Thursday, 11 May 2017

How to be a conscious (un)consumer: want less, make stuff, fix things, share ...




Every Thursday night I chat on ABC Radio Evening Show about living simply. Tonight's theme we explored what it means to be an eco-consumer and the challenges we face.


Below are the key points we explored.
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We have become defined as consumers, rather than citizens, people, neighbours ... We earn money to buy stuff - mountains of it from around the world, full of toxic chemicals, the despair of exploited workers, the erosion of diversity, land and practical skill, and the contamination of rivers and air ....

The mountains of stuff we consume and accumulate does not equal happiness. It actually is a key source of depression, anxiety, stress, disease and pollution.  If stuff does not equal happiness, why are we so addicted to it?

In fact we have so much stuff we don’t even know where to put it. In Australia, the self-storage industry is a billion dollar industry (and rapidly growing) because we can no longer fit all our things in our homes, even though they are getting larger.

We work hard and spend hard in Australia. Did you know that since 1985 the debt:income ration has risen from 104% to 212%. This means someone who earns $80000, typically spends $169,600 a year.

A conscious caring consumer considers the impact of purchases on health and well-being of people and the planet.

We have too much and our addiction to stuff is making us suffer, and the planetary systems suffer.

 Australians are suffering from ‘Affluenza’. We have rising personal debt - one of the highest in the world, we throw out almost as much clothing as we buy each year and we have one of the highest ecological footprints.

Currently we are using 1.7 earth's worth of resources every year to meet global needs and absorb our wastes.  This means by August the 9th we go into credit - going beyond what the Earth can replenish itself and borrowing from future generations and earth's systems. This is completely unsustainable. Australia is one of the worst consumers and wasters in the world. If everyone lived like an Australian we would need 5.3 earths. We only have one ....obviously!

Something is completely wrong with this picture.

We need to radically redefine ourselves as makers, doers, producers, thinkers, be-ers for our own sanity, for future generations and for the earth.


What does it take to change? What can we do at home. It's more than the old reduce, reuse, recycle. Actually, recycling should be low on the list after all of the below.

Living simply and sustainably is about growing, cooking, making, mending, building and sharing with others doing this too. 

Consider these 10 points to becoming a conscious eco-consumer (or non-consumer) …

  1. THINK, WANT LESS, RESPECT:  Think first whether you really need it or if it's the best purchase. What impact does this purchase have on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet?
  2. REFUSE, REDUCE, AVOID, REMEMBER: refuse unnecessary packaging and 'stuff', reduce waste, reduce plastics, avoid toxic chemicals, remember to take your bottle, cup, straw, cutlery, shopping bags ... be the change.
  3. SWAP, SHARE, BORROW, TRADE - do we actually all need to have everything. Get to know your neighbours. Share with your friends and family.
  4. CHOOSE WELL: select local, durable, fixable and ethical products that are made from sustainable materials, made where conditions for workers are good, and that can be returned to the earth.
  5. MAKE, REMAKE, PRODUCE: shift from being a consumer to a producer too - grow, build, sew, make....
  6. GOOD CARE AND MAINTENANCE: look after what you have well to make it last as long as possible
  7. FIX, MEND, REVIVE, RESTORE: give new life and new value to things that have broken  vs disposable attitude - just get a new one if it breaks
  8. SALVAGE, REUSE: if it can't be fixed, find ways to salvage materials and reuse in other ways
  9. REGENERATE: help to repair and design systems that are regenerative - eg permaculture food gardens repair soil, build diversity and create a yield higher than energy put in
  10. DONATE: give away things surplus to your needs and simplify.


Do you have other strategies for being a conscious consumer and non-consumer?

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2 comments:

  1. Well said Morag. I loved your ABC interview, and now know that I can listen in at any time using my computer. It is good to be reminded of the many ways that we can be an un-consumer. Sometimes I have to venture into the shopping arena but I have a different way of looking at it now, and I cannot wait to get out of there. Jean.

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  2. Totally! We need t always be careful of exposure to the flood of consumerist brain washing on commercial radio and tv. Glad permaculture hasn't been gobbled up and repackaged by the machine... yet. Aaargh!

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