December 3, 2009

10 Steps Toward Mindful Consumption


"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk

Unmindful consumption has created many problems. Even if I don't consume a lot, I am still consuming. All of my purchases have repercussions throughout the supply chain. Are my hands clean? How can I become a more mindful consumer?

We are questioning our purchasing habits. As we become aware of the externalities involved in the things we buy, we can choose products and companies that cultivate personal, environmental and social well-being.

The following are 10 tips I use to become more mindful in my consumption habits:
  1. Don't panic. Many purchases are unplanned and based on emotions. Pause. Think. Then buy, or not. Often by the end of a waiting period we have ceased to desire the item altogether.
  2. Beware of emotional foreplay. Don't be seduced by consumer culture advertising/programming that appeals to lower brain functions and promotes reflexive behaviours. Beware of PPD (premature purchase disorder).
  3. Do research to increase awareness. Consumers can increasingly access information that will assist in making ethical purchasing decisions. Webs sites such as GoodGuide, SkinDeep, and EnvironmentalHealthNews offer a wealth of information for the concerned consumer. Also, check labels on products to find information such as point of origin, potentially dangerous ingredients such as unhealthy fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, diacetyl, suspected carcinogens etc.
  4. Support Fair Trade and Organic Certified products. Fair trade products promote equity and well-being throughout the system by helping consumers make ethical choices. Entire cities are designating themselves fair trade zones.
  5. Be aware of the lifespan of products. 90% of a laptop computer's impact is when it is made and disposed of. Vinyl shower curtains off-gas in landfills for decades. Plan for the entire life cycle of things you buy.
  6. Choose non-toxic alternatives. If there are aren't any, ask why.
  7. Buy local. If there is a local, healthy alternative, support your community.
  8. Plan ahead and make a list. Know what you need and limit yourself to those things.
  9. Buy quality and make things last. With proper use and maintenance quality products can be made to last, reducing the overall price per use while saving resources.
  10. Question your desires and promote good health when desires are met. Being aware of what motivates your consumption habits will make you more mindful when making purchases. You will be doing the least amount of harm possible, and that in itself promotes personal health.

1 comment:

  1. Planning ahead and making a list is what I have started working on this month. It makes such a huge and significant difference. I have challenged myself to stop my constant consumption of products. Bored? Go to the store. Unsatisfied? Buy something. Nuh uh! Time to stop that! I took a look at last month's bank statement and was blown away with the amount of unnecessary purchases (so many!). On every other front I'm so conscientious - recycle, repurpose, upcycle, organic, local, composting with my vermiculture bin, the list goes on. But on conspicuous consumption...that's where they got me! And as soon as I quit I started finding myself focusing on all the wonderful things I ALREADY HAVE. And what a blessing it is.

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