How To Become A More Conscious Consumer
The fourth Friday in November, immediately following the US celebration of Thanksgiving, is often referred to as Black Friday. In the US and Canada, Black Friday is known for its sales and deals and is often taken advantage of for Christmas-gift shopping.
While it is completely understandable why many people, for example students with low incomes and tight budgets, take part in this shopping tradition, it has become increasingly clear that the consumerist driven industries of fashion, electronics, cosmetics and more have caused a downward spiral in our society. Not only do big multinational companies that participate in Black Friday use unethical labour practices, they also are often the cause of an incredible amount of waste and pollution. Additionally, they make it easy to undervalue the creativity and hard work that goes into creating a product.
Even so, it is not always easy to avoid the consumption of unethically made products. Often, local or handmade products have a significantly higher price tag.
It’s also not always easy to tell when a product is ethically sourced. Becoming a more conscious consumer takes effort and often requires research in advance of buying something. Even though it may not be something we can all apply to every single purchase we make, it’s still important to be an aware consumer.
Anti-Black Friday Events
This Black Friday, November 29th, 2019, a few different events took place that countered the usual madness of sales in malls or big box stores.
Global Climate Strike: March to stop LNG
An event was held by Climate Justice Victoria: a follow-up march after the spectacular success of the Global Climate Strikes that took place across the world in September. The march was aimed at bringing attention to fracking for natural gasses.
A proposed plant for LNG (liquefied natural gasses) fracking in BC will become the single largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in Canada if it’s built (https://thenarwhal.ca/topics/bc-lng-fracking-news-information/). The march featured information on the problems LNG poses and also highlighted information about the Green New Deal as well as future plans for the Climate Strike movement in the city.
Pioneered by a group of Victoria based companies, Blue Friday was created as an alternative to Black Friday and aimed to encourage shopping local, being an eco-conscious consumer, thrifting instead of participating in fast-fashion, and simply being aware of what you are buying, why you are buying it, and what affect it might have on others.
Participating businesses still provided sales ranging from 10%-40% off and donated all profits made on November 29th, 2019 to the Surfrider Foundation, an organization that protects local oceans and beaches. While Blue Friday was a one-day initiative, the participating businesses are all mindful of environmental impacts and seek out ethically sourced products/create products ethically 365 days a year.
Switching Shopping Habits
Black Friday is definitely not the only time that multinational corporations benefit from the ignorance of consumers but it can serve as a wake up call for us all. It’s not easy to be actively seeking out local, ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, community-oriented businesses, artists, and products. However, that shouldn’t serve as an excuse.
If you are able to afford making the switch to becoming a more conscious consumer, I am happy to share some of my favourite local businesses where you’re sure to find not only some killer Christmas gifts for your loved ones but also some go-to shops for your year-round needs.
1. Smoke + Sage
Smoke + Sage is a one-of-a-kind and made to order clothing company based in Victoria, BC. Products are hand printed and embroidered either on ethically sourced made-in-Canada clothing or on clothing that the owner herself has thrifted. Not only is smoke + sage owner, Heather, an amazing artist but she’s also a full-time student at UVic!
Mud and MoonShine is the perfect place to find artisan ceramics and prints. All handmade by artist, Jen, each piece is unique and carefully designed. Jen’s pottery is designed to function as both beautiful pieces of art and practical for everyday use.
The Copper Hat was created in 2009 by a Vancouver Island couple who craft and stock high quality brushes, razors, blades, soaps, and other shaving supplies that allow an environmentally friendly way to keep up with frequent shaving. Products are gender neutral and incredibly cost effective.
Local Assembly, owned by Brooke and Liz, is “a passion project to help inspire and support the artists in [the] community” that both owners put countless extra hours into after their own regular jobs. They curate a selection of handmade goods and vintage pieces which allows shoppers to support multiple local artists all at once.
Co-owner, Brooke, shared her thoughts on Black Friday and emphasized that Local Assembly values the time and effort that each artist puts into their craft. She shared that when it comes to pricing products “the cost of materials is generally covered but more often than not, the time it takes to create these handmade goods is not” and often the time put into designing and the “failures before perfection” is not included in the price tag either. This all to say that they did not reduce prices for items that are already priced low in terms of the work put into their creation. But while they did not participate in sales, they are still an absolute gem of a shop when looking for gifts during this season!
West Coast Refill and Zero Waste Emporium are both relatively new businesses that have popped up in Victoria’s downtown. They both focus on eliminating single-use products and plastics and instead encourage reusing.
West Coast Refill focuses on cleaning products and body care products that you can take home in your own containers and Zero Waste Emporium is a zero waste grocery store where you can find produce, dairy, and even meat without dealing with wasteful plastic packaging. Both are amazing alternatives to your regular stocking-up of shampoo, household cleaning products, and food from multinational grocery chains.
There are so many other amazing local businesses that are eager to make a change in our community and if you take the time to look for them, you might be surprised at how easy making the switch can be.
It’s also okay if you are not in a position where paying more upfront is possible! You are still able to reduce the negative environmental and social impact of consuming by simply avoiding making purchases unless necessary. The main goal is to become aware of your consumerism and to be attentive when you walk into a shop.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Do I need this item?
- Does this item serve multiple purposes? If not, can I find a product that does?
- Will I be willing to donate something in order to buy this item?
- Can I find this item second-hand or locally made instead?
- Was the maker of this item fairly compensated?
Simply keeping yourself accountable before making a mindless purchase is the first step in the process of changing your consumer habits.
I hope you can take this into account in your upcoming holiday shopping and future consuming. We can all make little changes every single day!
More Great Businesses!
Some final suggestions if you’re looking to support lovely and hard-working people in the Victoria community or if you’re seeking to find second-hand products: