I am truly now understanding the meaning of conscious shopping. There are so many things to think about when you are going to buy something somewhere.
First of all, plastic – are they using plastic or not, and if they are, is there anyway for you to avoid it. Second, are they using sustainable items, things that are compostable, or renewable, like bamboo, hemp, or second hand items, that are not going to use more resources. Third, are they using any animal-related products, to prevent all of the load on the environment.
The main thing about purchasing an item, is can you go without this item. Thats the biggest thing to think about.
It’s so easy nowadays, especially since there are so many stores selling cheap things, to say, “Okay, I am just going to buy this because, its so cheap, and if I don’t use it, I can throw it out or I can donate it. But it took hundreds of litres of water, and hundreds of acres of forest, and other resources to create this one item. You might use it once and then throw it out. But, it will stay in a garbage dump producing heat, and methane, and pollutants for a long time.
And all of this, just because you didn’t take the time to think, okay, do I really need this? Do I really, really need this? Can I go without it? Are there any other options? Can I borrow from someone else? Can I use something I already have?
Conscious Awareness While Walking Through The World
In this way, I have been walking through the Sunday markets in Chiang Mai (CM) with a whole new awareness.
Instead of picking up the first thing I see, I have been taking a step back and thinking, “Hmm, do I really need this? Don’t I have something like this at home? Will it just sit there?”
I have noticed that a lot of things I will buy with great enthusiasm, end up sitting in my room doing nothing. While I am buying it, I think to myself, “Oh man, I am going to use this a lot, and I am going to not regret this at all.”
And then, I bring it home, I put it on a shelf, or a drawer, or a table, and then a month later, or a week later, I notice it sitting there, and I think to myself, oh man, I didn’t even think about using this item in all of this time. What the hell?
The same thing applies to plastic food containers. Everything, and I mean, almost everything, is placed into a plastic container or bag, and then into a plastic bag, at least here in Thailand. And I’m sure in other places as well.
It takes a little of effort to think about it, and say no to a plastic bag, or no to a plastic straw, or say no to fast food.
Saying No To Grabbing And Going, or ‘Fast Food’
This has meant that instead of grabbing and going, which I would do a lot of before, I am actually slowing down a bit.
Sitting down in the restaurant, and taking 10-15 minutes to eat the food, gently, kindly, and slowly. Instead of rushing from place to place, I am taking the time to think about it.
One of the things that I have completely eliminated from my diet is smoothies, unless I make them at home, because everyone, almost everyone in Thailand, serves smoothies in plastic cups with plastic straws, and with a plastic sleeve that you can use as a bag to hold the cup. Or in a plastic bag, so you can carry it with you wherever you go. That’s just too much plastic.
Even fruit is cut and served in plastic bags.
Instead of just grabbing and going, and then throwing out the plastic, without thinking twice about where it’s going to go (probably into the river or the ocean or some land fill which will pollute the nearby villages), I say no.
It’s not a major hardship. I am not really missing out that much.
I can just look to getting my smoothies at home with ingredients I know and trust, or at places I know are using glasses and metal or bamboo straws. Just a little conscious thought changes everything.
The same thing applies to transport. Instead of just flying from one place to another, on a scooter, or a taxi, taking a little time to think, could I walk instead, or could I avoid this journey altogether?
Not only has the amount of garbage I am producing decreased, but the kind of garbage I am producing has changed as well. It’s less plastic. More cardboard, and paper, that can be composted and/or has been made from sustainable sources.
Say No To The Mindless Consumption That Destroys The Earth
Now, that I have been following along with myself with regards to becoming a conscious shopper, I have actually noticed all sorts of ways that I can reduce my plastic consumption, reduce my footprint on the Earth, and just reduce the amount of shit that I gather.
1. Say no to free stuff – There are so many companies and places touting free things, free pens, free bags, free shit that you will never look at again. Don’t accept it. Don’t take it. You don’t need it. Just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean that we should accept it.
2. Say no to fast fashion – its so easy to buy cheap fashion items, because its just a $3 t-shirt, or it’s a $5 leggings. And if you buy 3, you can half off, and things like that. And then you wear that item for two seconds, it tears, and you throw it away. It took serious resources, not only Earth resources, in terms of water, and stuff, but also human resources, probably working for a very low income, to make that item for you to use once and throw out. Is it really worth it? Maybe, is it really something we cannot take two seconds to think about? Is it that hard to be a little bit more conscious about it?
3. Say no to plastic bags – It’s seriously the easiest thing in the world to buy a reusable bag that folds up really small. And then just carry it around with you everywhere. This way you are able to say no to plastic bags, and then that plastic bag you said no to, doesn’t have to sit at the bottom of some ocean or river clogging up our environment for decades to come. So simple, and yet so effective.
4. Say no to buying stuff because you are bored. Oh man, I have been guilty of this so many times. Browsing through Amazon or Lazada (the Thai version of Amazon), and just finding random shit to purchase. Because quite frankly, I am just bored in that moment. Why? Why do I do this? It’s just a such a waste not only of Earth resources, but of my own money. That money that I worked hard to earn is now just lying at the bottom of my closet or in drawers, as wasted items, that will never be used, never see the light of day, and will be donated one day in the hopes that someone else will get better use out of it. Gosh, it’s so silly. I want to slap myself when I do things like this.
5. Say no to unconscious shopping. This is a big one, and the tenet of this entire essay. I would say 95% of the time, I purchase stuff without any conscious thought put into it. Seriously. It could even be higher than that.
I am dilly-dallying about my day, roaming around this Earth, not thinking seriously about things that I purchase, and just buying them because it’s fun. Or because I deserve it, because I had a hard day, because it’s there, because I’m bored, because whatever the stupid reason might be.
And then again, it just sits there in my room, accumulating dust, and not doing anything. Now, everything I purchase, has to go through a three-point question set. Do I already have something similar to this at home? Do I really need this? Can I go without it? And if the answer results in even a little bit of hesitation, I’m outta there, because there’s really no need to purchase that item. And 100% of the time, I don’t regret not purchasing that item. 100% OF THE ITEMS. Do you get this?
6. Say no to plastic in general. As much as possible, as humanly possible as it is for me, I try to buy everything in glass containers. Or without plastic surrounding items. I carry my own bag and I throw everything into it. I try to buy things either in their natural state, or in a glass container. The good thing is that I have a really simple beauty routine, I don’t use many products at all. Thus, most of the products I purchase can be in glass containers, for example, coconut oil, and Argan oil.
7. Say no to overstuffing your closet with stuff you never wear. I am a digital nomad, which means that I have a couple of plastic boxes of clothes back home. Mostly winter stuff that I need when I go back to visit. But EVERY time, I go back, I actually purge items from those boxes. I have given away so many bags of clothing to swaps that I can’t even keep track of it anymore.
I have done donations to homeless shelters, and to women’s shelters, because I just don’t think there’s any purpose in keeping stuff I am never going to use. But, knowing that I have two boxes of stuff in my parent’s home in Toronto, and then a closet here in Chiang Mai that has a lot of clothes in it as well, keeps me in check. I always remind myself of all of that stuff, all of those clothes and items, whenever I am thinking about adding one more item to that repertoire.
Do I really need one more romper when I have two in the closet that I never ever wear? It’s a really good way for me to shut up my inner shopper, who just has no self-control at all.
There are many conscious ways to change the way we think about shopping.
Instead of making it a mindless activity, that we use as a way of escaping from the present moment, we can make it a more conscious activity. That we use in order to get back into the present moment. We can actually enjoy the fact that we have the resources (money, time, etc), to be able to spend time going shopping, and buying beautiful things for ourselves. It’s a luxury that not everyone in the world has.
And we are lucky to be able to buy things that we want at the drop of a few dollars. That’s the awesome world we live in, right now.