Consumerism Harms Our Planet

With “Black Friday” rapidly approaching, merchants are clamouring for us to buybuybuy. It’s time we all said ENOUGH.

Rampant consumerism is a big contributor to our climate crisis. Everything we buy has a carbon footprint. Our planet has finite resources and the more we buy, the more these resources are used up.

We are constantly being encouraged, even when we aren’t aware of it, to buy things. Advertisers seduce us with the notion that our lives will be happier or dramatically improved if we buy their product. Every occasion we might want to celebrate is fodder for commerce; we are made to feel inadequate if we don’t buy gifts for our loved ones. We are constantly bombarded with sexy poses and bright colours and jingles and enticements to buy now!

We must learn how to recognise when we are being lured by capitalism. We must understand what is a need and what is merely a want. Why are we buying? Is it the item we want, or the thrill of acquisition? Are we using “retail therapy” in place of things that might bring us actual happiness?

The following suggestions may not work for everyone. For example, people with food allergies may not be able to purchase food items in bulk, as the risk of cross contamination is too great.

The first thing we can do as consumers is to simply buy less. Some of the things we buy are necessities, such as food. While buying less may not be possible when it comes to things we need, there are things we can do to reduce our footprint:

  • only buy as much as you can reasonably use before it goes bad
  • buy local when possible (shipping carries a hefty carbon impact)
  • purchase items with less packaging
  • buy in bulk where available
  • bring your own containers and bags when you shop
  • tell your grocery store manager that you want products with less packaging

When an item is worn and you are planning to replace it, first take a good look at it and see if it can be repaired. If you don’t know how to mend something:

  • take a class or workshop (KW Library of Things has offered a drop-in mend it day)
  • ask someone who is good at repairing things to teach you
  • trade favours with someone who can fix it
  • borrow a book about mending things from the library
  • look for tutorials on the internet (YouTube)

When you are considering buying something new, take a couple of days to think about whether this item is going to be something you really want. Sometimes the idea of having a new thing is very seductive, but the reality of owning it is less appealing. Maybe you think the newest thingmajig will make your life easier. Before buying:

  • borrow or rent one to give it a test drive (friends, family, Library of Things, rental shops are possible resources)
  • look into buying used (freecycle, thrift shops, kijiji)

For items you might use only occasionally, consider borrowing or renting rather than owning.

Once you’ve decided to make a purchase, buy the best quality you can afford. “Fast fashion” clothing items that are knocked out quickly and cheaply won’t last and will soon end up in landfill, wasting resources. This applies to everything we buy; cheap, poorly made products are wasteful in the long run.

The reality is that we have become accustomed to living with certain creature comforts and we can’t easily live without buying things. But we can reduce our carbon footprints by becoming conscious consumers and learning to live with less.

While you are here, please consider signing the petition for the Right to Repair, which will force manufacturers to make manuals and parts available to consumers so that we may mend their products.