DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS OBVIOUSLY TARGETED AT A VERY SPECIFIC DEMOGRAPHIC OF RELATIVELY PRIVILEGED FOLKS. BUT I FIGURED I’TS REALLY IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT OUR (AGAIN, PRIVILEGED) RELATIONSHIP WITH CONSUMPTION ANYWAY! ALSO, YES THERE ARE BIG SYSTEM SOLUTIONS TO REDUCING CONSUMPTION AND YES REDUCING CONSUMPTION ON A BEYOND-INDIVIDUAL (I.E. INDUSTRY) SCALE IS ARGUABLY MORE IMPORTANT, BUT HAVING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH CONSUMPTION AND NAVIGATING THAT IS SOMETHING THAT I PERSONALLY STRUGGLED WITH IN MY JOURNEY TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY, SO HOPEFULLY THIS HELPS SOME OF YOU OUT THERE!
Consumption is about more than just literally consuming “stuff.” You consume all the tie, most especially on social media. Think about the ads you receive, via corporations, and via people you follow. Think about the messages you hear. How much of that is mindless, or negatively contributing to your wellbeing? Of course, some of it is unavoidable. But you can control some of that by cleansing your feed. Follow people you *actually* want to follow, and people who aren’t tell you to buy stuff all the time. (Seriously, you don’t need it.)
Meaningfully spend your time on social media. Be aware of the sort of influences it’s having on your mindset, beliefs, energy, and emotions, and regulate that as you desire so that you come away with a positive experience.
It took me a long time to unlearn this, because all my life I’ve been taught that I need to have what other people have around me. This may be clichéd to you at this point, but you’ll be surprised when you think about how subtly it can affect you. Think about what makes you buy things. Do you *really* want that, or is it because people around you have that?
I realised that I cut out a lot of unnecessary consumption by simply finding out what I really wanted, independent of trends. Now I’m not saying I’m a minimalist, I’m just saying that I reduced the amount I consume by figuring between what I need and what I want.
In our very capitalistic society, we’re made to think that all we can do is consume. Once we’re free of our responsibilities, like work, or school, we consume. Of course, some of that is essential, but are there ways to be happy without (lots of) money? Are there ways to be happy without consuming (as much)? What influences what makes you happy? Are you really happy by consuming/consuming the experiences you do now? What actually makes you happy? Is materialism (aka things and having things) tied to your self-worth and happiness?
Thinking about these questions and trying these activities actually made me want to buy things less, because I realised purchasing wasn’t actually making me happy, it was the life I was looking for.
(adapted from “Humanity is more important than money – it’s time for capitalism to get an upgrade,” Andrew Yang)
SUSTAINABILITY ISN’T SOMETHING YOU CAN BUY.
Conscious consumerism is important. Buying ethically and sustainably where you can is important. Especially if you can afford to do so, it’s something you should look into. But sustainability is a mindset.
You don’t have to buy that ethical alternative, you don’t have to buy that product to be able to have more sustainable habits. Sure, you’re welcome to support good businesses if you’d like, but do you have to buy it? Can you repurpose something from your home, something you already have? Can you purchase it secondhand? Can you rent it?
Do you even need it to begin with?
Quoting Aditi Mayer, a sustainable fashion and travel advocate and visual journalist, who said this on a panel very recently: “The West has made us think that sustainability is something you have to buy. When I think about sustainability, I think about that elderly man walking down the street who has had the same tote for the last twelve years. I think about my family that has lived frugally our whole lives by virtue of being a low-income family.
The most sustainable thing that you and I own is what’s already in your closet. When we push the idea that sustainability is simply the current market of high-end goods, we risk turning our solutions into capitalistic endeavors restricted to only higher socio-economic classes.
Sustainability is a lifestyle––and communities of color and indigenous communities have always been at the frontlines of sustainability in terms of our lifestyle.”
ON THAT NOTE, OWNERSHIP IS OVERRATED.
Ever heard of sharing? Borrowing? Every time you think that you need to bu something, especially if you need it for one occasion only, think about ways you can prevent purchasing. And even if you need it for more than one occasion, do you have to own it? Can you ask around if someone else has it?
On that note, creating a community is important. How can you encourage people around you (school, workplace, family, etc.) to share rather than each having to purchase the same item?