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How To Make More Conscious Purchases

We're all bombarded with all sorts of great programs and products to try these days. Most people want to help and do good things. The trend is moving in the right direction but how do you choose what to actually do? You can't possibly help everyone and everything out there. How do you approach evaluating the options to support? I have some tips on how to prioritize your choices.
When faced with possible ways to support the many causes out there it's important to narrow down your options to the top 5-10 that truly motivate you. In this case, when I say 'motivate you' what I mean is that you want to pick organizations, charities, or causes that really hit home for you. Something that ties to your life, your dreams, your passion. Look at the bigger picture and think about someone or something in your life that is affected by something that you want to change or improve. Conversely, you can also look at global issues affecting large populations that need financial support or volunteers. If you don't have the time to volunteer or funds are tight, look at ways to help in the choices you make in your daily life.
Once you narrow down the concepts that mean the most to you, decide how you want to help. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on one option in particular: supporting underserved women artisans. This is so important to me for several reasons. I am a woman, for one. I've read many books and articles about women that have dealt with struggles to survive and thrive. Historically women of all races, ethnicities and statuses have been held back from pursuing equality, including some paramount rights, including education, employment, earning potential, and many more. Even as a young girl I felt anger whenever I heard about, read about or saw on TV or in the movies women being marginalized. But I felt helpless to do anything about it, especially as a young girl. Now I've created a small business to help underserved women gain financial stability so they can control their destinies.
So what does all this have to do with how you choose what to support? There are many, many organizations out there that support women, my business is just one small example. The larger picture is that you can directly help support women by choosing to buy handcrafted products made by underserved women. It's easier than ever to find handmade items in local stores near you, or online. This choice actually is larger than helping women alone. By amplifying your gesture of wanting to support women who want to earn a decent wage, by using your purchasing power you are also helping the environment, climate change, reducing waste and more. Read on to learn how buying handmade is a great way to help on several levels.
Carbon Footprint
One of the top reasons to support local artisans is to lower our carbon footprints as consumers. Products from artisans are sustainable alternatives to many items produced in bulk by problematic industries. One of the most sure-fire ways to know if you are buying directly from or supporting local artisans is to ask. Ask a store clerk about the origin of an item, their relationship to the maker, and the supply chain.
Long-Lasting Quality
Handcrafted bags are made to last. The care that seamstresses and artisans use in creating each product is evident as soon as you pick it up. You can feel it, see it and know that it was not made in a factory where machines pump out hundreds or thousands of clones each day that sit in containers at the port awaiting transport. Too many of our clothes and accessories are made cheaply and don't last through a season of wear. There's a reason behind the phrase 'things aren't made the way they used to anymore.' With handcrafted products, they are made the way things used to be made, with intent, quality and longevity.
Slow Fashion Benefits
Sometimes we get suckered in by a sale, BOGO, or gimmick that lures us in to buy items that we either don't really want or need. The excitement of saving can hide the reality that you're spending on something you didn't plan to buy. In the past few decades the fashion industry has really capitalized on our love of sales and cheap, repetitive throw-away stuff. I have to admit I did fall prey to the discounts but I realize that I am not the type to buy super trendy things because these throw-away items just don't last long enough for me. What I absolutely love about handmade items is that they're unique, interesting and last! In fact, oftentimes they just get better with time. It's ok to have fewer but better things.
Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Advantages
There are so many buzz words these days that all start to sound the same after a while. What is the difference between eco-friendly and sustainable, anyway? Yes, there is a difference between them but if you look at the bigger picture, both are positive ways for companies to develop their products and manage their business. So what's what? Well, for something to be considered eco-friendly it is designed to do the least amount of harm to the environment. The materials used and method of production have a lower impact on the environment than other options. Less energy is used which also means less harm. The best eco-friendly products are biodegradable or renewable. There is no certification for being eco-friendly so companies need to provide their own information. Like being eco-friendly, sustainability is also a long-term prospect but encompasses more areas of focus. Sustainability has four pillars: human, social, economic, and environmental. In a nutshell, sustainability is all about reducing unnecessary waste and being more aware of resource consumption. Be mindful of the impact that the products you purchase are not harmful to the environment, invest in and take care of their workers, provide social and economic benefits, reduce energy consumption during production and through the supply chain. All of these factors contribute to a product, and a company's outlook on who they are and how they look out for future generations. Opt for products that are reusable, don't include single-use plastics, and reduce carbon emissions in transporting them to market. Do your research and choose businesses that share your values. These steps will allow you to do your part by making choices with how and what you choose to buy.
The manufacturing world must listen to its consumers who let their wallets do the talking. When the grassroots efforts shift consumption toward eco-friendly and sustainable products, businesses large and small are quick to comply. It's a long process and won't be fixed in the next six months or 3 years, but if we all make more conscious choices on what we buy, how we utilize, recycle and dispose of products, the collective exercise will be a strong force to make big changes for the betterment of tomorrow.

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