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Conscious Consumption: Making a Difference Every Day

Oct 26, 2011 09:58AM ● By Stephen Christoph

Many organizations, causes, and movements are working to make the world a better place. Globally, people are striving to save endangered species, protect the environment, cure disease, end social injustice and feed the hungry, along with a bevy of other worthwhile altruistic endeavors. Whether they are directly involved, financially supportive or even entirely unaware of the fact, everyone plays a role in the success and failure of these efforts.

Consumers have many options to procure needed goods and services. Those choices are constantly guiding the behavior and activities of companies both large and small, because they must respond to consumer demands in order to stay in business. When this choice becomes a conscious action, we can exercise our influence by supporting organizations that align with our principles and leverage that power for more benefit than just sustaining local businesses. It can even influence the price of gasoline, and direct public policy regarding rBGH in milk at the supermarket, for example.

Every time we hand over cash, swipe our credit card or write a check, we are investing in the companies and causes that we patronize. Think of where you shopped and dined this past week. Do you believe in the way these organizations conduct themselves and agree with their values and the impact they have on the world? If not, then your spending may not be aligned with your values.

In a society where business is having an ever-growing impact on politics, every purchase casts a vote for what you want to see more of in the world. Supporting a responsible, environmentally or socially conscious company over its less-conscious competitors is a vote for a more mindful, considerate economy and world. On the other hand, if you choose not to consciously support organizations and causes you believe in and opt for price only, you are sending a message that it doesn’t matter how people and organizations behave or conduct business; as long as they keep their products cheap and convenient, you’ll patronize them.

We can make a difference by seeking out environmentally friendly manufacturers for the products we buy or choosing to do business with companies that support the causes we feel most drawn to. In doing so, we, as consumers, leverage the economic forces of supply and demand instead of demonstrating reactive consumerism—unconsciously doing business with the most convenient, cheapest vendor without regard for the quality or values of the institutions we patronize.

The greatest hurdle to realizing this potential for influence is indifference. People naturally care. We’re hard-wired for it. When we get caught up in our daily lives and begin to rely too heavily on convenience, seeing ourselves and our actions as just a drop in the bucket, we can lose sight of that caring and the amazing power we all hold over the world around us. Unconscious habit and an overload of obligations cause a collapse in our priorities, which prompts us to forget about the big picture and abdicate dominion over our own quality of life and that of the lives we touch.

Active participation in life does not have to be inconvenient, theatrical or grandiose. Conscious consumption can be as simple as choosing the grocery store with organic produce that is 10 minutes farther away. Being involved doesn’t require moving to a third world country, chaining oneself to a bulldozer, trading in your car for a bicycle or sacrificing comforts. We can still have worldly pleasures and the ethereal satisfaction of making a difference as we financially steer the systems and organizations that affect global change.

This is not about what people should do; it is about what we can do. Think of the difference we’ll make when we start deciding our desired outcomes, seeking out the best ways to achieve them and activating the resources of like-minded organizations, by deliberately doing business with them. Every individual can positively impact the world many times in a day, simply by looking for ways to make a difference, like choosing where to shop, as often as possible, instead of going through life repeating yesterday’s decisions over and over again.

It doesn’t mean having to shop only with the organizations that have elaborate environmental policies or grand charitable contributions. Conscious consumption simply means recognizing the power of our patronage, and knowing that we always have a choice.

Stephen Christoph is a bio-energy healer and conscious living coach. Learn more at