What: Let’s talk consumerism.
Why: Following on from being a conscious consumer and someone who advocates for the good businesses in the world, how about we take a look at reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’ altogether?
Retail events like Black Friday now urge shoppers to purchase things they don't need, through countless and often fabricated discounts, all the time encouraging mindless materialism.
Our consumer habits, formed through years of social programming and clever marketing ploys, are contributing to the destruction of our planet - but the buck stops at us, we have the final say in what we buy.
Material possessions are just that: material, it is us that has the power to bring happiness into our own lives. Emotional satisfaction can be achieved through friendship, hobbies and family time, so why do we just keep shopping? Especially when the facts dictate that even temporary highs from buying these products, do not result in long term happiness.
The time has come to let go of overconsumption and try to live more simply, not only because it is better for us, but because it is better for the planet, consumption has negative impacts on its entire journey:
- The production of the item.
- The packaging of the item, plus added packaging used for shipping.
- The delivery of the item.
- Waste and lack of recycling of existing products which we are replacing/discarding, not to mention those new products that go unused.
"Production, processing, and consumption, of commodities requires the extraction and use of natural resources (wood, ore, fossil fuels, and water); it requires the creation of factories and factory complexes whose operation creates toxic byproducts, while the use of commodities themselves (e.g. automobiles) creates pollutants and waste." (Source: Global Issues.org)
- We consume twice as many material products as we did 50 years ago.
- 60% of greenhouse gas emissions come from household consumption of goods and services.
- People are buying 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago.
- 85% of man-made materials found on shorelines were microfibers, synthetic materials used in clothing.
(Source: Climate Tracker.org)
In Practice: To move toward reducing your consumption, take a look at resources like The Story of stuff, a social project aiming to help educate people on overconsumption as well as get them involved in projects that solve the problem.
Other resources like - Be More With Less help people start to live more simply, created by the same woman who made Project 333, a challenge for people to go 3 months wearing just 33 items of clothing (and yes, that includes accessories.)
Talking of fashion, as you can see by the facts we’ve pulled out, this industry is one of the key consumerist pieces of the puzzle. Fast fashion has been a major contributor to the growth of the fashion industry, where brands produce low-cost high volume items. This new wave of consumption has a serious detrimental impact on the environment, such as the depletion of non-renewable sources, greenhouse gas emissions, and the use of huge amounts of water and energy. The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water in the consumer industry, requiring about 700 gallons to produce one cotton shirt.
Chasing trends is not sustainable and that's not just fashion we're talking, technology, automobiles you name it, so do what you can to repair and repurpose your possessions before you consider buying new.
There's a lot of work needed on this topic, we'll be pushing against the basic structure of an economy that relies on goods and services being sold, but we have to start somewhere.
Try a few simple steps to live with less:
1. Stop trying to emulate others, by always trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses' and their lifestyle you’ll find yourself burdened with needing the next big thing, it’ll amaze you how little you need when you stop looking at others.
2. Declutter and give items to charity that you have not used in 3 months, focus on only purchasing things that you actually need, not want. Living with less, doesn’t mean throwing everything out, it means accounting for items and objects that matter.
3. Experiment with a no shopping challenge, why not set yourself a target to go 60 days without a new consumer purchase.