Conscious commerce and how to vote with your wallet

In this post: we explore the idea of conscious commerce, shopping in a way that reflects your values, and some ideas to get started.

Recently, I was scrolling through Etsy and noticed a mug with the slogan “shop like you mean it” inscribed on the front. It wasn’t really my style and normally I would have gone right past it, but something made me pause. 

I think it was that this idea of reinforcing the world you want with your purchasing choices has been on my mind a lot lately. Really, it’s an underlying principle of The Home Green, and so this encounter sent me down an internet rabbit hole, wanting to learn more about this idea of conscious commerce. 

Naturally, my first step was googling the phrase “shop like you mean it” where I came across this Huff Post article. The first sentence felt like a more eloquent version of a thought from my own head: 

With each dollar we spend, we vote for the world we want.”             

– Diane Osgood

I find myself often mentally designing the world as I would like it (Friends from College would have made a third season, charcuterie boards would never feature olives, pinker everywhere, and so on) so the ability to make this a reality in some way is pretty intriguing. But how do I actually start on the journey of conscious commerce? After looking around, I came up with the following ideas:

Ideas for integrating conscious commerce in our lives

1. Consider that conscious commerce and your happiness may not be mutually exclusive

The Huffpost article I came across focuses primarily on fashion, but the ideas are more broadly applicable including the idea that conscious commerce is often set up as a choice between your altruistic self who wants to do right or the one that wants to enjoy life without stressing about the consequences of each action. The article sets forth the idea that by making purchases that match your values you are actually making yourself happier. (Bonus points for anyone who remembers the Friends episode when Joey challenges Phoebe to find a selfless good deed. It’s kind of the same idea.)

“Research shows that an individual's happiness increases when they connect, contribute, give, create and share…Products which actively give back to society and the environment give us purpose, give us stories to tell and give us greater pride, which manifests first as internal happiness and later reflects outwards into the economy…”

– Diane, Osgood

By the way, if you're interested in the intersection of happiness and sustainability, check out our article on what research says about how to achieve both!

2. Don’t set it and forget it

Instead of operating in consumption autopilot, consider and appreciate the little things that constitute everyday life to makes those small moments more enjoyable. An example in my life is the mug I use everyday. We have approximately 5 million mugs in our house, but there are only two I ever use. I can’t use either without thinking about the story behind them which gives me a little boost of happiness as I start my day.

If I could recreate this type of joyfulness and connection by adding meaning to other overlooked parts of my life, could making more sustainable choices be a little easier?

mindfulness mug

3. Embrace good – don't let perfection be the enemy of progress 

When I reflect on times that I have been less committed to considering the big picture of my purchasing decisions, I find that the root is hopelessness. Why bother? Why should I take this on if nobody else is? How much of a difference is this one little purchase really going to make.

I’ll save us all the butterfly flapping its wings analogy and propose that maybe it’s okay if the reason that we do good things is selfish. Maybe it’s part of nature's plan that doing good is reinforced and incentivized by feeling good.

Even better, what I’m finding out is that products that are better for the world are oftentimes pretty darn appealing without even factoring in their sustainable attributes.  

4. Shop like you mean it for your home

 Many people are already embracing slow fashion as a way to express conscious commerce in their lives and I think more and more people are going to start applying this idea to slow interior design. It's easier than ever to create a home that is both beautiful and environmentally friendly. As you approach adding new furniture and home goods to your life, I hope you'll first check and see if there isn't a greener option that could be perfect for you.
A few Home Green resources that may help:

5.  Baby steps 

I certainly don’t have it all figured out but I know that what’s never worked for me is declaring huge, broad-brush life changes. Like an overly zealous New Year’s resolution, the resolve inevitably wears down and the goal falls by the wayside. But what does seem to work is making smaller, more incremental changes. 

So my theory is that building small eco-friendly habits into my life, one at a time until they become routine, may lead to a bigger overall impact. Rather than beating myself up for not being perfect, I’m going to start small with a series of “eco-shifts.” One of my biggest focuses in the near term is going to be to do more sustainable shopping and find alternatives to single-use plastic. If that is one of your goals, please check it out and let me know what's working for you.

Where are some things to look for when voting with your wallet?

  • Ethical Sourcing. Ensuring that the products you buy are made materials are obtained in a way that does not harm people or the environment is a great way to apply conscious commerce. This includes fair trade practices, using sustainable materials, and avoiding materials that are known to be harmful.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing. Responsible businesses prioritize sustainable manufacturing practices. This includes using renewable energy sources, reducing waste, and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals. They also prioritize the use of recycled materials and reduce their overall carbon footprint.
  • Eco-Friendly Packaging. Conscious commerce means looking for packaging materials that are biodegradable, reusable or recyclable.
  • Social Responsibility. The best businesses give back to their communities and support causes that align with their values. This includes donating a portion of profits to charity, supporting local businesses, and creating job opportunities in underprivileged communities. 
  • Transparency. Conscious commerce here would constitute shopping at businesses that prioritize transparency by being open and honest about their practices and policies. This includes providing information about their supply chain, manufacturing processes, and environmental impact. They also prioritize customer education and engagement.

Conscious commerce cosmic intervention?

Okay, crazy story to wrap this up. After all of my exploration, I went back to try and find that “shop like you mean it” mug so that I could feature a picture with this post, and I’ll be damned if I can’t find it. Did it really exist? Is the universe sending me a message?

I’ll keep my eyes out for more signs. You keep your eyes out for that mug and let me know if you see it. Either way, maybe we take the universe up on this sign and see what happens…

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4 thoughts on “Conscious commerce and how to vote with your wallet”

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