Consuming with Conscience: Beyond the 3 R’s

We’ve all head the old dictum, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but these steps are just the beginning. There are lots of ways that we can reduce the negative impact of our consumer choices.

RESEARCH the impacts of the products you buy. How does their production effect the environment? Are they heavily packaged, resulting in lots of waste? Were they tested on animals? How were the workers who made them treated? What other unjust practices are the producer financing with your money?

REDUCE your overall consumption. Consider what you WANT vs. what you actually NEED. Consider the social and ecological impacts of the products you buy, and ask yourself if your needs for the product justifies support for the practice that created it.

RESIST advertising. Advertisers want you to believe that you are too fat, too thin, your hair isn’t shiny enough, your skin isn’t clear enough, your natural odor is disgusting, your lips are the wrong color, your clothing is boring, your kitchen is grimy, your computer is too slow, your car is ugly, and your job prospects are nil– unless you buy their products.

RECOGNIZE that their motive is profit. They don’t care about your health or happiness. To advertisers, your self-image and desires are simply a product to sell to manufacturers for profit.

REVEL in simplicity. Learn to live with less. Learn that the full richness in life doesn’t come from possessing trinkets. Stop looking for products to complete you and find wholeness in community, purpose, wilderness, etc.

READ Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Find it at your public library or on line at .

REUSE goods. Many products marketed as disposable actually will last quite a while. The packages our products are sold in can often be put to other uses. Packing peanuts and bubble wrap, jars and plastic tubs, boxes, etc. Find new uses for old furniture.

REPAIR instead of replacing. Remember the days when you could get your watch or shoes repaired? Remember the days when the slightest problem in your inkjet printer meant bringing it in for repair rather than getting a new one? The internet and your library are great resources to find info on how to repair your own possessions. You can fix your own computer or bicycle! Learn to sew! And find out about and support local business that repair old and damaged goods.

REFURBISH your ink and toner cartridges. You can buy ink refill kits or send them to companies that will refill them for far less than you’d pay for new ones.

REFINE older items rather than tossing them in favor of new ones. Consider upgrading old computers rather than buying new ones.

RECOVER usable goods from the discards of others. Dive dumpsters.

REDISTRIBUTE items you possess, but don’t needs. Donate to Goodwills and the Salvation Army. Give books to local libraries. Donate old computers to elementary schools. Post items that you don’t want, but want to share on Craigslist, Wastematch, or Freecycle. Think about where you can share the goods you find dumpster diving.

RECLAIM second-hand goods. If you absolutely need to shop, visit thrift stores, vintage clothing shops, rummage sales, library book sales, etc.

REVIEW your purchasing options when you feel that buying new items is the only option. Is there a fair-trade or union made version? Can you buy an organic and/or shade grown version? Can you get a locally grown item? Can you support a small business rather than a corporate chain store? Is there a more energy efficient model? Is there a vegan and non-animal tested alternative?

RECYCLE bottles, cans, paper, etc. Call your municipality’s sanitation department to find out what goods are recyclable in your area. Create a compost heap for leaves, yard trimmings, and food scraps or find out if your municipality has a composting program. Collect cans and bottles from the trash, redeem them for deposit, and make money!

RECHARGE batteries rather than buying disposables.

RENEW your creative spirit by creating, rather than purchasing items. Learn new skills. Instead of buying a bookcase, grab some wood out of the dumpster down the block and build one. Instead of buying mittens, knit a pair with that old ball of yarn you aren’t doing anything with. Make your own household cleaning products out of simple, natural ingredients like lemon juice (some examples can be found at and on other webpages.).

RETROFIT older faucets, showerheads, and toilets with devices to limit water flow

REMEMBER the millions of dogs and cats who are killed in animal shelters every year as a direct result of inflated population caused by breeding. Save a life and adopt an animal from a shelter rather than buying at a pet shop or from a breeder.