Tag Archives: Conscious consumption

Conscious consumers, sure, but where the F is the industry?

I once got into a fight with the CEO of the company where I work over the question if the industry or the consumers are responsible for the current environmental destruction in this world. He said consumers like me (and I quote) are and I told him he was dead wrong; industry leaders like him are. (No, didn’t get fired, though some colleagues feared for my survival, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the black list.)

If I had to put a number on it I’d say the industry carries 75% of the responsibility and we only 25. At best, I’d accept a 50/50. Here’s why.

THE PROBLEM

Heading home from work, super late and hungry, I might stop at a coffee shop or gas station for human fuel. Pretty fast, I will discover that there is 1. No tasty vegan food (and no, kale chips don’t count) and 2. Everything is wrapped in or packed in plastic. Not minimalistic style plastic either – huge boxes, double wrap. Should conscious consumers skip the snack because the industry only provides us with bad eco-choices?

There are countless situations like this, where consumers “have no choice” but to swallow the plastic wrap. Like, for example, when

  1. The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
  2. The airline serves you and millions of other travelers factory farmed beef on a one-time-use plastic plate. (I’m pretty sure  that what isn’t consumed on the flight is thrown out, so there’s no point in “zero wasting” this one, unless you emailed before and told them not to make a meal for you.)
  3. The municipality where you live decide not to invest in safe bike lanes, side walks and public transport so you can safely skip the car.
  4. The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
  5. There are no organic strawberries at the store, but you promised to make strawberry cake so you have to buy conventional ones (in a plastic container).

Tell me CEO,  how are these eco-disasters my responsibility?

A few years ago we didn’t know we wanted tablets. Apple invented the I-pad, and suddenly consumers decided they needed one. Industry took the lead, consumers blindly followed suddenly not even remembering how life was before there were I-pads.

If only the industry would be as inventive when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices as it is when it comes to launching new products, the world would look quite different (excluding you Elon Musk!). Consumers all over would automatically buy the eco-friendly choice that was presented to them.

ACTION

Since I doubt that the industry will start acting all “eco” on their own (I just saw that Snapple now comes in a plastic bottle instead of glass! Snapple!!!) we, the conscious consumers, must again act and invest our enthusiasm and energy. This time into generating emails, tweets, posts and making calls. We must

  1. Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
  2. Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
  3. Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
  4. Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
  5. Go to the town hall meeting, demand better infrastructure.

Etcetera, etcetera. AND, of course, we must continue to vote with our dollars, by buying everything made right (here). Our 25% (or 50, whatever) does make a difference – I’ve blogged about us taking charge and changing the market, the industry (and the world) for three years.

It’s time for the industry to wake up, take responsibility and act.

We need to help them get started.

Who are you emailing today?

Checklist: Five easy steps to becoming a conscious consumer

Ever wondered what goes on inside the head of a conscious consumer? Maybe you consider yourself to be one or maybe you are well aware that you’re quite the impulse shopper, buying things without really thinking it through. 

No matter which group of people you belong to, let me tell you that conscious shopping is quite the process!

I consider myself an extremely conscious consumer. I may be taking it a bit too far sometimes. Anyway, I decided I should write a post about what happens inside my head when I shop. Write down all the steps, for your entertainment ;).

One purchase that I am particularly excited about is our new thermometer! Since it’s a must to have one when you have a new baby (so we read) we figured we better get one sooner rather than later. It so happened that I had been given a Babies R’ Us $25 gift card, so I decided I’d go there first. What else would I possibly be buying at Babies R’ Us? (Also known as China-central.)

Here we go. Here are all the steps I went through at the store, picking out our PERFECT thermometer. My brain works overtime. Just to be clear, these five steps apply to all items I buy!

Step one: Check which options are not made in China.

This is a great start because it normally eliminates nine out of ten options! (Sometimes it eliminates all options, in which case we are entering the “challenge” part of the concious consumer thing). No different this time, I did the tag-check and it eliminated all but two thermometers. Great!

Step two: Contemplate the origin of manufacture for the remaining options.

After the China-check, the choice came down to a Braun in-ear thermometer “Made in Mexico” or an Exergen temporal artery thermometer “Assembled in USA”.

First I considered the transport; it’s a big deal to me how far my purchases travel. Since I’m in Texas, the Mexican one could in fact be more locally made than the US one, but my guess would be they’re about the same. (I looked up Exergen when I got home and I think it came from Massachusetts.)

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What about the “assembled” in USA versus “made” in Mexico part? Well, it doesn’t actually tell us that one is more local than the other; it’s just a matter of label laws! The Mexican one can very well be made of the same imported (Asian) parts as the one assembled in USA was. Here stateside, companies must use the phrase “assembled” when foreign pieces are used as part of the product. The Mexican thermometer on the other hand, because it was exported here, may very well be labeled “made” in Mexico even if many parts were imported to Mexico before assembly. Make sense?

What I do know is that the Exergen thermometer was assembled, packaged and tested in USA, which means that this product has provided some various level jobs here. I like that. In 2015 the US trade deficit with Mexico was over $60 billion, as we imported over $296 billion’s worth in Mexican-made products. No real need for me to “add” to that number either.

Step three: Decide which item has the most eco-friendly packaging.

Here’s where I got super excited! The Exergen thermometer was packaged completely without plastic! All cardboard! Yes, plastic-free! That practically NEVER happens. The Braun on the other hand came in a clear, hard molded plastic packet. Easy peasy choice!

Step four: Consider if the products are equal when it comes to functionality.

I didn’t have a clear preference when it came to function, I figured they would both get the job done. Both also proudly showed off similar “recommended by pediatricians” statements. The in-ear thermometer did come with disposable plastic in-ear shields (not sure what to call them or if they need to be used) which seemed wasteful to me while the other one had no disposable parts. Both had a common type battery; one we can buy partly recycled and also recycle after.

Step five: Figure out which is the better deal.

Yes, price is often the last thing I consider when shopping! In this case, the Braun, the one already losing this race, was actually more expensive! It was around $55, while the Exergen cost only $35. Slam dunk!

That’s it! Selection done.

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Exergen thermometer – assembled, tested, packaged right here.

The clear winner was the Exergen. I bought it and we’re so happy with it – although we haven’t actually tested it on a baby yet (only on hubs!) ;)

Conscious consumption takes a bit of thought, but when you succeed and feel content you made the BEST possible choice for the environment and yourself, there’s NO better reward.

Now, if you made it through this entire post; are you a conscious consumer or an impulse shopper?

My ultimate guide to shopping ethical and American-made style (OFFLINE!)

For anyone starting out on a Made in USA shopping journey, finding places to shop and brands to trust can be overwhelming. I know when I first started out I felt quite discouraged for a while, as it was difficult to find American-made clothes.

A few years later, and a gazillion online shops later, I know where to go for my next “Made in USA fix”. Mrs. American Made, a style blog, has guided me to many brands, so has random Instagram browsing. The question still remains though, what are some physical stores where we can find locally made clothes, shoes and décor?

Online shopping is great for supporting small businesses and of course very convenient, but sometimes it’s nice to shop down the street, isn’t it?

If you are lucky enough to live in a place that promotes local, like Boulder, CO or Asheville, NC, you’ll have access to small boutiques, fair-trade markets, apothecaries, vintage shops or brand stores like PrAna and Patagonia and you’re off to a good start. (NYC residents probably don’t need this list either!) However, many of us reside in more of a “big-box retailer” region so I’m sharing my favorite stores with that in mind! Anyone can succeed and master American-made shopping (even in the suburbs ;))!

1. The BEST store for Ethical Fashion and all around browsing: REI

Yes, the camping and outdoors giant is our favorite place to go browse and try on new clothes! REI carries brands like United by Blue, PrAna, Toad & Co and many more small batch, fair-trade, natural fiber options. They’ve also got a massive selection of great quality, made in USA socks, from Sockwell, Smart Wool, Thorlo and more. You’d be surprised how many of the camping and hiking essentials are actually made in USA as well! Here’s the store locator.

2. The BEST store for affordable Made in USA clothes: Nordstrom Rack

Here’s where I score all the best deals on American-made fashion. I’ve found sweaters, tops, dresses, jeans, sweatpants, undies and more by digging through the store and the clearance rack. Anything from $60 Citizen of Humanity jeans (!) to $10 Hanky Panky underwear – they’ve got it. Ever thought you’d run into a jumpsuit, or romper, sewn in the USA? Well, my friend Mary Beth did. Succeeding here does require some energy as stores tend to be overflowing with options. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA romper
Mary Beth in Loveappella Romper, Made in USA, from Nordstrom Rack

3. The BEST store for high quality home decor and furniture: Crate & Barrel

I know it’s on the pricier side of things, but we haven’t bought anything at Crate & Barrel that broke or disappointed us. They’ve got lots of made in USA kitchen gear, decor and furniture, as well as beautiful glassware from Europe. We got our king size bed frame from there, it was built and upholstered in North Carolina and made to order. Here’s the store locator.

4. The BEST store for American-stitched denim: Last Call by Neiman Marcus

Splendid, AG jeans, Paige, 7, True Religion, Eileen Fisher, J brand, rag & bone and several others – Last Call has most of these brands available at all times and the majority of their denim is sewn in the USA! You’ll also get a much better deal here than shopping at the mall or online. I am not the type to order jeans online – trying them on is a must. Even the same brand and style, to me, fit differently depending on the fabric and wash. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA denim where to shop
US-made Splendid denim shirt with Alice & Olivia jeans (+ wind in the hair!)

5. The BEST place to go browsing and spend all day: Premium Outlets

You might get lucky at Premium Outlets and get a good deal on made in USA items at New Balance, 7 for all mankind, Tory Burch (some jewelry is US-made!), Saks off 5th or True Religion. The downside is you might NOT and end up spending the whole day, only to find nothing but sweatshop made clothes at Banana Republic and Chinese leather bags at Coach… (don’t buy them!) It’s worth a try if you keep an open mind and if you’re in that “shop all day mood”. Here’s the outlet locator.

Phew! These are my top five! Which ones are yours?

Shopping Made in USA doesn’t have to be complicated just because it’s happening offline! Try it out, let me know what you find :)

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This is the third post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, featuring pictures of my friend Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out my previous posts in the series about an LA-made t-shirt here and a great read on domestic leathers  here.