I went to a lecture yesterday on the wrongness of today’s mainstream way of life. I’m not a big fan of labeling things as right or wrong, but I was attracted enough by the underlying message that we could divert from the norm. In the end the talk turned out to be somewhat disappointing. There were some interesting ideas but too much politician bashing for my liking. I left with the sense that the most important thing remained unsaid: That things CAN change. If only we start with ourselves.
It’s been a while since I started decluttering. I wrote about it before. However, what I didn’t mention is that, as I did so, something interesting happened: I became more and more aware of the fact that my purchases, past and present, have an effect. First of all on my wallet, of course. But also on the market, however small.
As I bought less and less I realized that I do not mind spending more money on high quality items. After all, if you have fewer things, wouldn’t you want to enjoy those that you do have as much and as long as possible? So not only did I buy high quality clothing and furniture when I needed it. But I also transitioned to buying only organic fruit and vegetables (mainly because I’m juicing and don’t want to ingest pesticides and other toxins, if I can avoid it) and meat, the latter of which I have also cut down on in terms of quantity.
I’ve also turned to buying only vegan, organic shower gels and conditioner, laundry detergent and cleaning products (with the exceptions of some organic products that just don’t seem to do the cleaning job properly). I also only use energy from green resources and have subscribed to a mobile phone contract with a company that donates 10 percent of my fee to a charitable cause of my choosing. Thankfully I am able to afford the extra price tag that often comes along with feeling better about what I buy. And I’m well aware that not everybody can.
Last but not least I have started to try to cut down on my waste. Zero waste does not seem manageable for me (yet). I just don’t see myself travel to the “unpacked” store on the other side of the city, armed with a ton of bags and jars, only to carry it all the way back with no car.
I have, however, started ordering boxes of fruits and vegetables online (carton packaged only, no plastic bags) that have “faults”, like not being straight or long or short enough, and that would therefore normally and shockingly go to waste. It’s all organic yet way cheaper than the usual organic store would be. Yes, the shipping takes a toll on the environment but I feel the prevention of food waste in exchange warrants it.
I’m not, however, that good about buying fair products or vegan shoes yet. I also admit that I do treasure my iPhone and Mac for their user friendliness and aesthetics, knowing full well that the company does engage in some unsavory practices as regards employee rights and raw materials.
Also, I still live in an apartment that is clearly oversized, testament to the fact that my hope that I’d be living here with my partner did not materialize… I am, however, very seriously toying with the idea of moving into a mini house in the future. After all, I don’t have that much stuff anymore. Why pay rent for space I no longer need?
There is certainly still room for improvement but, all in all, I feel I have significantly changed my consumer behavior for the better. And it makes me wonder whether all this talk about how minimalism could damage the econony is not just a heap of bollocks, excuse my language.
Yes, there would be less consumption in terms of quantity. Yes, there would be less throwing away things, and more repairing and reusing and recycling and upcycling. But there would also be more consumption of sustainable, organic, fair and durable goods. And this, to me, seems like a very attractive proposition.
It would provide an incentive for companies to change their mode of operation from mass production to quality production. There would be an incentive for innovation and durability instead of capitalizing on the seemingly often inbuilt product failure right after the warranty period ends. There would be an incentive to increase the share of organic farming and fair clothing. There would be a relief for the housing market. And so on. You get the gist.
I am not an expert on this, by any means, as you might be able to tell, and savy economists might be able to prove that I’m all wrong and the economy would go all downhill from here, curtesy of minimalism. But as far as I know the market works on a demand-and-supply basis. And for once I like that.
Just think about how much power, as consumers, we really have! Just multiply my tiny change in behavior by one million, or ten million or, let’s be adventurous, one billion (!) people doing the same thing. The companies would have to adjust. And so would the market, the policies, etc.
So maybe it’s time to stop bashing companies for what they are doing and politicians for what they are not doing. And start changing our own individual behavior so that companies and politicians have no choice but to eventually follow suit.
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