Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shopping Consciously

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I believe there is a collective plot to make shoppers unconscious. To drive us mindlessly into stores and malls, enticing us through advertising and price cuts, to purchase things we don’t really need, want, or even like. We put aside our values as consumers and march like zombies into the latest discount offer drawn by the promise of a great deal. I’m an impulse buyer myself. I get sucked in by ads and deals, even though I know it’s just a sales pitch. But I am working harder each and every day to shop more consciously and to be more aware.

As an advocate for holistic living, I try to shop my values. I seek out sustainable materials and products, things that have been recycled or re-purposed, items that are non-toxic and fair trade. Figuring out how to prioritize these values isn’t always easy. Do I purchase local or organic, recycled or non-toxic, fair trade or green? These labels are not always mutually exclusive, thankfully, but sometimes we have to make choices. And what those choices are will depend upon what our individual priorities are. And what we know.

Walking into any given store, it’s not always easy to determine if your personal values are represented in the product you are purchasing or in the company behind the product. Clever labeling and marketing communications can make even toxic products appear healthy and natural to the unknowing consumer. Fortunately, there are a growing number of tools (and, dare I say, apps) to make this job a little easier! Concerned about global warming? Then bring Climate Counts along on your next shopping trip. Through their online database (or smart phone app), you can choose to purchase from companies that are starting to make changes to reduce global warming – or who are well on their way to being green. Or you might use the Good Guide’s database which rates not only the health/safety of products, but also their impact on the environment and the social score of the company behind the product – in other words, a rating of their corporate ethics, community engagement, and working conditions for employees, among other factors. Good Guide also has a super-handy smart phone app that enables you to use bar code scanners to view product ratings.

Concerned about the safety of your sunscreen or the toxicity of your shampoo? The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database is packed with data for you to review. Organic Spa Magazine also offers a smart phone app (and printed guide) for skin care products that help you identify the leading products in the natural and organic market.

With so many tools and choices, there’s no reason to become a shopping zombie. The power of our purchases as consumers is very strong. Shop consciously, shop wisely, and demand better products for yourself and for your family!

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