An ecological footprint is an individual's measurements of how fast they consume resources and generate waste, compared to the earth's ability to recover from those habits. The fact is that it is easy in America, to accumulate goods, even if you financially are not secure. In our society, luxuries are more readily available and cheap compared to our necessities. Conscious consumption is a term for engaging in the economy with more awareness of how an individual’s consumption impacts society.
Shopping sustainably, with intentions to protect the environment is one of many ways to be more consumer conscious. Being consumer conscious is also challenging sometimes due to a wide range of new definitions, standards, and practices that exist. E.S.G stands for the environment, social and governance. E.S.G measures the company's commitment to reducing environmental impact. Using B Lab’s directory, you can research the company’s you shop from and their E.S.G.
Despite the many rewarding impacts of this form of conscious consumerism, it is not enough policies in place to ensure the opportunity to shop consciously. Individual ways to be a conscious consumer is to vote with your dollar while you are shopping because your money is the factor that supports a business. If you are investing your money into a business and they are not practicing sustainable habits for their business that impacts your carbon ecological footprint.
My life as a conscious consumer
I am very advanced in living the life of a conscious consumer. I was raised on the principles of upcycling. Traditionally upcycling is seen as reusing clothes to create more clothes. Some artists have also been capable of creating beautiful clothes from repurposed plastic. However, I believe that concept is not relevant or achievable for different communities. My mother raised me to understand the value of Tupperware, living minimalistic, thrifting, and repurposing old materials.
My decision to still practice this lifestyle is because I understand my actions are the least negatively damaging towards our environment. The reality is that traditional conscious consumerism ignores the historical ways that conscious consumerism is present or achievable. Many families from different socio-economic statuses act differently towards the environment due to their environmental circumstances and resources. Without access to the option of buying ethical products, it is nearly impossible to practice traditional conscious consumerism.
The conscious consumerism I grew up on was using old containers as new Tupperware or making homemade bath salts, and thrifting school uniform. The main reason for this behavior is because of the inaccessibility to fast fashion in the inner parts of Cleveland. The only fashion stores were not within the use of my free uniform vouchers. Many people within inner cities shop at their thrift stores and local stores and have always been eco-friendly and environmentally conscious because of these generational habits.
The fashion industry during the Industrial Revolution advanced due to the invention of the sewing machines. The sewing machine created higher inventory and textile factories and sweatshops were more common. Creating low-cost clothing may provide affordable new clothes however that comes with a natural fault. Low wages, poor working environments, and the impact of fast fashion all negatively impacts the resources and our health in the environment. The lack of corporate accountability allows for the tons of clothes each year that gets into landfills. Once our old clothes go to a landfill the chemicals used in clothes will get into our soil and water breaking into microplastics that affect the economy and health of our environment. The sustainable fashion movement focuses on tackling the issue of fashion waste at every step from ethical sourcing.
UGG’s and conscious consumerism
A controversy I would like to point out is the use of animals in the production of makeup and fast fashion. UGG is an example of a company that does not have any ethics for the environment because they knowingly harm sheep for their boots and other consumer goods. UGG does not only use the fur, but the skin to create these popular boots many people buy. Consumers are not aware of the ill harm these major companies have on our environment in different forms. Another risk that UGG’s pose to the environment is the potential degradation of water and land by pollution of wool. By buying UGG’s we are allowing this company to continue to make harm for their profit. Research on the environmental impacts of wool can be found here.
Principles of Upcycling
The principles I use to define what upcycling looks like for BIPOC communities look like to me. The goal of this blog is to encourage these principles to expand.
The principles of upcycling are to be a resource and represent the crucial guidelines for achieving a sustainable and minimal-waste lifestyle if you are from a community without traditional resources to be zero-waste. First, the concepts of zero-waste are impossible and never achieved. Zero-waste is defined as a set of principles to encourage the prevention of no trash being sent to landfills.
The issue with this principle is that it does not praise the fact that black and other identifying environmentalists within BIPOC communities traditionally lack access to these locations. Access to whole foods or locally owned stores that have incorporated usable or refill options is limited in BIOPIC communities. This creates a social norm of Eco-guilt, which is a feeling of hopelessness from your actions towards the environment. An example of this would-be social media influencers encouraging individuals to be traditionally conscious consumers.
This type of influence is ineffective regarding advancing the transition from a wasteful planet. A problem associated with social media is how it continues to influence the greater population to believe that they have an influence on the environment by their actions. Alongside this, real environmental dilemmas are faced due to corporate pollution. These types of influencers discourage the advancement of the environmental movement due to their exclusion of BIPOC communities and simply turning these concepts into buzzwords. There is little to no physical efforts being made by these influencers.
10 Ways to Be a Conscious Consumer
Where to shop for environmentally conscious brands that are affordable
ECOTHOT is not only a brand that has it's own Upcycle Collection, but also have educational resources. This brand creates art, clothes, and jewelry. All of the products are made with consideration to their environmental impact. These include web games to encourage recycling education. More resources about ECOTHOT can be found here.
Follow ECOTHOT on Instagram here.