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  • Kelly Ryan

Shop 'til you drop?

Consumption, of fast fashion, flights, Black Friday-discounted gadgets, has become the primary driver of ecological crisis. We are devouring the planet’s resources at a rate 1.7 times faster than it can regenerate!

When people buy less stuff, there are immediate drops in emissions, resource consumption and pollution. That’s not to mention the impact materialism has on our mental health, inducing feelings of inadequacy and envy, and encouraging a culture of overworking.

If we made a 25% reduction in our consumption, this would be enough to reduce pollution and waste significantly. That doesn’t just mean buying fewer physical things; it’s also using less electricity, travelling less or using greener alternatives, and less eating out. If your spending is increasing, you’re likely to be increasing your impact on the environment; if it’s lowering, you’re probably lowering your impact.

How might a lower-consuming society look? Everything is reoriented because people, brands and governments are no longer striving for economic growth. Individuals are more self-sufficient, growing food, mending things and embracing wabi-sabi, the Japanese concept of imperfect aesthetics (think patched-up pockets or chipped ceramics). Brands produce fewer but better-quality goods, while governments ban planned obsolescence (the practice of producing items to only function for a set period of time), stick “durability” labels on items so shoppers can be assured of longevity, and introduce tax subsidies so it’s cheaper to repair something than to bin it and buy a new version.

If we all stopped shopping overnight it would be disastrous, but if we built a new system, it could support a surprisingly robust economy. If you’re producing durable goods, you still need considerable labour. Then there’s the second-hand market, the repair of products, taking items back in and recomposing them into new products

Over the decades various communities have practised voluntary simplicity, whether by choice or necessity. In general, these people buy few clothes, read library books, walk or catch buses, avoid social media and rarely listen to music or watch TV. Such lifestyles sound very worthy, but could it be a bit boring? That may be the reality we need to confront though; maybe we have to accept that a lower-consuming society isn’t an endless parade of distractions like the society we have today.



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