What is Conscious Living, Anyway?
What does it mean to live a “conscious lifestyle”? When an individual decides she wants to live a more conscious lifestyle, it means she’s putting more thought into the impact the products she buys have on herself, the people who made them, and the earth.
You may have heard some buzz words surrounding the topic, like “conscious consumerism,” “ethical fashion,” or “sustainable living.” These are examples of labels given to those who are committed to living a conscious lifestyle.
You may be a conscious consumer already and not even realize it! Do you try to eat locally sourced food when possible? Do you choose cleaning products with natural ingredients? If so, you’re well on your way to living a conscious lifestyle.
It Starts With A Mindset
Living consciously begins with a decision you make to care more about the impact your lifestyle has. It’s all about paying more attention to the things you buy, the ingredients in them, and the story behind how they made their way to your home. It is a decision you make each and every day to care, to be aware, and to make small changes that will eventually lead to a healthier life for yourself and the world.
We can group conscious living into three general categories: the environment, self, and the people involved in the supply chain — because what we buy drastically affects all three.
Here’s how to begin taking steps toward a conscious lifestyle in each of those three areas.
1: A CONSCIOUS IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
The way the majority of things are made takes a huge toll on the environment, leading to depletion of our fresh water supply, disruption of animal habitats, climate change, and more. We’ve all probably seen products that are considered “green” or “eco-friendly,” meaning the manufacturing company is doing what they can to produce that good in a more responsible way. It is reducing its carbon emissions as much as possible, using material that is or can be recycled, keeping harmful chemicals out of their products, using organic ingredients, and more.
The Greenwashing Problem
It’s important to note that many brands participate in “greenwashing,” which essentially means they are marketing themselves as sustainable, when that’s not truly the case. This is something to be aware of, especially when you’re shopping for skincare, cosmetics, and cleaning products, as these categories tend to be where greenwashing is most prevalent. How do you know how to spot greenwashing? Here are a few things to look for:
- Tricky words. ‘Vegan leather,’ for example, is often marketed as an “eco-friendly” alternative to real leather; however, it’s really just another name for plastic.
- The color green. Don’t be fooled when a company puts a bunch of green on their packaging and calls it good for the environment; it doesn’t necessarily mean it actually is! Look for third party labels and certifications like EcoCert, USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, or Green America.
- ‘Lesser of two evils’ claims. Is a plastic Ziploc bag that uses 25% less plastic than the one before it actually good for the environment? Even though it might be a little less damaging, it’s still not the best option. Instead, skip the Ziploc altogether and use reusable Lunchskins.
There are a lot of easy steps you can begin taking today to start living in a way that’s more friendly toward the earth.
Start by just taking a mental inventory of everything you throw away each day. Remember that all of that stuff is either ending up in a landfill or in the ocean, where our trash is destroying ecosystems and contaminating the soil.
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
If your household doesn’t currently recycle, call the county you live in to see if you can arrange for weekly or bi-weekly pickup. If they don’t offer pickup at your house, you can still drop off your recycling at a designated location… just make it part of your weekly routine!
Replace Supplies Gradually
Start replacing the items in your home with greener, healthier alternatives. For example, next time you run out of all-purpose cleaner, buy Mrs. Meyer’s or Method instead (both of which are readily available at Target and grocery stores), or better yet – make your own!
If you slowly start replacing traditional items with more eco-friendly ones as you run out, before long you will have a clean, green home! For more ideas on simple steps you can take to lessen your personal environmental footprint, check out our 10 (Easy) Things You Can Do Today to Save the Planet.
2: A CONSCIOUS IMPACT ON YOUR HEALTH
Many of the ingredients in our food, clothing, home goods, and personal care products are just as terrible to our health and our families’ health as they are to the environment.
From the chemicals found in our cleaning products, to the dyes made to color our clothes, to the lotion you put on your skin, our everyday products are filled with chemicals that cause disease, reproductive issues, allergies, and more. Even your mattress could be causing serious problems such as autoimmune disorders or cancer!
The good news is that as you begin to make more conscious decisions in one area, you’re usually also taking steps in the right direction in another area as well. So as you rid your home of chemicals that are harmful to the earth, you’re simultaneously making your home a safer place for yourself!
What’s Safe and What’s Not?
One helpful resource when it comes to skincare and household products is the Think Dirty app. You can scan a product and get a rating (1 being the safest and 10 being the most harmful) based on three categories: Carcinogenicity (likelihood to cause cancer), Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity, and Allergies and Immunotoxicities.
Download the app and go scan the products in your bathroom – you might be surprised to find some of the products you thought were good for you are actually far from it!
If one of your products isn’t in their database, you can easily submit it and return back to the see the rating later. It even gives you suggestions for better alternatives and allows you to shop from the app.
Get Educated and Read Labels
Historically, brands have been less than truthful about what is actually ‘safe,’ or ‘green,’ so it’s important to put a little more effort into research to become more knowledgeable.
Begin by getting acquainted with the most harmful ingredients in personal care products and cleaning supplies, and read the labels before purchasing. Keep in mind that the journey to conscious living takes time. You can’t just get rid of everything in your home and replace it all overnight, so be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time.
3: A Conscious Impact on Fellow Humans
The Life of a T-Shirt
Every product you buy has passed through hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hands. Think about a simple t-shirt. A farmer obtained the seeds and grew the cotton, which he then harvested and sold to someone who transforms it into thread. That thread is then passed off to someone who weaves it into fabric (even if it’s a machine that does it – there is someone behind that machine!), then to someone else to be dyed.
From there, someone has to cut and sew and hem the shirt, put a tag on it, and fold it. Someone else packages it up and then multiple people take part in the shipping process. Someone at the store unpacks it, refolds it and places it on a display, where you find it and take it up to the cash register where someone else rings up your transaction. That’s a lot of people and a lot of work that goes into a simple tee!
It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the amount of people involved in making a single product. Each one of those individuals has a job and a livelihood (or lack thereof) that is dependent on that product, how it’s made, and the work environment the company producing it creates.
The Supply Chain Problem
The truth is, most of our supply chains are incredibly corrupt, and many employees are working in atrocious conditions, especially overseas. There is a good chance that many of the things you own were made, at least in large part, by someone who is a victim of human trafficking, child labor, modern day slavery, or slavery-like conditions.
The garment industry is one of the worst culprits when it comes to corrupt supply chains. In the 1960s, about 95 percent of our clothes were made in the US. Now, it’s about 2 percent. When companies outsource to countries like China, India, or Vietnam, they are able to use third party suppliers to step over labor laws and manufacture their goods in sweatshops. These sweatshop workers are often getting paid pennies a day, working twelve hours a day in unsafe and many times abusive conditions, and more often than not have no way out.
What Can You Do?
It can be intimidating to begin to change such a seemingly large habit. Start by just looking at the labels on the things you buy and own. Where were they made? Look up the website of the brand. Do they say anything about valuing transparency in the supply chain or paying their workers fair wages?
The good news is that as a consumer, you hold the power. You can choose to only shop from brands that are making a conscious choice to do things ethically. You can ask your favorite brands, “Who made my clothes?” and you can use your voice to demand they act responsibly, or else lose your business.
Living Consciously with Avocado
At Avocado, we care deeply about creating a product that is good for you, your family, the environment, and the people involved in our supply chain. All of our mattresses are made in the USA and we create jobs and pay living wages to our workers.
Our products are free of harmful chemicals that the majority of traditional mattresses contain, and we use natural and organic ingredients that are good for the earth and good for you.
We’re also doing everything we can to lower our carbon footprint in production, having the least negative impact on the environment that we possibly can.
What steps are you going to begin taking to live more consciously? Have you found any tips or tricks that have proven helpful on your journey? Don’t hesitate to share them with us!