy to fall back into old habits that you know that you wouldn’t like to continue or do not feel good about. One of the reasons why large corporations succeed so successfully is because they are cheap, easy, and very accessible. If you know you wouldn’t like to shop at Walmart, or eat at McDonald’s, or perhaps that you would like to avoid eating meat, if you “relapse” and fall into a habit you don’t agree with, don’t throw in the towel! It is necessary to accept that changing habits is a process and takes plenty of reassurance to stay on track.
- Fight (and ask) for what you want: My grandmother always used to tell me, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This sentiment is so true. To get what we want, sometimes it is absolutely necessary to SPEAK UP. To keep asking what we want – even if you’ve never seen it done before. It is helpful to let your voice be heard. Below are some examples of how you can make positive initiatives for change.
- Write Letters: If you don’t like something or would like to initiate change in your community, don’t be afraid to write letters to corporations and politicians. We are all just people after all, and getting through to the right people can initiate tremendous change.
- Grocery Request Forms: I was looking through the healthy food section at a chain grocery store in Russellville, Arkansas when an employee told me that if I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I could make a request and they would order it in. Since then, I have made many requests for organic health foods that I couldn’t otherwise find at multiple stores throughout the many places we have lived. This was a great piece of information to discover.
- Talk to Managers: If you know a product to be dangerous if you would like to see something in the store if you are concerned about corporate waste, or anything else, do not be afraid to speak with a manager. Many times I have been pleasantly surprised by my conversations with managers. We have gotten donations, had products removed and recalled, and products ordered in based on these communications. Reach out!
- Spread the Word: Never underestimate the power of social influence. Many people would be on board with assisting in creating change if only they had the knowledge of what problems exist if they saw people acting in positive manners if they passively felt social influence inclining them to join in and take action. Many individuals will avoid advocacy if they believe they are too small or unimportant to make a change. By exemplifying actions one can do to promote universal well-being, people can observe ways they too can help. Below are some ways you can help positively influence your community.
- Show Your Choices: This is such a broad statement, but proudly show your choices. If you buy handmade products and handcrafted wares proudly display them. If you chose to practice veganism or vegetarianism let it be known. If you don’t shop at certain places or buy certain foods – explain why. It is important people learn from alternative voices to think twice about what they do and who and what they support.
- Stickers/Pins: This follows the same sentiment as above, but if you shop at the farmers market, show it! If you boycott certain brands, show it. Promotion of healthy choices and groups striving to make positive change is essential to educating others who have no idea why these matters are important.
- Social Networks: The effects, scope, and engagement reach of social media is widely underresearched and is unprecedented. Use this tool to spread ideas and research.