In many ways, materialism is the antithesis of spirituality. Research indicates that materialism is associated with decreased life satisfaction. What’s more, materialistic attitudes effectively contradict efforts to protect the planet, and they come with ethical considerations as well.
Yet, even in the least developed nations, making purchases is a necessary aspect of modern life. In a global culture that effectively relies on the free market and consumerism, your overall wellbeing hinges on your ability to make purchasing decisions that feed your spirit and reflect your spiritual beliefs. Conscious consumerism requires you to embrace minimalism, look towards local products over those sourced overseas, and support companies that put people and the planet before profit.
It’s important to note that your purchasing decisions may also impact the livelihood and health of other global citizens. To that end, spiritually-minded consumers must be especially mindful of the origin of the food, skincare, household, and everyday products that you consume and purchase. When making purchasing decisions that can help feed the spirit, from daily staples to big-ticket items, research, mindfulness, and ethical consistency are key.
The Unlimited Power of Your Purchasing Decisions
The power of your purchasing decisions spans well beyond your spirituality, however. Consumers can even fuel industry change by boycotting certain items or companies while supporting those dedicated to sustainability and ethical production methods. And there’s plenty of evidence that consumer activism truly can make a difference, whether the ultimate goal is boycotting or buying en masse.
Conscious consumerism has even given rise to various movements and trends, and the internet has helped fuel the move towards company accountability. As modern global consumers have become more aware of the origin of certain items, such as cocoa, ethical considerations are now impossible to ignore. Third World farmers typically make pennies per hour, and child labor is commonplace.
Some of the biggest culprits in this regard are banana, cocoa bean, and coffee plantations, the bulk of which are located in Third World nations. But some good, at least, has come from our awareness of problematic industries. The ubiquity of poor working conditions, abysmal wages, and children forced to work in fields led to the 1997 creation of Fairtrade International, which seeks to increase morality in the marketplace.
Common Terms and Ingredients to Avoid
Thanks to the efforts of early consumer activists, various phrases have entered the public vernacular, designed to help us make ethical purchasing choices. If your goal is to make purchasing decisions that don’t compromise your spiritual beliefs, it’s important to know what you’re buying. Common terms that you may want to learn include fair trade, cruelty-free, natural, and organic. These are especially common in the beauty industry.
A cruelty-free label indicates that a product and its ingredients were not tested on animals. This term can be easily confused with “vegan,” which means that the product was made without animal by-products of any kind. If the protection of animals is part of your spirituality, be on the lookout for vegan and cruelty-free alternatives of your favorite products.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have to guess whether or not a product is ethically produced: Companies that produce ethical and/or sustainable products are typically eager to spread the word, and such features as fair trade or organic certification will be prominently displayed on the label. Among food and cosmetic products sold in the U.S., certain labeling guidelines are handed down by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Weighing the Cost of Your Purchases
Along with positive product terminology, it’s also in your best interest to have at least a basic knowledge of ingredients to avoid in everyday items. Some, including harmful parabens and sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in cosmetics, are easy to spot, and subsequently, avoid. But some unethical ingredients may be less obvious. When reading product labels, note that even natural ingredients may not be completely ethical: The natural mineral mica, for example, is often produced via child labor.
Once you have successfully integrated your spiritual beliefs into everyday purchases of food and basic household, health, and beauty items, it’s time to take it a step further. It’s relatively simple to bring conscious consumerism into every aspect of your life, even on large purchases and extensive projects like home renovation and remodeling.
You may initially balk at the higher price tag attached to ethically sourced and sustainable materials, but your investment will pay off in the end. Not only will you breathe easier at night knowing that you made an ethically sound purchase, but it may also be more cost-effective in the long run. What’s more, there are plenty of ways to offset the cost of a renovation project in a mindful manner, such as salvaging and reusing materials. Upcycling is also an ideal way to elevate your creativity and further feed your spirit.
If your spirit requires a recharge, perhaps it’s time to take a long look at your purchasing decisions and your relationship with material possessions. By embracing conscious consumerism, you may ultimately improve your well-being and develop a greater connection to nature and humanity.