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What on earth is a Conscious Consumer?

March 8, 2010

We are all awake aren’t we?  Of course or else how could we be reading this page, be interpreting the words on this page and be processing the information through our brains.  We are awake but that is not the same as being conscious.

What does A Lert look like?

Without going into too much philosophy (although I do like to) it may be useful to just consider for a moment what consciousness really means. It is a state of awareness where YOU are in control of your mind. It is about being focused, about being in the moment and about being switched on. Being alert.  

How often do we do things with our brain dimmer switch turned to ‘cozy’? 

You know, the lights are on but they are not staring you brightly in the face, they are not challenging or testing you. The light enables you to see but it is not bright enough to pick out the nuances of the current situation.  We are just passing through, ticking the box and giving the task at hand just enough attention to avoid us falling into a heap. That is not being conscious.

When we talk about being a conscious consumer (and this is something that I am a massive fan of) we are talking of turning up the spotlight on our purchasing behaviour. We are focusing our whole attention on analysing that ‘thing’, that product before we turn over our dollars:

  • Do we need it?
  • Do we want it and if we do, why do we want it?
  • Will it work?
  • What are the wider implications of me buying this?
  • What does this say about me and my values?
  • What will I do with this when I have it?
  • Do I value this enough to take it?

These are just some of the questions that a conscious consumer will ask before deciding on a purchase.  How many of us do that?

The answers will vary but next time you are at the store just browsing ask yourself a few questions before you join the que and remember that there need not be anything wrong with just buying something because you like it – just understand WHY you like it.

If you want to understand more about what constitutes a “Conscious Consumer” I recommend checking out Helio Mattar  from the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption in Brazil.   He looks at how companies can help to raise consumer consciousness and talks about the implications of this.

In my mind the only way to build up a sustainable cosmetics industry is to invest in raising consumer consciousness.  However, this needs to be done with care and integrity. It does not involve scaring people into action – while fear motivates some it paralyses others and most fear-motivated actions lead to a dead-end road. 

The conscious consumer requires an emotional tool kit that is sharp, discerning and open to the process of critical evaluation.  This involves raising our collective Emotional Intelligence (but that is another story).

As far as I am concerned our move towards “green” will be built on pillars of sand if we seek to solve this problem without being fully conscious so let’s all take a deep breath, open our eyes and start by feeling the ground beneath our feet, the light that enters our eyes and the feeling of the wind upon our skin.

We are all in this together and today is a wonderful day to start.

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