8 Steps to Kinder Consumption and a Better World
Updated March 2023
We're all consumers. We must consume to meet our needs and stay alive. We need food, shelter, medical care. We need clothing, communication, transportation, education. We need, so we consume.
But our culture is focused on constant consumption, 24/7, without a thought for the cost to others or our planet. Our society is self-centered, but we also idolize "the rich and famous" who indulge in luxury and waste. There's no satisfaction in our throwaway culture.
We also consume time, that precious, limited, God-given resource. We waste a ton of it, mindlessly watching TV, playing video games, and scrolling through social media. Then we squeeze and pinch the rest of it, priding ourselves on our busyness, gaining self-esteem by imagining we are indispensable because our calendars are crammed. We shortchange necessities like relationships, creativity, and sleep in favor of our go-go time consumption.
Our use of time has become a great divider, according to Ruth Valerio, author of L is for Lifestyle: Christian Living That Doesn't Cost the Earth.
- Some of us spend time to save money.
- Others spend money to save time (so they can make more money).
Our economy is heavily invested in the latter, so we're encouraged to buy more smart devices and even hire people to fill our grocery carts. The fact that we become chained to our jobs in order to afford the time-savers seems to escape our notice.
How can we be more balanced consumers? How can we be more ethical as we meet our consumption needs?
8 Tips for Kinder Consumption*
1. Buy things for usefulness rather than status.
We all need shoes, but we don't need a closet full of high-end designer shoes. We need transportation, but we don't need the brand-new luxury model. In fact, if you can easily afford to drive a luxury car, choosing to purchase a pre-owned, fuel-efficient, mid-priced model makes a strong statement about your values.
2. Stop trying to keep up with the hyper-consumption patterns of celebrities.
There will always be someone who has more than you, and competing and comparing will make you miserable. Be especially aware that many of the people you might emulate are being paid to promote whatever they're wearing, driving, drinking, etc.
3. Be skeptical of advertising, which is basically propaganda.
Advertisers want you to desire and purchase something, and they don't care how they convince you to do it. They market to little children, for goodness' sake, and try to make 2-year-olds brand-conscious. Stop listening to them.
4. Reject things to which you are addicted.
Distinguish between real psychological needs and your addictions. What do I mean by that?
- You need cheerful surroundings and beauty in your life, but be careful of HGTV makeover shows and lifestyle magazines that cause you to desire and purchase home décor and upgrades on a regular basis.
- You need comfort and recreation, but be aware of repeated or increasing treats and entertainments.
- You need to learn, but think twice before jumping in to purchase all the supplies and equipment for yet another short-term interest.
Public parks and libraries come to mind – you don't need to own a beautiful lawn, a large play area, or shelves full of books in order to enjoy them. Great art and architecture can enrich your life while remaining in the public domain. You can rent or borrow and enjoy the use of camping or sports equipment, tools, formal clothes, and so many more items without needing to buy and keep them forever.
6. Develop the habit of generosity rather than self-indulgence.
Remember that the ability to give is a true indication of wealth.
7. Develop a deep appreciation for nature.
The natural world is essential to our mental, emotional, and physical health. Time in nature is something we all need more of. But we don't need to own and consume it. We don't need to become eco-tourists. In fact, if we all cared more for the green spaces that are near us, even in urban settings, we would not only preserve and enlarge those spaces, but we'd be able to gain peace and refreshment from them every day.
8. Reject things that cause others to be oppressed.
In some way, that means that we, the privileged, need to refrain from exploiting the poor and powerless. We need to care about equal treatment and equal opportunity. We need to be compassionate, not greedy or self-centered. We need to be satisfied with enough so we can share with those who don't have enough.
So we might
- reject fast fashion.
- look for "fair trade" labels.
- buy from companies that have committed to worker safety and a living wage.
- stop eating meat, or make sure that we purchase only when animals have been treated humanely.
- buy more organic produce in order to reduce the amount of pesticides that farm workers are exposed to.
- purchase used items more often, to prevent additional pollution and exploitation due to extraction and manufacturing processes.
- keep items longer (especially cars and electronics) for the same reasons, and also to reduce toxic exposures due to recycling practices.
By considering what we really need and rejecting our culture's consumption habits, we can not only keep ourselves from debt and clutter, but we can "vote with our dollars" for a more just and equitable world.
* Richard Foster's Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World, suggested some of these ideas.
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Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! I'm excited to have a reader from Poland. My best wishes to you.Delete