Being a Conscious Consumer

It is encouraging to see people taking more time and energy to do something that could have a huge impact – aligning their purchasing decisions with their values. To some degree this has been the case for a few generations, such as the Buy American/Canadian movement that promotes purchasing items made in our country to keep alive local companies. So what has changed? Well, quite a bit actually. 

We Think More About Energy Consumption

We used to be excited about how we could eat fresh fruit in the dead of Winter.  I remember all the canning my mother did in summer and how thrilling it was to have canned peaches or cherries from our cherry tree in those cold January nights. Now we can walk into any major grocery chain and buy ripe pineapples, mangos and other tropical fruits. But we’re realizing the price of shipping and the associated carbon footprint that we are supporting by buying fruit that is shipped over vast distances.

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We Think More About Corporate Values

“Voting with our wallets” is a common phrase now and it gets at two key ideas – companies will respond to consumer dissatisfaction and consumers can punish bad corporate policies by impacting their revenues. This is amplified by many companies using social media, especially Twitter, as a venue to interact with customers.

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We want to know more about companies so that we ensure that we are supporting a business that aligns with our values. Do they pay their workers a fair wage? Are they using their size as leverage to underpay their suppliers? Are they using organic or natural materials so that I can be sure my baby is safe from potentially dangerous chemicals?

We Think More About Where We Get Our Food

There is a big push for restaurants to serve meals that include local produce or meat and local food buying clubs are springing up to purchase from local farmers. The potential benefits of this are beyond the economic and I think really center around education. Do you know where your Big Box Store meat comes from? Not likely. Do you know the name of the person that made your Big Box Store honey? Not likely. But imagine if you did know that information! Think about how your family would appreciate the wonderful and sometimes unpredictable aspects of growing and harvesting food. There could be some very educational conversations around the table about why the chicken from the farm down that gravel road has smaller chickens, but better tasting, than what you get from the Big Box Store. Or why the carrots are not all perfectly long and the same length. And why can’t we buy as many peaches this year after that big hail storm?

We Think More About Garbage

Our attitudes about garbage and packaging can differ depending on where we live. The reality is that different countries and even regions with countries vary in how actively they are attempting to divert and reduce garbage. Regardless of those differences, we can all make conscious decisions to buy items that have minimal packaging and look at how much of it is from recycled materials. It may take a bit more effort to remember to bring along your own shopping bags and it will cost more money to buy heirloom-quality baby gifts. But the effort is worth it for the sake of future generations and for the sake of taking responsibility for how we personally are harming nature.

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We Think More About Advertising

My oldest daughter, at the age of 8, has already learned in school and at home about how advertising works. She knows that she needs to think about what companies are telling her and evaluate their claims, not taking them at face value. The more we can think critically about advertising the more we can understand how much of our purchasing decisions are based on what the companies have pitched to us. Sometimes what we see in ads that portray a happy consumer is like a veneer – peel off that shiny top layer and you’ll find underneath it nothing different, unique or long lasting.

A lot of these elements feed into the philosophy behind My Lil’ Bean and give us pause when making decisions about our baby basket suppliers. We hope that conscious consumers like yourselves will push businesses to the point where it makes good business sense to do the right thing.