Conscious Consumer Revolution: Decision-Making Guide

One thing we've learned is that becoming a conscious consumer isn't something that happens overnight. It takes time, patience, and practice.

Maybe you start recycling, then you learn how to read labels, then you start trying to find out how a product was made and the workers were treated.

So we’ve put together this guide to help you find the best options available for your family and the planet next time you’re in the store or online:

1.     Do I need it? In many cases, you might find that you already own something that can serve the same purpose. For example, multifunctional items like white vinegar and all-purpose cleaner can eliminate the need for multiple purchases.

2.     Does it need to be new? Buying, borrowing, or renting can save loads of money and reduce your environmental impact. If it's something you won't use often (like a circular saw), consider borrowing it from a friend or renting it. Other items like musical instruments, sporting equipment, and baby clothes are great candidates for secondhand purchases.

3.     Who made it? If you decide that the item needs to be new, ask yourself who made it and what conditions they were in. Consider the entire manufacturing cycle, from whether the product was tested on animals to whether employees were paid a fair wage.

4.     Can I buy it locally? One way to know where your product comes from is to buy from local farmers and artisans (don’t be afraid to ask questions). There are more options than ever at farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and local restaurants.

5.     What's it made from? Once you've decided on an item, take a closer look. Are the materials sourced fair trade/fair for life/organic? Does the company use sustainable sourcing practices?

6.     What am I using around my home and family? Get to know what your food and cosmetic labels mean. Keep in mind that some products, like cleaning supplies, are not required to list their ingredients on the label — so get to know brands like Seventh Generation who disclose their ingredients right on the package.

7.     How long will it last? Before swiping your card, ask yourself if the item will hold up. Buying a high-quality item may cost more upfront, but will likely save you money in the long run. Don't forget to think about what will happen after it wears out, breaks, or goes out of style. Can you compost, recycle, or donate the item once you're done with it?

8.     What about the packaging? Sometimes packaging can create more waste than the item itself! Look for items with as little packaging as possible (like fresh lettuce instead of bagged) and bring your own shopping bag. When ordering online, add a note asking for "no plastic" and reuse packing materials to wrap gifts. Look for containers made with Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) material and recycle used containers to help reduce the amount of these materials that end up in landfills.