Jacket: Free People via ThredUp | Top: Brandy Melville | Skirt: Levi’s via a friend | Shoes: Steve Madden
photography by Annie Hickey
I’ve been thinking a lot more about what it means to be a conscious consumer lately. Maybe it’s because I went on an online shopping rampage last month and bought some things that definitely are not sustainable, or maybe it’s because I’m now interning for a zero-waste company where every conversation relates back to conscious consumerism, but something in me switched. I bought reusable tupperware and to-go silverware, I’ve started cooking meals again, and I am back in a sustainable shopping mindset. At my internship I came across a quote that really made me think: “purchasing is always a moral act” – Pope Francis.
He’s right. Although buying your favorite cookie butter at Trader Joes or buying a Starbucks coffee on your way to work may not seem like a moral act, it is. By purchasing something you are supporting the product itself as well as the systems in place to produce it. If you buy the most beautiful looking apple from the supermarket, you are supporting the idea that food must look good to sell. That purchase decision tells the supermarket that they are correct in thinking that they should only purchase perfect produce from farmers. That message travels down the chain to the farmers, who then throw out perfectly good produce if it does not look good, and that contributes to the ever growing issue of food waste. This principle is also true in the fashion industry.
By purchasing something – literally anything – from a fast fashion company, you are supporting fast fashion and all of the principles of fast fashion. You are supporting unsafe labor conditions, the production of monetarily and physically cheap clothing, and the idea that clothes are disposable. By supporting that company and purchasing their products, you are encouraging them to keep doing what they are doing. Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect in this sense. I have knowingly shopped at stores that do not uphold the moral and ethical standards that I so strongly believe in, but have written it off as a “one time thing” or as “necessary”. I think it is honestly unrealistic for someone to only shop 100% sustainably and ethically for their entire lives. I tried buying completely sustainable and ethical clothing for a year, and while that was pretty successful, it was only clothing. It didn’t include anything else that I purchased, like my favorite Starbucks iced teas, decorations for my dorm, and little random things here and there. There is something to be said for consuming consciously. Treating each purchase like a conscious decision, remembering what Pope Francis said about purchasing always being a moral act, is not difficult to do. And not only will it change the way you shop, but it has the power to influence businesses.
I have begun shopping sustainably again, frequenting my favorite flea market Melrose Trading Post and going to sample sales more often. I’ve also gotten back into ThredUp, which is where I got this amazing Free People jacket, and I love it even more knowing that it is second hand. I’m trying to be more of a conscious consumer in all parts of my life now, though. I buy produce from the farmers market that comes to USC’s campus once a week and visit the Melrose Place Farmer’s Market (where these photos were taken) whenever I am in the area. I am cooking more and wasting less food, I am actively remembering to bring my reusable straws with me when I get iced tea (because those little green straws are not recyclable), and am making more intentional purchase decisions and less impulse purchases. Being a conscious consumer takes time and effort, but it is one of the best ways to make an impact on industries across the board.