We can’t simply shop our way to sustainability, nor can we consume our way to a more sustainable world. Today’s anti-consumerist post is centered around this idea. Sometimes we really do need to buy something new, but most of the time, there’s another way. If you run through these quick 9 questions in your head when you think you may need to buy something, you may find you may be able to find an alternative to buying, and they can also guide you toward a different means of obtaining it. This can help prevent impulsive buying, if that’s something you struggle with. if it turns out you do need to buy a new item, then vote with your wallet and support you local community and/or ethical brands to your means.
1. Do I own something similar?
This is a great place to start and think through what you already own, and the reasons why you may want/need to buy this thing. Will it serve a similar purpose to something you already have or perhaps what you already own could be used or modified to serve that purpose as well! (ex. dyeing a T-shirt another color, moving a lamp to light up a different area, or propagating your plant to make a new plant).
2. Can I borrow or swap?
The height of anti-consumerism lives right in the in the sharing economy, one of capitalism’s worst enemies. Share with someone and they will also share with you. One of my favorites is offering my friends homemade baked goods in exchange for letting me borrow their things or helping me with tasks.
3. Can I make it or repair what I already own?
This point really speaks for itself. The easiest thing you can do that will save time, money, and leave you feeling very satisfied with yourself, is a good old fashioned DIY project. If this is feasible, then go for it, always! You can even rope someone in to help you out with it (bonus points here).
4. Can I find it second hand?
There are so many options when looking to obtain second-hand items, from local thrift stores, Facebook groups, resale apps and sites, and much more. These alternatives will often save you money and reduce your waste all at the same time (my favorite combo).
5. Am I buying it because someone else has it?
This point is a heavy one, but I will try to be as brief as possible and concise. There is no denying that peer pressure plays or has played a role in at least some of our actions and behaviours. In addition to this, mass media has been utilizing complex algorithms to target ads to things they know we like and want, in addition to handing out sponsorships to online influencers, all in effort to maximize their own profits. Humans are social animals, so it’s no surprise here that a very basic human need is the need to feel a sense of community and belonging with others, and this is something that capitalism has learned to take advantage of in the pursuit of greed, power and money. We are always seeking to belong to something, so if our favorite people online are using it, we want to be like them and join in. But we don’t need to form our communities around the purchasing of certain brands or products. This is what drives consumer capitalism, and is what they want you to do so that they can keep you buying their products and continue to feel this sense of belonging because of their product. Try to find this sense of belonging elsewhere, where it is not tied to consumption but rather to forming real connections and bonds with people. You should never need to buy things to find and make these connections (that’s just what the capitalists want you to think you have to do!).
6. Will I need to buy other items to go with it?
Another amazing capitalist scheme at play here. This is just another ways that consumerism works. With the purchase of one product is the (sometimes necessary) purchase of others. It’s important to remember that this is just consumer-capitalism at its finest here , and if you can avoid giving into it, that’s always best. If possible here, consider alternative products or ideas that won’t keep you coming back to buy more and more of something you may not even really need in the first place.
7. Can I buy it from a small/local/BIPOC business?
With the pandemic, there is more emphasis than ever before on supporting local businesses, as they are the true backbones of the economy and are suffering the most during the pandemic due to them being smaller in size, fewer in number and have lower capacities than big name brands and chains (that have made their money profiting off the exploitation of vulnerable populations and natural resources). When possible, always choose local over non-local, as it keeps the profits circulating in your community, supporting those who are doing the bulk of the work, and need the money most, and not in the pockets of an already filthy-rich CEO.
8. Does the brand align with my values?
It is always a good practice to research brands as much as possible. As a consumer, one of the most powerful things we have the power to do is to “vote with our wallets,” that is, spending our money supporting people and businesses that we admire and agree with. along the lines of many different values and criteria we, as individuals have.
9. Do I really NEED it?
If you’ve gotten this far down the list, then maybe you really do need it. I won’t deny that sometimes we really do need to buy things. But there’s also a chance here that you’ve been fine all this time without it, so why do you suddenly need to buy it now?