When you go shopping today, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of products that are available. With a myriad of products packaged beautifully, it feels like the options are unlimited and we can buy whatever we want, especially items that we use in our routines: toothpaste, detergents, shampoo, deodorants. There are always different colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors. For me, buying cinnamon flavored things is much better than buying clove and I like that I can choose.
Having choice, having options is the definition of freedom. Being able to do, consume, and act the way one desires is freedom. Lately though, I have been wondering, in terms of consumption do we really have the ability to choose what we want to consume, or do we have the perception of choice?
Throughout my youth I have been taught to brush my teeth twice a day. Although I am definitely guilty of skipping at night sometimes, I still love the clean and fresh feeling from scrubbing away at my choppers. Recently, I have been more conscious of what I have been putting on and in my body. I think this is because living in India, I snack on dust and pollution during my morning and evening commutes, I know that there is a lot I cannot control in terms of what my body is exposed to. I have no clue what I am breathing in, accidentally touching, even unknowingly eating. So I have wanted to be more aware of what I am purposefully ingesting.
When I went to my local grocery store to buy a toothpaste where I recognize all the ingredients, I was dismayed to find that on every label was some combination of words I did not understand.
This made it clear to me, that even though I wanted to choose a different combination of ingredients, one that would still clean my teeth, I didn’t really have a choice. If I wanted to brush my teeth that night, I had to buy something off the shelf, something that didn’t meet my needs.
To me, this was quite scary. I know that I have the choice and option to make this product on my own (which I now do for myself and for others), but the market around me doesn’t give me true choice. It only provides options that is an average of the demand from the market which is largely driven by conglomerate marketing. Mass production of products for markets has created the perception of increased wellbeing. By making products that remain stable onshelves and allow for a consistent experience across consumers in different environments, and by making products that make consumers feel like their workload has reduced, companies make people feel like their lives are better. As consumers we have been lulled into this routine of trusting brands and not questioning the products that they produce and we willingly consume.
I think to resolve this problem of lack of choice, we as consumers need to be more alert. We need to carefully understand, question, review the things that we think that we want and the things we think we need. We have to dive deeper and learn about the ingredients in our everyday products. We need to understand the impact they have on our bodies and our minds and reconsider if these are things that should be on the market.
If we want a change from the market, we must use our purchasing power to bring that change to life. We should be better at demanding the goods that are good for us. Our economy can also be more conducive to custom made products and orders. Even though it may be more expensive, if we value choice, this is a choice we should make.