In the USA, the Friday after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, is a major shopping day. Each year showcases huge sales and the mobs that attend them, and the day always includes at least one episode of heated exchanges over products getting out of control. Why do we engage with commerce in this way? Is it benefiting us?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get a good price, but as November, with all its emphasis on abundance and nourishment, comes to a close, and we look towards December and its huge emphasis on consumerism in the lead up to Christmas, we want to make sure that we stay connected to ourselves by engaging with mindful consumption.
But what is mindful consumption? EFLI staff share their thoughts:
I learned mindful consumption through participating in EFLI NYC, EFLI’s spring break program that focuses on the importance of sustainable fashion. In that program, we discussed fast fashion and how easy it is to not shop intentionally; to be lured by cheap prices, without considering what makes the clothing so cheap. I now look at price tags in more complex ways, and take into consideration how something is made, and why it costs what it costs. Now, even with things I own, I donate what I can instead of throwing it away, and work to be mindful about what I need versus what I want.
Asking myself before I buy anything- do I have this already? Why do I want to buy this? And if I want to buy something, I make sure to take into consideration where the item was made, and what materials are in it.
Recognizing why I am choosing to look at a screen has helped me be more mindful about when and how much I do it. Am I actually interested in scrolling Instagram, or am I stressed about what my boyfriend just said? I’m watching this TV show because I need to have a mental escape from my busy day, or because I am avoiding something else that would be better for me?
EFLI taught me to ask more questions about the clothes I buy. The big question I now ask about my clothing is: How many hands have been involved in the creation of this clothing? Also: do I agree with the value on this price tag?
I think mindful consumption is when I spend time on meaningful things, and spend money on necessary things. It makes me less wasteful, and inspires me to reduce what I buy, and recycle and re-use everything that I do consume.
Mindful consumption can feel like an oxymoron, but I think it’s when you take steps to define what it means to consume in a way that is healthy or manageable for you. I know that, for me, I have to be aware of everything that I am consuming, and where those things come from. It is as important to know where your food is from and who makes your clothes as it is to know who is buying ads on the social media apps you use or the television you watch—there is so much to consume, and we have to be really mindful about the impact our choices make.
Consuming anything mindfully leads to a feeling of wealth, richness, because it allows me to look for the innate quality of goodness and value in all that I consume.
I think mindful consumption stems from asking myself if I really need something. I don't generally buy things in excess. We are all consuming things every day - food, products, ideas, images - mindful consumption would mean reflecting on all of that intake and making a choice about each one of those things.