Do you struggle with consumerism? Many of us feel the need to buy stuff to fill ourselves up, to impress others or because we feel inadequate if we don’t.
In a world smothered in advertisements learn why and how to be a mindful consumer. With help from the tips below you can consume mindfully, in alignment with your personal values.
Culture of Over-Consumption
Is there anything wrong with consumerism? Yes and no.
Yes, there is something very wrong with the fact that Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on non-essential items. Take a look at clothing for example; in the 1930’s the average American woman owned nine out-fits, today she owns 30 with up to 65 pounds of that clothing being thrown out each year. We are producing more waste per person than ever before with limited places to put it. I don’t believe we are anymore satisfied on the inside for all this extra stuff we are buying.
Why the surge in consumerism? The short answer is that we are saturated by advertisement. As much as 5000 ads per day for the average television watching, internet user. What does all this advertisement do to you? Firstly you feel the pressure to ‘fit in’ with what advertisers tell you all the in crowd is doing. Often the message is that your body, clothes or lifestyle isn’t good enough as it is and can only be improved with the advertisers product. Success and happiness should not be measured by what we have but by who we are.
Mindless consumption always turns into excessive consumption. – Joshua Becker
Even though I am a practicing minimalist I still buy things however I do so deliberately using a minimalist approach. For me this looks like mostly buying things that I need as opposed to want, and if I do want something, I give myself a few weeks to really consider how it will change my surroundings. No spontaneous, compulsive or unplanned shopping. I also prioritize items that are ethical and that can be recycled when they are no longer useful.
Past and Future
Quality was highly valued in the past. Have you noticed that the items you buy don’t seem to last as long as they may have in your grandparents time? Furniture is mass produced but the quality is missing, meaning that chest of drawers will become wobbly after 6 months. Technology is no better, whether its a DVD player or a washing machine its almost expected now that the item will either be obsolete within 1-2 years due to an upgrade or it will simply stop working effectively. Long gone are the days when a washing machine would last 15 years. I LOVE old furniture for the reason that it’s already lasted 50+ years and is still both functional and gorgeous in design.
Thrifty was once highly valued especially around WWII where people learned to make things go further and wasted nothing. There is a lot of evidence that people are over the present day epidemic of ‘more’. Anti-consumerism is a new movement that is beginning to take hold. This movement appeals to folk who are aiming for a more simplified existence with the goal of a sustainable and ethical lifestyle. Equally interesting is zero-waste living which share ideas on how to live in a way that has the smallest possible footprint on this planet. These movements make the future look very bright indeed, with a return to a market based upon shared values and a holistic viewpoint of the world. Read on for my 5 top tips to help you become a mindful consumer.
5 Ways to be a Mindful Consumer
Tips to help you become a deliberate consumer:
Know Thyself: It’s so important to get really clear about who you are and what your values are. If you know that you don’t wish to spend all of your spare time in front of the telly, then paying for a Netflix subscription because they have a great deal this month won’t align with your core values. On the other hand if you love cooking and making scrumptious dishes for your friends then investing in a herb/vegetable garden is useful and aligns with who you are.
Pre-Loved: Op shops baby! Buying items second-hand or lightly-loved is one excellent way to be a mindful consumer. To begin with you will save yourself quite a few dollars purchasing items second-hand. I was in the market for a juicer recently, the starting price for a new one began at the $200 mark but after hunting around on Gumtree I was able to find the exact one I wanted, lightly-loved yet working perfectly for only $10! It’s not only money that you will save, by purchasing pre-loved items you’re stopping said item from ending up in a landfill.
The average Australian produces 1.5 tonnes of waste per year. – Greenpeace
My personal favourite for picking up lightly-loved furniture and tech gear is Gumtree, but your local op-shop or thrift stores hold some amazing finds especially if you live in a big city.
Buy from Businesses That You Trust: Small business and local business are great because you can usually meet the owner and find out where they source their materials. I should point out there are some larger businesses that do a lot of wonderful things with their profits and their products and if a companies values align with yours then by all means support them but only if you know what you’re buying will be useful or bring you joy. I like to buy produce from the local organic farmers market – usually the same cost but you get to meet the farmers and they get 100% of the profits, no middle man. Buy from brands/companies whose values you share, for me these include: Patagonia, Matt & Nat, Eco Minerals etc.
Recyclable, Ethical and Fair Trade: Businesses that make the decision to be good to the planet, animals and the workers are doing wonderful things for this world and by choosing their products where possible you’re supporting sustainable production. Don’t forget to share or recycle items when you’re done!
Share or Swap for Free: No cash required. By choosing to be a mindful consumer you might ask the question, do I really need to ‘buy’ this item? The option to share and swap should not be overlooked, for example books can be picked up at libraries or borrowed from a friend. My partner and I recently traveled from Australia to Norway – summer to winter. Instead of buying a tonne of winter clothing that wouldn’t get used back home (it rarely gets cold where we live) we were fortunate enough to borrow most of it from a close friend who had lived in a colder climate. Woohoo! Don’t overlook the option to swap and share.
Share your tips on being a mindful consumer in the comments below.