Is Conscious Consumerism Worth It?

Yes, it might cost you. But is it worth it?

Buy Better Stories was started with the hope of making is easier for average consumers like you and me to shop more ethically. To be honest, I'm just tired of buying stuff made my slaves or almost-slaves. After watching documentaries and reading stories of the people who are making the majority of our clothes, I hate the feeling I get when I walk into a store and see those images in my mind. But I've also found that shopping more ethically can be more costly. It can be inconvenient, it can cost more money (t-shirts should not cost $5!), and it requires more planning, patience, and intentional decision making. For example: 

  • I actually have never liked online shopping that much, which is how you have to buy most of your things when purchasing from ethical companies. I'd rather go to an actual store and browse than try and figure out what something looks like in person, risk it fitting weird or not being the size I thought it was, and then pay for shipping. But you can't just pop into the mall and expect to find anything ethically or sustainably made (yet!).
  • I also don't prefer thrifting. Mostly because it takes more time, more work, and a little bit of practice and skill... and I just don't have the patience for it most of the time (although this is something I'm trying to learn how to do).
  • I don't like spending more money than I have to (duh, who does?!) I'd rather find the most bang for my buck.
  • I'm a terrible planner, I procrastinate a lot, and I would rather just run in and run out of a store at the last minute.

Although shopping ethically doesn't always have to cost more, the truth is that a lot of times it does. Not only with money, but also time... especially if we're not used to it and it's not our way of life. I have to plan better because I can't just run into Target to pick up a gift. I have to choose to say no to the voice in my head that says "oh my god, you NEED that new ________ ." I have to choose to spend the same amount on one ethically-made shirt that I could have spent on five shirts at H&M. 

The question is: Is it worth it? Is it worth it to spend a little more money and a little more time on a fair trade t-shirt so that our children don't have to grow up in a world that has 20 to 40 million slaves in it?

We can say the same about a lot of things in life! Many of the injustices in our world could be solved if we made different decisions and altered some of our ways of life:

  • Racial tensions would decrease if we went to more of an effort to integrate our still very much segregated communities, schools, churches, and workplaces, and if we were willing to have more difficult, complex, open-minded conversations. But it would cost us some comfort and we would have to make a very conscious effort to try and understand someone who is different than we are.
  • Climate change would be less of a risk to us and our planet if we were willing to make lots of small but reasonable changes in our every day lives and if we cared enough to elect leaders who took it seriously. But let's be honest: the mentality of many is that since it's not an immediate threat, (which is debatable), it's just too inconvenient to actually change our lifestyles to make this happen.
  • We could drastically decrease the poverty and starvation that exists in the world, or even just our own communities... but that would require us to be less wasteful and take time out of our days to feed those who are hungry.

Is it worth it?

We could say this about our dreams and goals too:

  • We could get that book written. But it would require us to get up an hour earlier every morning to fit writing into our schedule.
  • We could start our own business. But that would require a lot of financial discipline and we'd have to sacrifice our Netflix binges.
  • We could improve our relationships with our partners. But that would require us to sacrifice what we wanted for the sake of someone else. We'd have to be willing to be wrong, to listen better, and apologize more.

I never want to guilt trip anyone. I never want to "should" or pressure anyone into doing something. I don't think problems like human trafficking or poverty or any of the other injustices in the world are quick or easy to solve. I also don't think we all need to focus on all of them at once. That's unrealistic and I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it.

I just wonder... what if we really asked ourselves, "Is it worth it?" and answered honestly? Is that really cute new top worth knowing that in buying it, you have contributed to our system of sweatshops and trafficking?

What is the specific injustice that makes your blood boil? What is the problem in the world you've always wanted to solve? What is it that you've always wanted to do, but it always seemed too hard? The thing you've never had "enough time" or "enough money" for?

I bet you could do it. Not overnight. Not perfectly. But you can... if you think it's worth it.