Eat, Love, Recycle
The conscious consumption movement inspires millennials to be mindful of what they buy, eat, and reuse.
WORDS BY Xhevrije West // ART BY Colleen Lowery
Elizabeth King only eats organic food. She recycles, supports her local farmers market, and meat is never on her menu. She limits herself to five-minute showers and makes her own natural cleaning products. King, who believes the best treasures are found in thrift stores, also plans to overhaul her closet to include only natural and fair-trade clothing.
King, a 22-year-old Denton, Texas native and yoga teacher, has been a conscious consumer since her freshman year of college. An environmental philosophy class changed her outlook on preservation. After gaining a considerable amount of knowledge about the climate, recycling, fresh water, and animal slaughter, King felt prepared to change her life and live as a conscious consumer. “This may be a more expensive lifestyle, but knowing what exactly is in the food I am consuming is vital,” King says. “Our lives are better just knowing that we are doing right by our bodies and the environment.”
Like King, many millennials choose to live consciously and consider the consequences and benefits of items before they make their everyday purchases. How green living expresses itself varies from eating humanely raised foods to buying cruelty-free items and natural cleaning products. But a critical part of being aware about consumption is taking the time to be knowledgeable about the hidden costs of purchases and to understand the role those items play in building a better and more sustainable world.“The key is to think about one’s wants versus needs,” says Andrew Lentini, the sustainability program coordinator at the University of Georgia. “By purchasing less we can all reduce our carbon footprints in the world and encourage companies to make better products that will last.”
Often portrayed as the generation that cares about nothing, Gen-Y does want to live and buy consciously. The Intelligence Group, the research arm of Creative Artists Agency, reported in 2012 that 24 percent of Gen-Y wants “guidance on how to make the most ethically responsible purchasing decisions.” The study also found that the importance millennials place on social responsibility has increased in recent years. In 2012, 50 percent of respondents said it was important to purchase eco friendly products and 44 percent cited importance of purchasing sustainable products, an increase from 29 and 25 percent, respectively, in 2007.
Marketing firm GoodMustGrow’s research shows conscious consumerism is growing in the U.S., and millennials are leading the way. Their Conscious Consumer Spending Index predicts 30 percent of Americans will spend more on socially responsible goods and services in the year ahead. “There is an obvious shift occurring where consumers see their everyday purchases can be leveraged to generate more philanthropy and social impact,” Shackleford says. “Millennials want to buy from socially responsible companies and work for them. So we’ll see that generation continue to fuel positive momentum.”
Kali Orkin, 29, from Eugene, Ore., was not always interested in saving the environment. She became conscious of the effects her lifestyle had on the world in 2008 during the time of the presidential elections when the economy was out of control. Sitting in front of her TV one day, she thought: “What can I do to help?” Inspired by this moment, Orkin wrote a book entitled, 100 Ways to Live Greener, which was released earlier this year. The book is divided into categories that give advice on a variety of subjects like healthy eating habits, shopping, and transportation, to enhance both your life and the environment. “We have to start thinking quality over quantity,” Orkin says. “The impact of this movement is greater than all of us, and if we can get all people on the same page, then our world and our bodies will reap the benefits.”
When King browses through the produce at Cardo’s Farm, a local farm that contributes to the Denton Community Market, she picks up the fresh, organic tomatoes and examines them for bruising. She brings them to her nose and inhales deeply. With her eyes closed, she knows these will be coming home with her today. She shops a little longer and then prepares to leave the market with bags overflowing with earthly goodness.
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