What is conscious consumption, and who is a conscious consumer?

We feel that classical consumer protection answers these questions unsatisfactorily and in a one sided manner.  Classical consumers protection assumes that conscious consumers will always choose the best deal, will not be cheated, know their rights and how to use them, and know everything about prices, quality and related services..

All this is clearly important, but we believe that today conscious consuming is more than just standing up for our own rights and interests. It is important to be ethically and environmentally conscious as well; we have to consider the impact of our consumption on other people. Our consumption can impact the people living today, people born in the future, our descendants and even non-human beings, such as animals, plants and ecological systems. We, conscious consumers, are trying to make decisions that are beneficial not only to ourselves but to the world. Our decisions reflect our core values: the belief in justice, fairness and ecological responsibility.

 

Why is this important?

We live in a consumer society, which means that most of the economy and society are built around consumption. Companies are trying to find out and influence consumers to become successful. However, consumption is far more than a simple economic action: it has socio-cultural and psychological implications. Today advertisements and commercial media have more influence on what we think and how we talk about the world than the so called "high culture". Our personal identity is often  strongly linked to an image projected by products we buy.

Thus, consuming has become much more than just the acquisition of necessary material goods, which in itself is not inherently bad. . Everyone needs to know that what they do has meaning and value. In a way advertisements aim to make us believe the same thing: they claim that buying a car is in fact an act of self-realisation, which  embodies important values such as liberty and independence in the car for the owner.

We, conscious consumers, try to see through the fog of advertising and think about what we do when buying products. What is the real purpose or value of a product? Are we promoting child labour or another form of human suffering in a far away country? Are we supporting a company that uses genetic modification or produces cosmetics using animal testing?  Is the product worth the little pleasure we gain from it or just more trash? We can also look at the positives:  did we buy something that is healthy, was it produced in an environmentally responsible way and is the company outstanding, ethical, and responsible?

In consumers society the act of consumption is as important as the volume of consumption.  The modern economy is globalised, which brings at least 2 major problems to the forefront. First is that we know little about the products coming from far away places. We would be horrified if we knew that the cocoa used to make our chocolate was picked by child slaves or that the quality sport shoes we buy are made under humiliating and exploitative working conditions somewhere in south-east Asia. The second big problem is that today's economy is not ecologically sustainable. Serious environmental research shows that we take too much raw material and energy from our environment while creating too much pollution and trash, which is causing irreversible ecological damage. Calculations show that this ecological catastrophe is not merely the result of a growing human population. The greatest impact comes from the wasteful lifestyle of people in developed countries: 80% of all materials and energy consumed are used by just 20% of the world's population, most of whom live in developed countries like ours. From the other perspective, 80% of the world's population uses only 20% of all resources...

Just because the problems are far away or abstract does not mean that they do not have an impact on us. In a globalised world it is not only products from far away that reach us; in one way or another we will have to deal with the consequences of our dramatic social and environmental impacts.

 

What can we do about is?

We can change. The power that consumers hold to shape supply and demand change should give us all hope.  Successful consumer actions, like boycotts, have reshaped markets and forced companies to change. Others changes have happened more slowly and, we hope, deeply, like organic farming or the growing use of wind or solar energy.

We should not think that we are powerless. The old saying is true; we might be helpless when alone but united together we are strong and can accomplish much. However, even alone it is a good feeling to do the right thing... As Spinoza said, "Happiness is not the reward of virtue, but is virtue itself."

We are positive that today's economy and consumption can be transformed to become sustainable socially and ecologically. Each of us consumes so each of us can contribute to this . We may have more power as consumers since all 9 million Hungarians consume while only 5 million citizens vote. 9 million people, so almost everybody except for the youngest children,  are taking consumers decisions day by day or weekly; this gives them huge power. We hope a growing part of these decisions are made in an ethical and environmentally conscious way that makes an impact.

We built our website to draw attention to the importance of ethically and ecologically conscious consumption. Though we raise lots of questions, we also try to give answers. While we deal with serious questions we attempt to do so in an interesting and informal way. We believe that important things can be interesting and that conscious consuming isn't just a demanding commitment, but it can be fun too.

We hope that more and more people will follow this way of thinking. We will continue to share useful information and facts through our website and conscious consumers databases. We hope that this website will foster two way communication; we  await your suggestions, ideas and comments regarding our content, the form of our site and your experience in conscious consumption. Even if we don't agree on everything, we hope that our site will facilitate interesting and constructive debates. There is one thing that is certain: our money is our vote whether we want it to be or not.

 



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