Flex Your Strength as a Consumer

Let’s stop and think for a minute; what have you purchased today? Maybe a train or bus pass for your transportation. Maybe you met a friend for lunch at your favorite restaurant. Did you get groceries today or buy a family member a gift? Picture what you bought; what decisions went into deciding to purchase those items?

Americans consume a lot. Our purchasing habits make us the largest consumers in the world of resources and we’re less than 5% of the global population. The truth is most of the “stuff” we buy- we either throw out, stop using, or replace within 6 months of purchasing it. What kind of product life span is that? Think about what you bought today and ask yourself if you’ll use it or still have it 6 months from now.

Where did you decide to spend your money today? Was it the most convenient store? Do they have the best prices? Do they make the highest quality material? Something consumers may not realize is that we hold the most power when it comes to change in this country, and it is all based on the questions I just mentioned.

We decide who stays in business and who needs to change their ways. We decide what types of stores and businesses we want in our community. Simply by selecting where you spend your time and money, you are voting to keep them in business or encourage them to change their ways. After all you can’t market or put a product into production unless it is something consumers actually want.

Considering that we can choose which products to support, how should we choose what products to buy? I recently read a Canadian study about sustainable marketing. Their research found that before deciding whether or not to buy a product, consumers first decide their need for the product. If they’re not convinced they might read the label or ask a friend about the product; gain more information before buying and then make their choice. This might happen over a short or long period of time but we all go through these thoughts before buying something. Now when factoring in sustainable choices or choices that not only fill your need but also satisfy the need of the environment and the people who created and sell the product, what will give consumers reason to be unhappy buying unsustainable products.

If you don’t agree with how a store treats their employees or where they get their produce- explore a new place to shop. If you don’t like the fact that local businesses are having harder times surviving because they can’t stand up to corporations, then buy local and put your money back into your community. Spend your money in what you actually believe in and what you actually want to do well.

Just think of the power you have. Everything you bought today, you voted for that establishment over their competitors. Do your purchases reflect your values? Are the products that you bought made with quality materials that you want to support? This may seem like an intense way to think about shopping but you might find you’re happier with your purchases if your spending mirrors your values. Use your newfound power wisely, remember, your dollar, your vote.