When you buy something, you’re voting. You’re voting with your dollar and saying “I support this product.” But do you ever consider what you’re voting for?
Image is everything
Americans are great at selective conscious buying, especially when it comes to products affecting our image. This is why we focus on image products, products that have a significant impact when it comes to increasing our social acceptance. These impressions are superficial, and do not say much about us besides how we feel others will view our choices. There’s a good reason why we do this. These impressions are safe, they’re bland, and they allow us to appeal to the widest audience possible without jeopardizing our acceptance. We do this, however, at the expense of authenticity and a genuine connection with our values.
What’s the difference between wearing a Nike or a Reebok sweatshirt? They may say which athlete we love, but they fail to reveal anything about our character. So are these purchases really that valuable in the long run? Just like how easily an athlete’s fan base can turn on them (oh how our opinions change overnight – ex. Tiger Woods), these purchases are trendy, fleeting, meaningless, non-exclusive, and cliché. Most importantly, they do not force us to align our beliefs with our actions.
What does this purchase say about me?
So how do we bypass our selective identity crisis and make every purchase matter? It comes down to complete conscious consumption. Complete conscious consumption entails a lengthy list to consider when buying a product (this is by no means a complete list):
Where is it made?
Who benefits from its production?
What is used to make it?
What is wasted to make it?
What is created to make it?
Who makes it?
How are they treated?
How does its production affect the community?
How far does it travel?
Who sells it?
What else do they sell?
Who benefits from my purchase?
Will I use it?
How will I use it?
Will it improve lives?
Will it last?
What life does it have after my use?
Do I dispose it?
What effect will disposal have?
How will I dispose of it?
It’s a big list. More simply, we can ask “What and who has been, is, and will be affected by my purchase?” Every single product we buy, consume, and dispose of actively communicates our values. Every purchase!
My challenge to you is to think about this list before you make your very next purchase. Look at the country of origin, the ingredients and components, the company selling it… and ask yourself “What does this purchase say about me?” If you like your answer, then go for it. If not, I challenge you to find a better solution.
Do you like your answer?
What else can we do to make our purchases more important in our lives?
What is my list missing?
Images via flickr from imchaudhry photo and fabiana zonca.