We live in a consumerist society – there’s no denying this fact. I cannot wrap my mind around how many different things could arrive to our doorsteps within two days. It is a global manufacturing, supply chains and logistics marvel. Yet, it also presents us with an enormous challenge: how do we keep ourselves from constantly purchasing things? We have been trained by marketers to buy something when we have a problem.
Need a new stay-at-home activity for quarantine? Purchase some new board games. Feeling like your wardrobe isn’t fit for the new work-from-home world? Buy the comfiest joggers you can find. Not productive enough at your new home office? Order a new desktop monitor.
These are all things Lynne and I have bought in the last 11 months since the start of the pandemic. None of those products are evil. Yet, they were also the easiest solutions to the new needs and desires the pandemic introduced to our lives and it is hard not to let “buying” be the only solution.
Before we consider what to do about this, let’s add one more twist. For those who are concerned about the environment, there are new products popping up everyday that are “greener”. On one hand, this is a great progress that we are reducing plastics, using renewable energy in manufacturing, creating more long-lasting goods, etc. However, it still is our favorite solution to problems: consumption.
How can we form our attitudes around things and consumption to be most fruitful for us and most beneficial for the earth? For one, we should look to our faith which encourages us to have detachment from worldly things. Each of us has to cultivate the posture that while things may be necessary or even good, possessions are not what bring us lasting joy and peace.
Second, it does matter that we consider the environmental and human cost of goods we purchase. This includes evaluating whether we could buy something used, particularly in today’s world where we have many outlets for used goods.
Finally (at least for this reflection), we should ensure we maximize the value and life cycle of the items, big or small, that we do purchase and use. This means making the most of our items and considering whether it could still be used, either by us or someone else, before being discarded.
These are tasks are not always convenient and they are especially challenging in a society that makes it so easy and attractive to buy, buy, buy. Today let’s consider what small steps we can take to get us started on this journey of benefitting both ourselves and our earth.