8 Critical Thinking Questions to Help You Be a Better Consumer

Photo by Ambro

No one will argue with the fact that America is a country full of consumers. From our clothes to our food, we love to spend money, to outsource our ingredients, and spend spend spend. But slowly, our habits are changing. We are realizing that the companies we spend our money with and the causes we give our money to can make a difference, and some of us are interested in consuming consciously.

Below are a handful of questions you can ask yourself before you purchase a product, to help you make ethically sound decisions and think critically about where you are spending your money:

1) How was this made? A product may tout natural ingredients, but take a look at what you’re buying and think about what actually had to happen in order for it to be produced. Are those “natural” ingredients highly processed? How is it packaged?

2) Where was it made? Before you buy something, check where it was made. How far did it have to travel before it got to where you stand? How many miles did it log? If you purchase this, are you supporting the US economy or a sweatshop in a foreign country?

3) Is there a bias? There is a lot of information available these days, and some of it comes from non-reliable sources. Or maybe the sources are just biased—like the way the dairy industry got Americans all hopped up on the idea that we are calcium deficient. Think about information sources before you digest them and you will be a lot better off.

4) Bothered by a buy-out? Many consumers who are trying to support the vegan movement are shocked when they learn that tons of small, pro-vegan or organic companies have been bought out by larger companies. If this bothers you, be sure to research the companies you are supporting. Here is a great infographic showing some examples.

5) Get a second opinion.
And a third. And a fourth. Critical thinking and making informed choices involves understanding the whole argument—including the side you don’t agree with. Did you see a public service announcement or ad you don’t agree with? That’s fine! But be sure to do your research before jumping on (or off) a bandwagon.

6) What does that mean? While scanning the list of ingredients on that box of crackers before you place them in your cart, you run across an listed ingredient you don’t understand. Before you move forward with the purchase, look it up! Today’s technology allows you to look up just about anything, from anywhere.

7) Can I get it from a local source? This is a great question to ask, especially now that spring has sprung and summer is around the corner and you can probably get tons of produce at farmer’s markets which will both support your local economy and save on the transportation costs it took to get the goods to the grocery store.

8) But do you NEED it? This has to do with anything you’re purchasing. Do you really need that Starbucks latte when you have coffee at home? Another pair of shoes? Thinking like this can save you clutter, cash, and the resources it takes to make and transport those products in the first place.

About the Author:

Zoe Eisenberg is an editor and freelance writer with work appearing in various print and online publications. She received her B.A in English and Creative Writing, and has a background in holistic health promotion. Zoe loves to cook, laugh, play and learn. She lives in Connecticut with her cat, Zucchini.