Conscious Consumerism Isn't Just for White People

When I was growing up, the closest we got to conscious consumerism was being conscious of prices. In my house, we always went for the least expensive and most convenient options: styrofoam plates, plastic utensils, literally anything that came in bulk and didn’t add more dishes in the sink. Listen, I was a fan of anything that wouldn’t cause my hands and the dishwater to touch. So thankful for growth!

What is conscious consumerism? 

It’s when we determine what items we buy (or don’t buy) based on the positive impact they have on society, the environment or economy.

Words like “sustainable” and “environmental justice” weren't even a part of my vocabulary until around 2016, when I started working with a creative placemaking organization in my hometown. (Shoutout to Charleston, SC!) From pre-k to the 5th grade, I went to predominantly Black schools. And as grateful as I am for those experiences and education, every Black History Month we were learning about the leaders who fought for the people: Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks. But what about the Black leaders who fought for the planet? Maybe it wasn’t talked about that much yet… ya know, because the main thing they were trying to sustain was our lives.  

And while I definitely felt a spiritual connection with Kwame from Captain Planet, I can’t remember seeing people like me spreading the word about caring for our environment. I don’t even know if we recycled in my house before I moved back home after college, but we did reuse the hell out of plastic grocery bags and that blue cookie tin. Y’all know the one! Let’s be clear - I’m not saying Black people didn’t care about Mother Nature, I’m saying I don’t think we celebrated the tree-hugging Black hippies enough. That’s all.

Kwame from Captain Planet - DoneGood Conscious Consumerism

But working at DoneGood has helped me learn that conscious consumerism isn’t just rich-white-people shit. It’s also fighting oppression, and it might be the best way to do it since we’re already spending so much on the things we need. Slavery still exists, and almost 50 million people still live in slavery and are exploited to produce the things we wear and use everyday.  

Trust me, I know hearing all of this can be overwhelming but if you’re looking to start somewhere - DoneGood does A LOT of the research for you. All of our partner brands provide safe work spaces and liveable wages for their employees, and on top of that a good bit of the awesome products created by brands like Deux Mains, Fountain House, bebemoss, and Vi Bella are made by people of color.

Speaking of research, by doing some of my own -- I found 5 Black leaders in sustainability while on this conscious consumerism journey. Check them out below!

  1. MaVynee Betsch, “The Beach Lady”: Left her opera career to preserve American Beach that was created by her great-grandfather when beaches were White-only.
  2. Dr. Robert Bullard, “The Father of Environmental Justice”: Launched a national study to prove that toxic waste sites were mostly found in predominantly Black neighborhoods
  3. Dominique Drakeford : Creates programs, curriculum and other tools through Sustainable Brooklyn to reclaim sustainability by educating from the perspective of the African Diaspora.
  4. Vanessa Nakate: A climate justice activist who started her own movement in Uganda. Vanessa was the only protester outside the gates of Parliament of Uganda fighting for the Congo rainforest for months before being joined by other young people.
  5. Bryant Terry: An artist and food justice activist who uses food for political change and community building.

    Was conscious consumerism a thing in your house when you were growing up? Are there any Black leaders in environmental justice or sustainability in your community that they’d like to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

    Ace Alexander, DoneGood Community Engagement Specialist


    If you want to learn more about conscious consumerism, check out these posts:


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