What is a Conscious Consumer?

Via on Mar 15, 2010

Money Grows On Trees

Money, wealth, and abundance are complicated concepts for the yogi who wants to extend the philosophy of yoga into her everyday life.

In the name of living our yoga, we spend more money on organic items, buy fair-trade and goods made in the USA, and we donate our old yoga mats to those who are less fortunate. But, if we’re really being honest with ourselves, these are all things that we reap benefits from ourselves, too. We feel like we’ve done our good deed for the day by helping the environment or supporting fair wages for others, and we’ve helped ourselves become healthier, boosted our images as conscious yogis, and cleaned out our closets at the same time. Everybody wins, right?

At the same time, I don’t think twice about spending $18 on one yoga class. My dog eats better than many of the children living in low-income homes in Oakland (yes, right down the street from where I’m sitting right now). And if I stop buying overpriced organic and fair trade products, I wouldn’t have to hurt the environment driving to Whole Foods AND I could afford to donate a lot more than a yoga mat to people in Haiti.

With each purchase and donation, we make a choice prioritizing which lives are most worthy of saving. People or the environment? People or animals? Local or Third-World children?

Could my commitment to being a “conscious consumer” be less helpful to the world, than I’ve been led to believe? If my intentions are really to make the world as a whole a better place as a whole (as opposed to my own narrow view of the world) would my spending habits change? Is my yoga practice really inspiring those choices, or am I allowing myself to be led by the big businesses yoga machine that boosts its bottom line by taking advantage of my efforts to live consciously?

It seems there are no right answers, but I think these are important questions to ask.

What do you think?

About Erica Rodefer Winters

Erica Rodefer is a writer and yoga teacher living in Charleston, SC. As the former online editor for Yoga Journal magazine, she lived and breathed yoga at work and at home. She practiced with amazing teachers every day, went to yoga conferences, and had a supportive environment to live her yoga. Now, she's trying to navigate yoga in the real world. This blog, Spoiled Yogi, is about her journey to find contentment and live in the present, no matter what. Her loves include yoga, writing, crafting, her cat Gracey, and her dog Penny.

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8 Responses to “What is a Conscious Consumer?”

  1. don says:

    No, the answer is to not ask any questions. Give up the need to find anything, even answers and you will indeed find the answer.

  2. Hi, Erica. I'm so pleased you've decided to join us at Elelphant Journal. We're trying to beef up the Yoga writer contingent to keep up with all the Buddhist here!

    Your blog is very insightful, particularly relevant in light of Waylon's and Claire's recent reports from the "Natural Products" Expo in L.A. See:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/03/a-natural-
    and http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/03/expo-west-
    and the related blogs.

    I have to confess, the people I admire most in the world are those who really do devote their whole lives to making everyone else better off, particularly a guy like Paul Farmer, the Harvard educated doctor who devoted his life to health car in Haiti and about whom Tracy Kidder wrote the must-read book "Mountains Beyond Mountains" ( http://www.amazon.com/Mountains-Beyond-Healing-Wo… ), and who is now special assistant to Bill Clinton for the UN mission to Haiti.

    But while I admire these people, I know I can never be one of them. My interests are in things that are more self-centered, like Yoga and flamenco guitar and commenting on blogs, etc. But we do the best we can to contribute.

    Thanks for writing.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  3. nita gulati says:

    This "Yoga" madness…is just another industry/vehicle to make money…Take for example the fashion trend that has come about with the Yoga movement. These cloths are soooo expensive…
    Not to mention all the paraphenlia that is sold to go along with ones "spiritual practice"…
    A real sight to see is the Yogi walking around with their yoga mat slung on their back in the :"special" yoga mat holder
    now available in different textures and colors….
    You dont need all that stuff to practice Yoga…guess what the yogi has been "had" or is being "had"…
    I for one wont be signing up for that 2500.00 Yoga retreat….
    But by all means have fun Yogi's…

    "suckers rally"…dont you think?…please meditate on that.

  4. Though I choose organic produce most of the time , I am not entirely convinced that the produce will save me if I poison my body with toxic thoughts. My father is 90, he has a very inspiring outlook on life, he is relatively healthy, and he has never eaten one organic piece of anything in his life. He is a meat eater through and through, lives overseas in a super busy street infested with car fumes. Yogis and yoga teachers in thecient tradition practice yoga not on a mat but a simple blanket. And, yes, why do we need to purchase and wear yoga clothing made in China (marketed to us as the next great thing. Meditation teacher Pema Chodrom spoke about "borgoise" concerns and wondering if she is right.

  5. Alden Wicker Alden says:

    I struggle with these questions every day too. Maybe instead of buying something that is "eco-friendly" I could just not buy anything at all! We are all vulnerable to what society says we should think

  6. Excellent post and great questions. I think that everyone should be spending the time to answers these questions in their everyday lives. It is not easy to find the balance required to provide for yourself and your loved ones and be conscious of ones impact on the environment. Thanks for the post!

  7. Adam says:

    hiya, your websites are really great. I actually do appreciate your function

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