Mindful consumption: a marketer’s perspective on how to change the world.

Every year around Black Friday I face the same dilemma: I don’t want to buy into consumer culture via crap collection, but it’s really hard to resist the “amazing sales”. And sometimes I need “stuff”, and believe it or not, while I love my job, I’m not getting rich writing about saving the world through sustainable products, so sales are an important part of my consumer habit.

People often confuse habit with addiction. The one leads to the other, but they are not the same. Habits are “actions that – through routine – become unconscious. Like brushing your teeth. Although we may notice how we are acting, they often happen with very little conscious thought (or questioning as to why we are acting this way).”

You see that’s the thing: our culture is based on this reflex. Like a small child, fast fashion reaches out it’s shiny toy – NEW MICROFIBRE LEGGINGS 50% OFF, and we reach back with excitement in an almost unconscious way.

We are groomed to be consumers

BUY NOW, CLICK HERE, SEE MORE… These are commands that your subconscious has been trained to react to. As a content marketer I use “click words” like this all the time.

I use them because I want the small sustainable companies I work for to rise above the incredible marketing power and noise of the Walmarts, and Joe Fresh’s out there. Because it really matters if a company is using organic cotton, or hemp. And small companies like Nomads Hemp Wear that do spend the extra time and money creating ethical and sustainable products simply don’t have the budget to beat big industry with ad buys on Google.

It’s a faustian pact, and one that I am highly aware of every time I create an ad, or any kind of content,  around a product.

The death of sustainability

In the last month I have had three people tell me that they think the words “sustainable” and “eco” have lost their relevance. That these terms have been overused, and that I should think about rebranding my sustainable sites.

Why is this shocking? Because normally when something is “so last year” it’s because it went nuts and was widely adopted. Think UGG’s. Think acid wash denim leggings.

When it comes to sustainability it hasn’t remotely hit mainstream, or been widely adopted, but it’s passe?

“It’s a word that people shut down on now”, explains one well-meaning green-glutted friend. “It sounds like you are being lectured. People’s brains just shut off when you say it.”

Ok, I ask, so what do I rebrand too exactly? I was using “clothes for the eco revolution”…

“Yeah,” my friend nods her head sadly, “but the thing is that the revolution is over. We lost. People are just walking around in shock now talking about how weird the weather is and trying to find out if their bylaws allow chickens. Like chickens are going to save them when the world melts down”.

Ok, so how about we shoot all the models in green clothing only in a burned out city with the caption: “Nomads Hemp Wear: the only green thing left”…”

The thing is I think the word sustainable is sounding hollow because people are digesting a feeling that we’ve already past the point of sustainability. It’s hard to get excited about a new dress when the word reminds you that you have internalized a feeling that we are all living on borrowed time.

Mindful consumption is the answer

Ten years ago I wrote what I thought was a ground breaking article on how – because of our particular corporate structure in Canada, and the power of our unions – Canadians have the power to dictate how polluting our big businesses are.

I won an award, but the revolution I naively thought I could help start never even had a spark. What I learned while writing that article is that the little guy is the one who can affect REAL change. As individuals we have little power, but when we get together in like minded groups there is no stopping us.

It all starts with waking up to your personal consumer habit. Pay attention to what you are doing. Mindless consumption is killing us; that’s not an overstatement. But that doesn’t mean stop consuming. We need clothing, we need food, we need warmth, we need transportation…but we don’t need to support unethical companies. We don’t need to support polluting companies. We don’t need to support companies that use child labour. We don’t need to kill the world with our shiny work out clothing.

Sustainable products are normally in a higher price point, often making them unreachable for the average working family where every dollar counts. In fact I think the reason why “eco and sustainable” hasn’t taken off is because it’s priced in a category reserved for higher end products. It’s hard to preach to a family of four with one working parent that they should be buying organic cotton, no matter how much better it is for the planet.

Black Friday sales can level this playing field, making normally more expensive “green” products attainable.

The road from habit to addiction is short when it comes to shopping. Black Friday is a chance to vote for a different future with your wallet.Take a step back, be aware of your choices, and make good decisions this Black Friday. Your buying power really does make a difference in the world.

Like this? You can check out more of Amanda Euringer’s articles here.