Conscious Shopping Resolutions for 2011

By Bianca Alexander, Esq.

Unconscious consumption is one of the biggest culprits responsible for over-pollution, global warming, and the deterioration of our planet and our pocketbooks. But in our modern society where most people don’t grow their own food or sew their own clothes, it’s unrealistic to just stop shopping all together. To do my part to shop more consciously this year, I’m resolving to vote with my spending dollars wherever possible. Here are a few of the ways I’m planning to do it:

1. Purge before buying. Before buying anything new, I’ve resolved to purge my closets, cabinets and drawers of things I no longer need, want or use. That includes clothes that are too big, too small or that I haven’t worn in a year; books I no longer read that someone else might enjoy; and gadgets and appliances that I no longer have space for or that don’t work. Electrical appliances, books, and clothing can easily be recycled and donated to thrift stores. An emotional attachment to “stuff” can make getting rid of excess baggage hard to do, but it frees up space for good Feng Shui, or energy, to flow. The same is true for my body: I cleanse four times a year using all-natural, gentle herbs likes these I distribute from Symmetry. They are better than organic, and remove disease-causing toxins and parasites from internal organs for optimal health. One of the things I love most about cleansing is that it helps keep my mind sharp and I always feel happier after doing it. Best of all, I also usually lose a few pounds, which helps me get back into my skinny jeans so I don’t have to buy new ones.

2. Shop Local.  I’m resolving to reduce my carbon footprint this year by shopping within 300 miles of Chicago where possible. This includes buying my produce from local farmer’s markets around the city, which support food growers from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. By making purchases that support the sustainability of the local living economy here in the Midwest, I also minimize the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from planes, trains and automobiles used to ship goods my way. On top of that, I feel good having a deeper connection to the goods I use. For a list of certified local Chicago businesses and services, visit www.LocalFirstChicago.org.

3. Shop Vintage. One of the key tenets of green living is “reduce, reuse, and recycle”, so instead of buying new, this year I’m resolving to shop vintage and consignment shops for gently used items like clothes and accessories, books and appliances. Vintage fashion is all the rage these days—it makes up about half of my wardrobe. It’s also a great way to acquire unique, one-of-a-kind pieces at affordable prices. My first retail destinations this year will be the #1 consignment store for hipsters nationwide, Crossroads Trading (www.Crossroadstrading.com) and local clothing vintner Buffalo Exchange on Milwaukee in Wicker Park. There, customers can buy, sell or trade gently used clothing that’s in-season and in-style. Whatever I can’t trade will be dropped off at Goodwill (www.Goodwill.org) for a nice tax write-off, and the chance to stock up on wardrobe basics, like tops, slacks, and jackets, for a fraction of the price. Last year, I found my current skinny jeans—a pair of Seven’s in mint condition–and a cropped velvet DKNY both for under $30. To add to my booty, this year I’m also hosting a co-ed clothing swap with a few of my favorite conscious friends, who have great taste and wear my size.  That way, we’ll all get fab new clothes—and fashion advice–without spending a dime.

4. Buy Eco/Fair Trade.  If I absolutely have to buy something new, this year I’m resolving to purchase items that don’t harm people, animals or the environment. My favorite accessories these days are colorful bags by Ecoist (www.ecoist.com) made from recycled candy wrappers that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. Instead of leather Jimmy Choos or Manolos, I’ll spring for luxury eco shoes by Kailia Footwear (www.KailiaFootwear.com) and Cri-de-Coeur (www.cri-de-coeur.com) made from vegan leather. For outerwear I’ll shop from three of my favorite local eco-designers, all of whom were featured at our Chicago Fashion Focus/Vert Couture show this year.  In addition to creating stylish eco-clothing, they pay their seamstresses fair, living wages: Modahnik (www.Modahnik.com), who makes bright ethnic African print frocks, Crescendo Apparel (www.CrescendoApparel.com) who uses vegan leather and natural fibers to construct on-trend separates for women with small waists and fuller hips like me, and 71 Jules (www.71Jules.com) polymorphic multifaceted dress made from renewable modal fabric—it’s like getting 100 different dresses for the price of one. To see these and other eco-designs on the runway, check out our style page. For a list of local Fair Trade businesses, visit www.ChicagoFairTrade.org.

5. Go Organic. I’m resolving to make all of my food purchases organic in 2011.  This will ensure the food I eat is free of toxic pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones, which are harmful to my health. Organic food is also better for the planet: the toxins used on crops eventually end up in our rivers and streams, and pesticides have been linked to CCD—Colony Collapse Disorder–which has been blamed for the world’s dwindling bee population. Thankfully, for those on a budget, Whole Foods is not the only option. These days, USDA-certified organic brands (which are 95% organic or higher) are available at affordable prices at stores like Dominick’s, Jewel Osco, Trader Joe’s and even Wal-Mart.

Even as a dedicated advocate for conscious living, I’m far from perfect. The key is taking baby steps: if for whatever reason you can’t follow all of the steps above, just pick one that resonates with you the most, and stick to it. Happy shopping!

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