by Kelvin Belfon
As a child I didn’t have strong consumer opinions. This is partly due to my culture’s low view of a child’s ability to contribute to household decisions. Children were seen but not heard.
It was also due to tough economic conditions. I recall standing in long lines, excited about the powdered milk, oil and cheese distributed by our government. It was free and we took it, gratefully.
But the primary reason for my limited opinion in what I purchased or owned was this: I never really had “my own.” My mother was a young single parent desperately trying to make a living. To help I was moved around to live with others. Not living in a house that was truly my home made me naturally a passive consumer. I learned to be grateful for anything and accepted things as they were given to me.
A lot has changed since immigrating to the United States. I’m a well-educated, independent thinker who has been exposed to a great deal of information and resources on a variety of consumer topics. I remember when I first visited a shopping mall and supermarket in the US. I was astounded, and quite frankly, overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless options there were to any one thing you might want to buy.
Today, I chuckle at the fact that without thinking, I have over the years enjoyed purchasing all kinds of milks – Cow’s milk, Soy, Almond, Rice, Hazelnut, Coconut, Hemp, and so on…. Yes, I’ve even learned that there are 11 different types of milk and counting!
More options doesn’t always translate into better consumer habits. In fact, the opposite is true. We are bombarded by advertising messages that legitimize our obsession with accumulating unnecessary stuff. As such, the choices we make can quite often be unhealthy and not beneficial.
What’s worse, many of us are so caught up comparing ourselves with unrealistic images and misinformed notions of what others have or how they live their lives that we are on a constant treadmill toward an unreachable consumer destination.
Sadly, this unconscious lifestyle leaves us unfulfilled, wastes our time, squanders valuable resources, and leaves us in debt. We all need to break from this obsession with excessive consumerism.
Becoming A Conscious Consumer
Consciousness is defined as being “awake, perceiving, aware or understanding what is happening.”
Minimalism has forced my wife and me to become more mindful about what we consume, to be more conscious within each decision we make for our home. This includes where we choose to live, what and where we eat or clothes we buy, what household possessions we keep, and services we hire. Most importantly, this included how we educate our children and what we will and will not expose them to.
Conscious consumerism can be practiced in every area of life.
It’s about regaining control and taking responsibility for our actions.
It’s becoming active and wholly engaged in life.
It’s being thoughtful.
It’s taking action instead of allowing things to just happen to you.
It’s asking the right questions.
“Why should I make this purchase?” “How would this food choice affect my health?” “Why do I need to follow this cultural trend?”
Like myself, sometimes we don’t always have the necessary information to make wise decisions. You may not even be independent or capable at the moment to make your own choices, as I once was. You may not be able to be a conscious consumer in every area at this moment. But you can start where you are, with what you have. As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”