Throughout history, humans have always collected stuff. What has changed is that instead of collecting, we’ve become obsessed with “buying”. New cellphones every two years, fast fashion, takeaways all the time - our desire to shop never ends, and the amount of perfectly good items that end up in our landfills, and our environment, never ends either!
Pledge #2 of the 28 Day Challenge is reducing your environmental impact by making wise purchasing decisions instead of feeding the need to "buy, buy, buy!"
What can I do?
Ultimately, your pledge is just to buy a lot less stuff, particularly disposable items. This means that you will actually save plenty of cash and, in the long run, even time. Pledge #2 is simple - do whatever you can to buy less stuff!
There are some golden questions to ask yourself before you purchase anything. These questions will help you achieve a simple mindset change that will get you started on your way to buying less stuff:
- Do I actually need this new item?
- If I’m replacing something, what was really wrong with it?
- If I’m upgrading something, could it wait a while longer?
- Could I borrow it instead?
- Do I need a brand new full-price item, or could I buy a second-hand item for less?
- How will I dispose of this item when the time comes, and how will I dispose of the old one I am replacing?
You’ll often find that the simple process of thinking through your shopping list, or doing online research about a product before buying it, not only helps to end up with better deals - but also helps you make better buying decisions.
Why does it matter?
The rise in the consumerist culture, unfortunately, goes hand-in-hand with the overconsumption of our planet’s resources and the creation of waste that is beyond our capacity to deal with. Added to that is the fact that all the energy, raw materials, labour, transport, etc. that went into that product needs to be duplicated with every new iteration.
Right now, plastic is a $522 billion industry - and production is expected to double by 2040. We're already struggling to cope, and things are only going to get worse if we don't curb our consumption. Fortunately, as The Pew Charitable Trusts study summarised in the image below indicates, we can curb most of that simply by reducing the amount of plastics we use and support alternative technologies!
While increased consumption certainly is “positive” in the sense that it means more people are having their needs met and jobs are being created, excessive overconsumption is wreaking havoc on our natural world. Studies have also found that people who make a conscious effort to buy less stuff, seem to be happier individuals - and we all need a little more happiness right now!
Myth-busting: Being sustainable means I can’t buy nice things
Not at all! Sustainability doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with trends, or that you can only have old outdated gadgets. Sustainability means making purchases based on informed decisions, rather than buying for the sake of giving into your urges to continuously consume.
By all means, get that new cellphone, but ask yourself if the new one really is that much better, or if your current one can serve its purpose for another year. Want a new look for your living room? Go for it, but maybe spend your money on quality items that build your personal sense of style, rather than cheap plastic knick-knacks.
Who can I follow?
If you’re looking for inspiration to help you buy less junk, one of the best things you can do is follow users of those products on channels like YouTube, eg. a photographer or a chef. By following fellow consumers, and not basing our opinions purely on the advertising that is designed to make us want to buy more, you’ll find that you gravitate towards things that will satisfy you in the long run. You end up with better quality and less wastage as a result.
If you want to feel inspired about the gradual global shift away from consumerism and wastefulness - take a look at the concept of The Circular Economy of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has made incredible strides in working with large brands and retailers to shift towards a circular model. Listen to Ellen MacArthur who explains the benefits from an economical perspective - and even though these changes are not yet present in all industries, you’ll learn to recognise ways that you can circularise your own consumption - eg. recycling glass or your old cellphone.
Take the 28 Day Challenge! Make your Ocean Pledge!
This post is part of the #28DayOceanPledgeChallenge! You can find the other 27 posts and challenges on the Two Oceans Aquarium website, or by signing up for the Challenge newsletter below to receive one challenge a day for 28 days: