Part 3: Consumed by Emotions

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”– Theodore Roosevelt

No matter which quarter of the eco-minded community a person is from, emotion has played a large part in recruiting and maintaining their interest. The quest to save the planet takes its first step in the human heart, whether in the form of a seabird covered in crude oil or an apple covered in manufactured pesticides. Often, the battle seems ever uphill, but the crusaders carry on.

And even the staunchest defenders of the planet engage in capitalism now and then, though consumption is something many of them (aspire to) eschew. Yet consumers they largely are, though what differentiates them from the general public is their skepticism of big brands and big business. They apply a deliberate scrutiny to what they buy: its origins, its ingredients, its sustainability, and so on. We call this group the Conscious Consumers.

These are curious people, often highly educated and well traveled. They’re activists, food experimenters, natural-solution innovators, gardeners, etc. They know their ecological footprint. They tend to shop using a much weightier process than the average consumer. Much thought is given to all that precedes and follows the moment of purchase: everything that was invested in bringing the item into being and then to market, and what’s left to address after the item has served its purpose. This approach consumes fewer goods but a lot more time, effort, and consideration.

So while they WANT to feel confident in their knowledge and the decisions they make, Conscious Consumers are generally inundated by their own wealth of information. The news out there—good, bad, confusing, conflicting—overwhelms them. Behavioral responses range from a willingness to spend more on sustainable products to abstinence from buying all but the most essential goods.

In the realm of emotion, impassioned reactions span the spectrum. On the positive end, Conscious Consumers are protective of the planet and the people that matter to them; they have an earnest desire for truth, which they sometimes feel is being intentionally obscured; and they feel the urgency to act. In the face of monumental challenges, however, the Conscious Consumer can struggle to gather enough fight in themselves, and they wrestle with guilt, fear, and the sense that they’re powerless to effect any meaningful change.

There is no dissociating emotion from the Conscious Consumers’ efforts to save the world. In gaining a better understanding of what motivates them, we find the voice we need to begin and carry on a rich dialogue. And the hope is that together we’ll discover the answers that leave us all feeling good that we’re doing the right thing.