friday five: woke edition


As millennials, we've no doubt all heard the words "conscious consumer" a million times before (in fact, we prefer to support socially-conscious companies as a whole). But it really is important to consistently make good decisions as consumers, and to consider the consequences of our actions. And that starts with being aware of the problems out there. We vote with our dollars, after all. And honestly, it's pretty damn hard to be a good person.

Maybe we'll never stop buying things or wasting food, but we sure as hell can improve our social responsibility practices and increase our awareness of our influence as consumers. So here are some things you should know.

1. food waste is the world's dumbest problem

It's true that most of use don't consider our food waste on a daily basis. And it's a little shameful how easily solvable of a problem it is. But it makes me really happy to see UCSB's efforts in limiting food waste being highlighted, and it's amazing how little psychological tricks like reducing plate and portion size can have such a tangible impact. One thing we've always done well is sustainability (for Gauchos that don't know, we also have a meal swipes donation program!), and it's cool to see DLG featured in a Vox video.

2. the true cost

Recommended to me by my friend Heather, this documentary explores the economic effects of the fast fashion industry. It's pretty devastating, actually. Workers in developing countries are exploited, mistreated, and killed to keep up with the rising demand for cheap clothes. These people are trapped in a cycle of poverty of which they have no way out. It's a tragic consequence of a demand created by a generation of consumers.

3. take the pledge to travel better

I am very, very passionate about this one, because as the world opens up to us and global travel simultaneously becomes more accessible and more of a lifestyle status symbol, it's important to be respectful of the countries that we're visiting. Supporting local businesses is so important! One of my favorite Medium articles, "The Reductive Seduction of Other Peoples' Problems" argues that ignorance, coupled with the lure of easily-solvable foreign problems, is rarely malicious, but can actively harm local industries.

If you remember from my Indonesia travel blog, I mentioned that my roommate had told me that mass tourism is actually very damaging to Bali, from the destruction of the environment and use of its natural resources, to cultural erosion for the purpose of consumerism. I am always an advocate of travel, but I also think you should visit respectfully or not at all.

4. the story of stuff

This one is about consumerism in general (thanks, Jo!) and the effects of the vicious cycle that is the materials economy. It was actually made ten years ago, but it's still as relevant as ever, although companies like Patagonia are starting to advocate for sustainability. The founder says it best: "Living the examined life is a pain in the ass." And it's true. It's a lot easier to just not care about these things. But the decisions we make matter. We're seeing that with climate change now, and the resulting environmental decline. Since "The Story of Stuff" took off a decade ago, this organization hasn't stopped making videos. They dissect everything from microfibers to cosmetics, and the message is always the same: choose to be smart consumers. We're never going to stop consuming things completely, but there is always a more sustainable way to do so. Small adjustments to our own lifestyles can make a big difference (99%! of! stuff!), and we can be better consumers by investing in good-quality things that last longer.

5. my family's slave

Heartbreaking, but a really excellent read. Maybe it's not a story not directly applicable to you, but it's one worth knowing.