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How eco-anxious shoppers can really make an impact

With conscious consumerism becoming ever more in vogue, Abi Jackson offers some suggestions for better spending

A mum and child shopping online
A mum and child shopping online
Looking up: women discuss positive changes to their lives

By Abi Jackson

Worried about the state of the world right now? Some 34% of adults say they have eco-anxiety, while 29% feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis, a recent survey by Triodos Bank revealed.

A 2018 survey by Mental Health Foundation, meanwhile, found 39% of parents are concerned their children are becoming more anxious about world and national events.

Amidst all the doom and gloom talk, it can be easy to feel hopeless.

But could there be things we can do, in our own day-to-day lives to help encourage positive change, and improve our own mindsets and moods?

For more and more people, this means being a more conscious consumer.

We can only work with what our circumstances allow of course, but embracing the actions we can realistically make, no matter how small they seem, all adds up - helping reduce environmental impact, bolstering community connections, and often our own wellbeing too.

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As Vicki Psarias, author of Mumboss and founder of Honest Mum (honestmum.com), put it following a shoutout on the topic on Twitter: "Helping the planet and buying more mindfully and in charity shops/second-hand shops has improved my own self-worth."

The eco mantra, 'reduce, recycle, reuse', is now a familiar term - but arguably 'reduce' is the most important of the three.

The last few decades may have been about throwaway fashion and constant upgrades, but now it's about investing more wisely.

This may mean buying less, being less wasteful, switching to more sustainable and planet-friendly brands - having a sense of control over our choices, and knowing we're using our influence as consumers as positively as we can, could help keep that spirit-sucking sense of doom in check.

Remember - nobody's perfect, and nobody should feel guilty if they can't afford the organic veg from the local farmers' market (or any other example that applies). It's about looking at our budgets and choices overall.

The rewards keep on coming

For Jo Threlfall, a Yorkshire-based freelance journalist, PR and blogger (ldmv.co.uk), becoming a more mindful shopper started as a way of cutting back so she could "put my money towards things that matter more to me".

One of fashion-lover Threlfall's biggest shifts was around clothes, eschewing the high street for second-hand, charity shops and vintage.

It's more sustainable - and has brought knock-on personal rewards.

"I've always liked buying clothes that were one of a kind, and I found thrift items were much better quality than most garments online or on the high street. Some of my best finds this year have been jumpers around £7-12. I've also bought pinafore dresses and jumpsuits for around £15, which I've restyled throughout the year," says Threlfall.

"I wanted to make a positive change, which would help benefit my lifestyle and also protect the environment, as I noticed how much fast-fashion damages the planet," she adds.

"It has allowed me to put spare cash towards my health, such as getting a personal trainer and gym membership."

The joy of giving

Another motivation might be to trim back on consumerism so you can give a bit more to charity.

Beam (beam.org), a crowdfunding platform that helps get homeless people into stable, paid work - by funding skills and confidence-building initiatives, for example - has noticed the value in enabling people to feel more connected to where their donations are going.

"When you give to charity, it's easy for money to leave your bank account each month without engaging much with the issue you're supporting. We want to create a more personal connection between beneficiaries and supporters, in a way that benefits both sides," says Seb Barker, Beam co-founder and COO.

"For example, supporters receive email updates about the homeless people they've funded, including how they're progressing, and the difference their money has made.

"The feedback has been incredible, supporters love receiving these personal updates - they feel so much joy in knowing they've had a direct impact on a homeless person's life."

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