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Conscious Consumerism

Black Friday.

You either love it or you don’t. I’m in the latter category. Pretty much every year my mom and I have this conversation:

“Do you want to go out on Black Friday?”
“Meh. Do you?”
“Let’s bake cookies and drink coffee instead.”

Not too long ago, I became aware of a sort of counter-Black Friday event: Small Business Saturday. The focus of Small Business Saturday is to encourage shoppers to patronize small businesses in their communities as they shop for Christmas gifts and more. As a business geek and a small business owner myself, I adore Small Business Saturday.

Small businesses often offer quality, even handmade, products with a hefty side of friendly, personalized service. This is my biggest reason to love supporting them.

So when I could surround myself with inexpensive items for my closet, home, and everywhere else, why would I choose to spend a little extra money and go (literally) out of my way to buy less from smaller vendors?

The answer lies in conscious consumerism. This is a phrase I use to try and explain to people why I’d prefer to do a little research before I make purchases for myself or my home. What materials are the things that I like made from? Is the fabric in this garment sustainable? Is it even naturally based? Where is the farm that my food is coming from? What are the standards for the treatment of workers in the factory where this was produced? These are the things that I try to keep in mind before blindly tossing my money into the black hole of some corporation’s balance sheet.

I’m not saying that corporations are all bad (again, the business geek side of me kind of digs the whole idea behind corporate structures), and they’re especially handy when you need to grab random things like toothpaste and windshield wipers in one trip. But shopping around and being choosy really pays off when it comes to items like clothing, gifts, and food items. Sure, you can grab a head of cauliflower from the same place you get your tires rotated, but do you really want to?

Making conscious decisions about where you spend your money and which items you choose to fill your life with takes some extra time and is often a little more expensive. And I personally feel much better when I can confidently spend my money on well-made and ethically sourced products. Obviously I’m not perfect at doing this, and convenience is, well, convenient. Plus my budget is much more limited than my idealistic soul would choose for it to be.

If you have some time this weekend, get out to your local Main Street and connect with a small business you’ve never worked with before. Or hop onto Etsy and find an artisan making something you know your best friend will adore for Christmas. There are lots of ways to make purchases you feel comfortable about and get some pretty awesome products out of the deal, as well.

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