Recently more and more people are realising the destructive effects of consumerism, and seeking a way out of the materialistic lifestyle that defines modern industrialised societies. So what alternatives are there for those that want to fight back against consumerism and its negative effects?
Breaking away from a materialistic way of living is not easy. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to commit to becoming a minimalist and never buying stuff you don’t really need. Of course, it may be a good idea (e.g., financially and/or mental health-wise) to refrain from excessive purchasing, but having notably more clothes than you need is, in itself, not unethical. The key is to ensure that your money doesn’t go to companies that contribute to the vast environmental and human exploitation we’ve been seeing in these last decades.
Of course the easiest way to avoid filling the pockets of irresponsible companies is by not buying new products in the first place. Instead try buying second hand wherever possible. Charity shops and online second-hand shops offer an easy and often highly cost-effective alternative, allowing you to purchase ‘new’ pieces for your wardrobe without filling the pockets of unethical businesses. Instead, your money will go either to worthy charitable organisations who will use it to fund important research or help those most in need, or to another ordinary person just like you who will be happy to have made £5 by selling their unwanted clothes.
Of course, even if you buy most of your stuff second hand, buying new is unavoidable to a certain level. When doing so, make sure that you avoid buying from companies with shady supply chains and poor compliance records (which might take the form of tax avoidance, dodging environmental regulations, etc). It does take some extra effort to do so as you might need to do a bit of digging, but it will enable you to better understand where your money would go, and will help you keep your consciousness clear.
Needless to say, be weary of claims made by the companies themselves. Statements, especially vague ones such as “we are committed to reduce our environmental impact” and the like are just words – often (half)empty ones. This is not to say that you are to doubt every claim that companies make of course. However, those that are actually committed to doing business (more) responsibly, are likely to have some evidence such as transparency reports published on their website, or accreditation such as B Corp, FairTrade, OEKO-TEX etc that reflect real action towards corporate responsibility. Alternatively, you can look for independent evaluation. For example, Ethical Consumer researches companies and scores them on issues such as environment, human rights, animal rights etc, providing you with detailed information that will help you make a conscious decision.
If you find that a particular company has questionable track records, or are unable to find sufficient records altogether, it’s best to avoid buying anything from them. By steering clear of filling the pockets of irresponsible businesses, and instead supporting ethical businesses such as local suppliers, you not only ensure that your own consciousness can stay clear, but you will also be adding your support to the growing global movement working to achieve, step by step, a more just world for all.