Be a Considerate Consumer

Friday, February 27, 2009

o you care about your level of happiness? True happiness cannot be measured in what you buy. Consider the planet - how many more bulging piles of waste can it handle? We are the only species that makes waste. How can we reduce this fact? And in buying things, are you buying satisfaction or distraction? Consider some ways to approach your consumption.
Think before you buy. Do you really need to buy it? Is it an essential item or a moment of weakness at seeing something glittery and interesting? Assess how much you are being influenced by current trends, billboard advertising and TV promotions. Has the "need" been planted in your head or are you really in need of it?
Question it. Is the item recycled or recyclable? Is it fair trade? These are two important considerations for reducing your consumption impact. If the item is new, it has taken considerable resources to create it. If it is recycled, or recyclable, it is part of the ever growing system of making better use of what we create and use.
Compare products. If you have the choice, go for the biodegradable, locally produced and less energy intensive choices. If you can find out how the item was produced, this should also have a bearing on your purchase - avoid items coming from countries that endorse sweatshops, child labor and under-paid employees.
Look around your home and your life. What new things do you really need? What existing things can you repair, improve upon with your own creativity or keep using as they are? Question why you are addicted to fashion trends and need to replace your wardrobe every new season. Be more fashion aware by buying items of clothing that endure frivolous fashion changes.
Buy secondhand. Why not visit a thrift store or a used dealer and buy pre-loved items or reconditioned items? They will still do the job you seek and this reduces the need for more manufacturing and its subsequent polluting and amassing problems.
Make simple changes. Do not try to be a saint or a sinner. Be sensible and find the middle ground and make changes gradually and in as simple a way as possible. Those who evangelize about the environment, sustainable development or frugal ways of living are entitled to their beliefs but should not make pariahs of others who are their fellow human beings. By the same token, there is no way to absolve yourself of excessive consumption - there is no means of atonement through money, belief or self-justification. Rather, find the middle ground and be sensible and careful. Aim to think rationally and emotionally, so that you find the balance in your passionate pursuit of calmer, more sensitized consumption.
Chart your emotions. If you use shopping as a way to feel better, it is a good idea to make a chart of the triggers. Learn to avoid them or to manage them differently. Also, look at your credit card bills after such a shopping expedition to "cheer yourself up" for a little lesson in reality.
Save more. Put your money toward other pursuits in life, such as building a sustainable home, taking a vacation to an eco-resort or donating funds to worthy causes. Keep money aside to boost your retirement savings. Better gaining interest than dust in your home.
Look for products that have a CarbonCounted logo on them. Companies that are CarbonCounted have measured and displayed their product's carbon dioxide footprint.

Read more about waste in our society. There are excellent books on garbage, waste disposal and other similar topics that will bring you up to speed on how we are drowning in our disposable lifestyle.

Shopping is not a panacea for ills, upsets and downtimes. Learn to find other ways to soothe your disturbed soul than to resort to shopaholic behaviors.


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