Before you leave this article whilst muttering “blasphemy,” I want to explain why. Short answer: I don’t need the stuff they sell. Long answer: Well… just keep on reading.
Yes, it’s true. I don’t shop at Target. Or Walmart. Or H&M. Or, or, or…The list goes on and on.
And just a quick heads up about this article: I take a more serious tone throughout it versus some of my other posts. I feel the need to communicate my frustration with consumerism these days and explain the negative externalities of it. By no means do I think everyone has the means, time or money to invest in completely changing their lifestyle, but I find those who are more privileged are usually the ones who perpetrate this issue anyways and could do with a little more of a minimalist mindset. I also think businesses should be held accountable by government and that consumers are just another (yet significant) piece of the puzzle.
Now, let’s dig in.
I grew up in a culture very similar to what most people I know have also been immersed in–that the deal is what matters. “This t-shirt? $10.” “Can you believe this meal from McD’s only cost me $4??” “I have to buy these shoes because they’re 50% off!” “All the free swag!”
I mean, it makes sense, right? Money is a valuable resource to each and every one of us and should be conserved when possible.
The trouble is…the other resources and values in play when purchasing and consuming products are arguably as valuable, if not more so, than some extra pocket change.
Purchasing the cheap shirt to briefly feel better ends up compromising air and water quality, resource availability, working conditions, and so much more that puts unnecessary pressure on the ridiculously complicated supply chain that brought you the item that may or may not be still in your home in a few months.
The difference between a normally-priced product and a deal is not just a few dollars and a fleeting feeling–It’s so much more.
Though there is some truth backing the idea that owning certain objects will make us happier, like things that drastically increase our quality of life (i.e. if you’re suddenly able to afford a method of transportation you weren’t previously able to) or items that save us time (i.e. my blessed Photoshop–NEVER settle for Windows Photos and paint to get by), this belief will never serve as a blanket “fix all our personal problems” solution.
We’ve been led to believe that stuff always makes us happy and that deals reflect value, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, increases in an individual’s level of consumption do not lead to any notable increase in happiness for a number of reasons including that we are often driven to consume simply because others are and we want to catch up with them in one way or another instead of just walking our own path. That’s an endless cycle if I ever heard of one.
On top of the lack of personal happiness and fulfillment stuff gives us, over-consumption by humans is sucking our planet dry of resources we require to survive and live a healthy life.
Take clothes for example. Textile waste alone accounted for more than 10 billion tons of landfill waste in 2015 compared to less than 2 billion in 1960 (Source).
Not only does this reflect the creation of more waste in the “filling up the landfill sense,” this directly demonstrates the insane amount of resources required to make the products, ship them to the consumer, and then dispose of them.
And there’s no current projection of this number decreasing since human populations are increasing and mass consumption is growing in right along with it.
I’ve woken up to this reality and I’m not the kind of person to close my eyes to it. Despite everyone’s good-intentions when purchasing gifts or reflecting their love for someone else, their efforts are growing increasingly misplaced and doing more long-term harm than good.
I’m tired of endless stream of new gifts at baby showers and weddings, the “I won’t marry him unless I get this size ring”, the desire to jump on trend instead of trailblazing your own, the clothes that go unworn after purchase, and the donations to Goodwill with a misplaced optimism that all clothes go to heaven.
I KNOW we can do better.
We have the power to change the status quo. It’s just a matter of coming together as a collective group to say we will not stand idly by and watch the health of our families, our communities, and our planet falter before our eyes.
If you feel compelled to contribute to a better future for humanity, then start making changes now. Don’t shop at Target because “It’s Target” while allowing simple marketing tactics to control any tendency you may have to consume more than you need.
If you feel compelled to contribute to a better future for humanity, then start making changes now.
It’s important to determine what is most valuable to you and stop buying everything else (think: Marie Kondo). Curate your wardrobe and other belongings, buy from small and ethical businesses, surround yourself with experiences instead of things, and love your life beyond what material objects you own because there’s so much more to happiness than stuff.
A few quick ideas to explore:
- REDUCE what you buy entirely. Really focus on what you absolutely need before you even look to purchase it. A good rule of thumb is to wait a week to purchase something that isn’t an absolute necessity.
- Jump on board the sharing economy with resources like Bunz (not that popular in the states yet, but we’re working on it) and your local library! Any items you can prevent buying new are a decision well-spent. Look more into that: CLICK HERE
- Shop from thrift stores and online second hand stores! I’ve found this is one of the more underrated options while also being my favorite.
- Shop from ethical businesses. Forget shops like H&M and Forever 21 and say HELLO Everlane and Patagonia.
- Worst comes to worst and you absolutely need something you can’t find secondhand, then opt for the mainstream stores where you purchase something brand new.
I’ll leave you with this: While I don’t shop at the stereotypical retail stores, I still buy stuff from Amazon and am a regular at my local thrift store.
We’ll never be perfect, but the key is to make a genuine effort and teach the next generation what it means to be good stewards of our planet while truly enjoying life.
Thank you for reading and be sure to leave any thoughts in the comment section below!