A Consuming Problem

I love to buy stuff. I know you can’t buy happiness but I truly am very happy most of the time when I’m shopping. It feels good to find a “treasure,” snag it for my very own and then have the power to purchase it. Now if I can get that treasure for close to no money, even better.

The more I read about health, environmental friendliness and green living, the more I realize that nearly everything I own is either toxic, wasteful, irresponsible or unfair to humans or other animals. It makes me want to get rid of everything I currently have and then buy all new organic, non-toxic, fair trade versions of my possessions. Oooo, it’s fun being green if it means you can shop shop shop. I don’t think this is the answer either however.

If the tree has already been killed, the slave has already labored, the item already purchased and used, then unless it’s filled with lead or some other posisonous substance, it’s probably more responsible for me to use up the item I have than to chuck it in a landfill or even recycle it and keep buying more.

I have to refrain from buying more reusable grocery bags every time another store comes out with a cuter, more environmentally friendly version. Even things that are produced using resources responsibly are still using resources and anything you buy will have some impact on our world. One of the best things we can do to help the environment is to stop buying so much junk and that’s something that should fit into anyone’s budget. The next time you pick up that ill-fitting t-shirt on clearance for 3 dollars and consider buying it because it’s ONLY 3 DOLLARS, think about whether you really need it or whether you can make do with what you have at home and save that 3 dollars for something else, like a present for me.

In this spirit, I’m not going to go out and buy new organic cotton sheets until those I already have wear themselves out. When I’m buying new because I need them, then I’ll get the good stuff. I need to think about my decisions carefully instead of setting fire to all my earthly possessions so I can save the world.

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15 Responses to A Consuming Problem

  1. Sarah says:

    I keep meaning to give up consumerism for a time … I just never seem to get round to it! It’s always something I plan to do ‘after I’ve bought the new sheets’ or ‘after we’ve sorted the lounge’, ‘bought some summer clothes’ etc. Excuses, excuses. One of these days, I’m going to set myself a 30 day challenge!

  2. Shannon says:

    Do I hear you on the reusable bag stockpiling… my husband keeps having to tell me “it’s not environmentally friendly if you have 30 reusable bags!!” Sigh..

  3. All Adither says:

    I struggle with this same issue. I love the rush of buying something new and shiny. I often have to slap my own hand away from picking up items I don’t REALLY need but just sort of want. Because more than anything I desire the tingle that comes while walking away with my cute, little shopping bag.

  4. This is a really, really good point. It’s very difficult to not go and replace everything with their “green” counterparts. I was really tempted to get my second child new organic clothes when I already had a box of hand me downs ready to go.

    I guess the exception would be things like cleaning products, where the bad ones have an impact on your family and the planet each time they are used. I try to get the need to buy eco-friendly things out of my system by limiting it to stuff like that.

    But oh, how many times have I been tempted to buy cuter reusable bags to replace my ten plain canvas ones…

  5. Kat says:

    Yeah, that is why it is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”…although I do like those earrings made from old bottles on the uncommon goods website…While I already have too many of the un-recycled kind.
    Hmmm….maybe if I sell those at a consignment shop I can buy the more expensive eco-earrings?

  6. Stephanie says:

    I love shopping too. My deal with myself is that I have to LOVE it, if I am going to buy it. I don’t care how good the deal is, if I don’t love it I won’t use it for very long. It works pretty well.

  7. Amy says:

    Those are very wise words!

  8. bananas says:

    I LOVE this post, Kathryn. Very very very very True!

  9. Glad you’ve decided against an “earthly possessions” bonfire for Earth Day. Just imagine how toxic that was bound to have been 🙂

  10. Jd says:

    Good more stuff left for me to buy LOL. I am pretty excited for earth day though here it is one BIG event 🙂

  11. Katherine says:

    Amen, Sistah! 🙂
    Such a great point. I remember seeing a “green” home show sometime ago, and I about fell off the chair when they pulled out the granite counter tops in the kitchen to put in bamboo ones.

  12. Jane says:

    I have started to only buy what we need, not what we want. It’s hard. This video http://www.storyofstuff.com/ scared me into it. If you have a free 20 minutes, check it out – but be warned, you won’t want to shop for days!

  13. michal says:

    you have some great points. i have been buying less and consuming less lately simply because i need to stick to a budget better–i hadn’t thought about that being kinder to the earth. i guess i’ll just go and pat myself on the back now for being a little greener, even if it was financially motivated.
    i do love shopping. sigh.

  14. Casey says:

    Oh, I hear you! You’re absolutely right about using up what you have rather than go buy brand-new “green alternatives.” I second the recommendation to watch “Story of Stuff,” by the way.

    I’m a “reformed shopper” who loves a good bargain and a new gadget, though. What’s helped me have less of an environmental impact is hitting thrift stores, garage sales, craigslist and the local freecycle list, for things I want but am in no hurry to get. I’m still getting neat stuff, but it’s not new retail stuff that’s going to encourage some corporation to boost its manufacturing. And it’s cheaper than retail.

    I think of it as “extreme shopping.” After several years of doing this for recreation, I find browsing retail stores boring because I don’t have to look hard enough for “treasures.”

  15. I am so with you on this one. As a bargain hunter, it never ceases to amaze me when I rationalize buying yet another tank top because it *only* costs two bucks.

    One solution I found that helped with my guilt and my budget was taking part in a local clothing swap. It was awesome because I could get rid of my stuff (bingo!) and then dig through other people’s stuff to find treasures that were new to me. Plus I met some new friends while there. All around, a fantastically green event!

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