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Being a conscious consumer…

July 9, 2014

Generosity revolutionDo you spend much time thinking about what, if anything, you tithe? If you’re a regular church goer you will probably have heard your fair share of sermons preached on this topic. Amazing things can be done with that 10% – supporting the activities of the church as well as alleviating suffering and poverty, both locally and overseas. If you haven’t checked recently, do a quick calculation to check how much you are giving away. Are you giving sacrificially? As Johnny reminded us last week Breathe’s strapline is “Less stuff, more life”. One of the positive benefits of buying less stuff is not only that we have more life, but that we have more to give away – win-win!

Pie chart 10-90.gifTithing, therefore, is probably not an unfamiliar concept. I’m struck, however, by how few sermons (in my experience) have focussed on the other 90% of our spending. While 10% may be able to go some way to doing good, can you imagine the difference that could be made if our 90% was really put to work for the benefit of people and planet? We have to buy stuff, so let’s make those purchases count.

As Ethical Consumer magazine puts in its Beginners Guide, “We need to consider our money as a vote which we use evethical consumerismery time we go shopping. Buying cheap clothes is a vote for worker exploitation. Buying a gas-guzzling 4×4 is a vote for climate change. Even small, everyday purchases, such as coffee, cereal, bread or bin bags are a vote for something. As consumers we have a great deal of power in our pockets. While money may make the world go round, deciding how we spend our money might just save it!

I’m increasingly aware of how my everyday decisions impact other people, most of whom I have never and will never meet. In the past we probably knew the farmer who produced our food and the tailor who created our clothes. We would have known what conditions they worked in and whether they were earning enough to live on. Now, to have the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to, we rely on people working “invisibly” on the other side of the world. And we can’t plead ignorance – if our actions make their lives worse-off then we need to take note, and do something about it.

I recently attended a Just Share lecture by Dr Eve Poole entitled The 7 Deadly Sins of Capitalism. It was a fascinating talk. Particularly striking was the challenge: If St Peter at the pearly gates asked to see your bank statement, what would it tell him about what you believed? Rev Giles Fraser echoed this when he challenged us to spend time studying our bank statements in his recent Thought for the Day.

This is not about feeling guilty but being empowered to make positive buying decisions. MyNextBuy-Logo#MyNextBuy is a new initiative encouraging us to make our next clothing purchase one step more ethical than our last. Will you pledge to do this? And can you take it even further – commit to making every purchase you make more ethical than the last? I write a blog on conscious consuming where I have collated ideas to help, and links to companies that are trying to make the world a better place.

What does your bank statement say about you? Have a look at it now – your recent expenditure probably includes supermarket shopping, pension contributions, insurance, mortgage and other essentials. How can you make spending on these more ethical? What changes can you make today to become a more conscious consumer?

By buying less stuff and by being more conscious of our impact when we do buy stuff, not only do we have more life, but those who produce our goods can also have more life, and a better quality of life too.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 11, 2014 11:01 am

    Reblogged this on matt's musings and commented:
    It’s been great to get together a plan to revamp and make the Breathe Network blog come alive again in a new season. Here is our latest blog from Lydia. It’s brilliant

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