How to be a Conspicuous Consumer

The election ads are over.  Hallelujah!  I hope your candidate(s) won.

This year (lack of) finances has put me in the lair of the Conspicuous Consumer.  I have taken a seasonal job as a Sales Associate at a major department store.  I have never worked anywhere except in offices, so this is a major learning experience for me.  I have worked in several departments:  Jewelry, ‘Better Sportswear’, Young Men’s sportswear, Bridal/China, and ‘Holiday’.

This is difficult work for me, as much for the ecological aspects as for the opportunity to be on my feet for 8 hours or so some days.  It started fine.  I went to the charity thrift store and stocked up on black clothing.   I trained on their computer system.    I learned about security.

goodwill store

I  learned that people who come into the store with apparently empty shopping bags of any kind are exposed to increased scrutiny.  They are suspected shoplifters.  Though I understand the stores’ point of view, it saddened me to think of people being suspect because of making a good environmental choice.

They have policies, and  a reported history of improvements in reducing waste, with a written plan to improve further.   The EPA praised them for their use of solar power in California and Hawaii.  Their bags are recyclable.   Their cardboard is baled and recycled.    Newsweek lists them as one of the 100 most green companies in America.

They have done this in response to pressure from consumers.  My response has been to try to fill the suggestion box with ideas for improving their environmental record.

Going into the season of biggest shopping holidays of the year is the perfect time for activism.  This is the perfect economy in which to make a difference.

Talk to store managers where you are.  Ask them:

  • “What do you have that is produced locally?”
  • “What do you carry that is handmade?”
  • “What percentage of the content of your bags is post-consumer waste?”
  • “Do you recycle or reuse the packaging from your incoming stock?”

And when you are at a restaurant, ask the servers or the managers about their carryout/leftover containers.

What do you do to be a Conspicuous Consumer?

Photo: m kasahara

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  1. john smith says:

    i hate it when stupid green freaks come into stores thinking they will make a difference by doing little feel good things. if you want to make a difference, you have to change the system.

  2. I love this post and idea to take matters a step further, definitely shared. Thank you.