I'm a climate scientist, and I don't think consumerism is the enemy. Here are my tips for becoming climate-smart.

I'm a climate scientist, and I don't think consumerism is the enemy. Here are my tips for becoming climate-smart.
Eloisa Lewis.Courtesy of Eloisa Lewis
  • Eloisa Lewis is the founder of New Climate Culture, a think tank.
  • She says it's OK to shop and consume — but urges people to do it consciously.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Eloisa Lewis. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I'm passionate about addressing the climate crisis and reducing our influence on the planet. At the same time, I love pop culture. Oftentimes, those two things are seen as at odds — the consumer-driven ads on Instagram and other social media versus the desire to live tiny and reduce the strain on our natural resources.

I want to challenge that narrative. There doesn't have to be tension between climate consciousness and consumerism. And there doesn't have to be panic around the environment.

That's not to say our climate influence isn't serious — it certainly is. But panic, judgment, and indecision don't help anyone. Instead, making manageable and effective changes will help us the most.

Here are my tips for doing just that.


Ditch the shame

There's a lot of uncertainty and anxiety around shopping these days. Yet consuming isn't the problem: It's what we're consuming that can be harmful.

We all deserve to have abundant lives — to be beautiful, have access to transportation, dress in a way that's true to us, and eat the foods that nourish our bodies. And that can be done while looking after the environment.

Realize there's power in spending

We live in a capitalist society, so there's no arguing about the fact that there's power in choosing how to spend your money. We need people who are concerned about the environment to continue to participate in the economy. As those people support climate-friendly policies with their dollars, we'll create an economic incentive for real solutions to emerge.

Focus on local

If you're going to shop, it's best to spend as close to home as possible. This not only reduces the environmental influence of shipping your groceries or clothes but also strengthens your local economy.

It doesn't have to be complicated. Get what you can from local farmers or artisans. Trade with or borrow from your neighbors.


By investing in your local community, you're building resiliency against climate disasters. If there are major transportation delays or grid disruptions, you'll still be able to thrive with the help of those closest to you.

Identify the changes that work for you

Saving the environment is daunting, especially for people dealing with the demands of a young family. Instead of thinking about the big picture, focus on the small ways that you can make a difference. Set a goal to reduce your electricity usage or start composting. Vow to go to your next town meeting and learn about your municipal water system. These are simple but important uses of your time and energy.

Learn about the companies you support

These days, a lot of companies claim to be green. But don't take that at face value — shop at companies that can prove they're making a difference.

To do that, I challenge you to take three extra clicks next time you're shopping online. Read about a company's sustainable farming or carbon policy. If you're not satisfied, find another option.

Of course, even three clicks can be a lot when you're in a rush. Luckily, there's a shortcut that works well enough: Seek out companies that are B Corporations or certified by Ecocert.


We don't have to burn it all down and completely change our social values to save our planet. We don't need judgment or shame. But we do need to realize that every day matters. By redirecting our energy, we can continue living our lives with a bit more climate consciousness integrated into them.

All big changes are the sum of many smaller changes accumulating over time together, so don't be afraid to start fighting this massive problem with little changes.