On How To Be An Anti-Consumer

September 22, 2009


For some time now I have been very aware of living in a ridiculously consumerist society. And this is in New Zealand! I’ve been to the US and it’s completely insane there! It took me some time, but I have made a few changes in my life towards becoming a worse consumer, a state to which  I aspire.

The knowledge that the earth is a finite space and that we cannot continue our peculiar form of capitalism, with ever increasing growth, is (so I thought) pretty obvious. So it follows then that our business leaders, leading economists and politicians are all missing this very basic fact. (So why are they so well financially rewarded for such a gross lack of logic? That’s another story!)

It bothers me that whenever I buy stuff I often have to buy stuff with plastic packaging. It totally bothers me that we still treat oceans as a garbage dump, as if once it’s out of our sight we neednt worry about it anymore.

So, I buy less stuff. I own less stuff. In fact, I sold as much of my stuff as I could and now rent a furnished place so I have less stuff to cart around. This feels great!

I try to re-use glass bottles rather than buy water in plastic bottles. What’s with water in plastic bottles anyway? Here in New Zealand we have one of the most pristine environments left on the globe, yet we still insist that water packaged into plastic for profit must be better than the stuff that comes out of our taps. The ultimate in consumerism methinks.

When I buy the stuff I do want and need, I try to avoid brand snobbery. Often, cheaper options will work just as well, with less hype and packaging, as more expensive options. What we often pay for in more expensive options is advertising. And a higher profit margin. This is especially true when it comes to women’s skin care and cosmetics. I tried that expensive Lancome wrinkle cream, and I still have wrinkles. It didn’t work, and I can’t get my money back.

I have discovered shopping in second-hand clothing stores can be worthwhile. And saves a whole lot of money for other things that are more entertaining than shopping anyway, like experiences.

I try to not view shopping as entertainment. Every now and then the memory of how horrible malls are recedes so far into the past that I am tempted to go into one again. After about an hour, zombified and full of bad food, I remember. Usually I avoid them.

I would grow more of my own vegetables, but a sandy soil and reliance upon rain collected water precludes that one. I don’t seem to be cut out for it anyway.

I focus on outdoor experiences for entertaining my son, like teaching him to surf. The beach plays a big role, but we also have awesome native forests to explore, and non-native ones too. Having fun does not necessarily have to involve buying a bunch of stuff.

These efforts are for myself to feel less encumbered and manipulated. It also gives me a slightly nice feeling to know I’m being a little less polluting towards my environment. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could do, one day maybe I’ll get around to going off grid and building that electric car, but for now it’s gonna have to do.


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