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8 Ways To Be An Altruistic Consumer

Many of us want to be altruistic, to make a positive impact on the world. We consider ourselves to be global citizens, but don’t necessarily feel a calling to move to a conflict zone or a rural village in a developing country to work firsthand on these issues. So how do we ensure that from a distance we are supporting global causes that are meaningful and effective?

We’re bombarded everyday with information about wars, conflicts, global warming, poverty, disease, etc. It is overwhelming and can ultimately causes us to become paralyzed. Instead of contributing to these causes, we can become inactive, feeling overburdened and like we cannot make a difference. This is called compassion fatigue and is defined as an “Indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.”

There is so much going on in the world, yes. But there are ways that you, as a global (and local) consumer can make a difference, especially in your purchasing decisions. As consumers, we cannot underestimate our power.

So when we next go through our closet or go shopping with friends, here are a few suggestions I would make:

  1. Be willing to ask hard questions of the brands you know and love and support ones doing good. Research the environmental and social costs of companies you purchase from and continue demanding transparency and their commitment to doing good. Ask who made a product and at what environmental cost? And support companies who are doing good things! There are companies supporting artisans who are survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, poverty, to create jobs and a sustainable living for themselves and their families. There’s a huge diversity of needs addressed through new and existing socially conscious business models.
  2. Shop local. Investing in the local economy is hugely important in supporting local jobs, keeping a community unique and improving public services. Plus with less transportation required, there’s a reduced environmental impact.
  3. Quality over quantity. Adopt the mindset that clothing and household appliances are investments, made to last. Products made for disposability are not your friend, or the environment’s friend for that matter! And remember to care for your products so they will last. Put the time and effort into ensuring their longevity.
  4. When considering making a purchase, ask yourself if you really need that product. Will it be worn or used frequently? The simpler your closet and home, the better. The fewer quality items you have, the smaller the environmental cost.
  5. Upcycle. Before buying a new item, see if you can find it secondhand. In addition to a reduced cost, it also minimizes excess waste.
  6. When it’s feasible and affordable, choose clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics. Replace toxic, synthetic plastic with organic, biodegradable and natural materials. Synthetic materials require high energy use and crude oil to make, which natural fabrics do not. Plus fabrics made from plant matter decompose much quicker.
  7. Minimize packaging waste. There’s no need for extra packaging that will just be thrown away! Always have a reusable bag handy and ask stores not to wrap things up when offered. The sooner we get away from single-use items the better, both for your wallet and the environment!
  8. Wash and dry clean clothes only when needed. Don’t forget that the environmental impact of a piece of clothing doesn’t end when you purchase it. There’s a significant environmental impact to washing one’s clothes, so do this only when necessary.

While it can seem overwhelming at first, adopting a few (or even all!) of these steps will begin to reduce your carbon footprint and ensure the purchases you do make are impactful and doing good. Happy shopping!

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