Rethinking Stuff: 4 Questions for Conscious Consumption

One of the crucial essential facets of residing extra sustainably is making the acutely aware determination to easily devour much less; training acutely aware consumption in different phrases.

Turning into a conscious consumer could seem disarmingly easy, however that doesn’t essentially imply that it’s all the time straightforward. Particularly in a tradition the place we’re bombarded with commercials that inform us we’ll be happier, higher trying, extra common, more healthy, or smarter if we purchase a selected venture. Billion-dollar promoting budgets are geared toward making us really feel like we’d like extra stuff.

Women walking past sale sign in window
Picture courtesy of Gerard Stolk

Asking your self these 4 questions before you purchase one thing will assist align your actions along with your beliefs, and curb your environmental influence, too

1. Do I want this?

Easy and efficient. Do you really want this merchandise? Is it a mud collector, a reproduction, or an impulse buy you’re prone to remorse and by no means use? Or is it a real want? Everybody’s definition of “want” shall be a bit totally different, however I sometimes default to the sensible phrases of William Morris on this one, “If you’d like a golden rule that can match all people, that is it: Don’t have anything in your homes that you just have no idea to be helpful, or imagine to be lovely.”

In case you do really want the merchandise, stick with it to the second query.

2. Can I make it?

Why assist multinational companies when you can create one thing for your self? If you’ll be able to make one thing as a substitute of shopping for it, you will have full management over the components, packaging, and efficacy of the product. Make artwork as a substitute of shopping for mass-produced prints, whip up your own body care products, or concoct your own cleaning solutions. With the complete web at your disposal, you will discover steerage on making any variety of issues.

In case you can’t make it (and typically this would be the case as a result of, let’s face it, I’ll in all probability by no means be a cobbler), stick with it to quantity three.

3. Can I borrow it, or purchase it secondhand?

Why purchase when you may borrow? And why purchase new when you will discover it gently used for half the value? We’re obsessive about possession, however for some gadgets that we’d use solely a couple of times a yr (tenting tools, get together tents, meals dehydrators, and so forth), it would make higher monetary and environmental sense to pool your assets with a good friend or member of the family. Share the merchandise, halve your bills, and scale back the quantity of house in your house dedicated to storing issues. Win-win!

Alternately, search out a secondhand retailer, hit up your native Craigslist, or checklist a request for what you want on Nextdoor. Shopping for secondhand saves cash, hits the pause button on the patron cycle, and in addition permits you to higher consider how an merchandise will put on over time. A 50-year previous wooden desk that’s nonetheless stable and gleaming after a long time of use will all the time be a greater funding than its big-box retailer particleboard counterpart.

And at last,

4. Is that this the finest high quality I can afford?

This query runs counter to all of our instincts in North American society, the place we chase offers with the fervor of fanatics. The reality is, for those who really want one thing, making the choice to put money into a top quality, well-made piece of clothes, furnishings, or tools means you received’t end up shopping for it over again in just a few weeks, months, or years. In case you want sandals, search for stitched soles and pure supplies as a substitute of flimsy plastic flip flops. In case you want a seashore umbrella, get the dearer one made with wooden or steel as a substitute of plastic. Make it a behavior to prioritize high quality over value.

At first, these questions could seem cumbersome and even annoying. However I discover they permit me to distill the method of consuming right down to its purest kind, fairly than that insatiable itch in fixed want of scratching.

Function picture courtesy of Douglas Muth. Initially printed on November 20, 2014, this text was up to date in January 2022.

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