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Nowadays people live in the society governed by consumerism that has a great variety of positive and negative effects on the humanity. Elise M. Boulding, an outstanding American sociologist, once said, “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things”. It is obvious that being able to buy whatever people want the moment they decide to do is a big advantage of the modern economic system that offers plenty of ways to consume goods and services. However, the escalating tempos of consumerism growth and its devastating impact on human psyche pose the question about counteracting these influences. The most effective way of dealing with negative repercussions of consumerism ideology but at the same time enjoying the benefits of modern economics is conscious consumerism.
People in the modern society are constantly bombarded by advertisements that try to persuade them that they need to buy some particular product to become happy and feel more satisfied with life. This pressure becomes so strong and overwhelming that these materialistic values promoted by advertising and consumerism culture, in general, become the main driving force of the society, making people less interested in other non-materialistic intrinsic aspects. It is quite common for a person to be judged in the society by one’s wealth and not such qualities as smartness and kindness, among others. Having no opportunity to constantly buy new products, people may also feel severely depressed. All these issues prove that there is an urgent need to develop a strategy that would eliminate all the negative influences of excessive consumerism. The so-called conscious consumerism may offer a system of rules and behavioral patterns that would help consumers to orientate in the modern economic world.
First, being a conscious consumer means using critical thinking while answering the following question – “Why do I buy the product/service? Do I really need it or do advertisers make me think so?” The honest answer to this question may already solve quite many problems related to excessive consumerism, for instance, reduce depression risks and harmonize personal spending. This step can also help the person to understand that buying things is not an effective way to reach happiness despite all efforts of advertisers to make people think otherwise. By promoting materialistic values typical for consumerism, people tend to change completely the psychological climate of the society. Those who are too much obsessed with buying things tend to pay less attention to the environmental protection and spend less time with friends and family. In addition to counteracting the direct impact of advertising, conscious consumerism implies a deeper analysis of the product before the purchase. People should pay much more attention to the hidden costs. In fact, these costs can relate to not only the direct price of the product but also the environmental and social aspects.
While speaking about ecological repercussions of consumption, it is first necessary to mention extraction of finite resources. Almost all goods that are not made of recycled resources contribute to the depletion of all resources on the planet. Therefore, consumers should be aware of the fact that when they buy some particular product, they make the time when the humanity will use all natural resources that cannot be returned closer. This process is inevitable, but a conscious consumer should prefer goods that can be recycled or those made of recycled materials. Another element that should be kept in mind is the actual pollution that may result from the production. It often happens that factories and plants contribute either directly or indirectly to the process of damaging the environment. One of the ways to counteract such practices is to pay attention to various labels that certify the compliance with the ecological standards. It is extremely important to understand that even smallest environmentally friendly choices have a powerful impact on general trends. It often happens that people feel powerless in their attempts to counteract global warming, pollution, and other environmental issues. However, many research studies prove that conscious consumerism may be effective enough to make meaningful changes.
Another type of hidden costs of the product is connected with the people who are engaged in the process of production. A company may prioritize minimizing the price of the goods in order to attract more clients, but such a strategy may also result in the failure to provide proper working conditions and salaries to workers. This problem often occurs when large organizations relocate their production venues to developing countries or countries with low labor costs, for instance, China. It can also be partially explained by the fact that when relocating production, the enterprises shift their responsibility. According to the legislation of these developing countries, such practices may be quite acceptable in contrast to the developed European countries or the United States These unethical choices made by the companies are difficult to counteract within the frames of legal procedures, but conscious consumerism seems to be an effective tool in eliminating this approach. People should pay special attention to the treatment of workers and know more about the producer when they buy goods. As in the case with environmental aspects, it is advisable to pay attention to the labels, such as “sustainably harvested” and others.
It is also important for modern businesses to understand the power of conscious consumerism and treat it as not a challenge, but rather a way to do two extremely important things simultaneously – to increase profits and save the planet. In fact, fair, ethical, or safe business practices may not be the subject of government regulations as it is nowadays, but the goal of any enterprise or company. One recent study shows, “74% of those surveyed would pay an extra 5% for their clothes if there was a guarantee workers were being paid fairly and working in safe conditions”. These figures may not seem significant, but if taking into account the volumes of production and profits, the attitude to these facts is likely to change as fashion industry companies may give about 125 million workers a fair chance to get out of poverty if the management decides to increase the wages by only 1%. The findings of this study prove that conscious consumerism is a powerful tool in the process of improving the world and its effectiveness should not be underestimated.
Overall, being a conscious consumer may be treated as an effective way of navigating in the modern world where consumption has become one of the main factors influencing all social spheres. Conscious consumerism can offer people a strategy to protect themselves from the negative impact of advertising and, at the same time, make a significant contribution to the improvement of the environment, elimination of poverty, and other important social issues that need to be urgently addressed. Therefore, becoming a conscious consumer should be the goal for every modern person, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or religion. What is more important, this idea should come from the common people, not governments or institutions, as building a better and safer future is a goal that is sure to work for everyone.
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