When you become conscious of the impact certain materials can have on your own health or the environment, you realise that sometimes it’s a battle to find an acceptable product. Sadly, because of the world we live in, there isn’t really an easy solution to this. Unless you live in a cave, the truth is that conscious consumerism will face you with difficult decisions, whether sooner or later.
My husband and I have a list with criteria for products we get, such as:
- No synthetics or petrochemicals (e.g. plastic, nylon, polyester, polyamide)
- No potentially hazardous chemicals or treatments (e.g. chromium in leather, recycled rubber or wood, (bamboo) viscose, synthetic fragrances, BPA)
- Organic or untreated (e.g. hemp, organic cotton, organic wool)
Not surprisingly, we can’t always find a product that meets all of these criteria. Then what do we do? Sacrifice some of our values? Go without said product? We’ve often been stuck in a vicious cycle, driving ourselves mad, not knowing what to do and where to draw the line. The draining side of conscious consumerism is losing a lot of time and gaining a lot of frustration, just to find something that’s acceptable to you. And then to think that most people would be done after a quick search… It’s not fair, I know.
Sometimes, there is no product without plastic or something completely organic or natural. If I really need it, I always ask myself if there’s a creative workaround – something out of the box that most people wouldn’t think of. If that’s too impractical, I may sacrifice and tell myself that I can only do so much. This is especially the case with plastic. My husband and I go to great lengths to avoid plastic, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a small plastic piece. You could also think about the absolute impact – single-use plastics, for example, are far more damaging than reusable plastic items. It’s really about deciding for yourself what’s feasible in your situation. Just do the best you can. Are you being lazy or is the alternative going crazy?
The worst is when after a long time searching, I believe I’ve finally found the right product – but once it’s delivered, it turns out that some information was not provided. That beautiful hemp backpack actually has a layer of recycled rubber between the fabrics, and that wasn’t mentioned on the website. In fact, I only found out because I could smell rubber and then emailed the company to confirm whether it was indeed rubber. This isn’t some arbitrary example; this actually happened to me. Recycled rubber can be toxic – like when it comes from car tyres – and this is often the case.
There is still a lot we will never know about the products we buy. Companies will often only reveal the main materials, or a group of ingredients (it’s ‘an aroma’ or ‘a fragrance’ – good luck finding out which one). This is a pretty scary reality, but being aware of this trap is already a great step in the right direction! It puts you ahead of so many others. Use your insight to your advantage.
How do you deal with conscious consumerism dilemmas? Let me know in the comments.