Why Not . . . Consume Less to Improve the Well-Being of Our Planet, and thus Our Lives? 16 Simple Ways

Jun 05, 2019

It can happen without us consciously realizing it – slipping into and steadily going along in a rut that is not helping us live the life we say we are leading or wish to live. The reason we slip into such ruts is often because they seem harmless and are either convenient or no negative repercussions immediately appear.

Whether it is ever so slowly, yet steadily not exercising as regularly as we had been to maintain our health, choosing not to push back or listening to more and more negative commentary from friends, family or the news or using our technology more and more often whenever a free moment arises, such examples and many others slowly creep more prevalently into our lives and deteriorate the quality of life that is absolutely possible for each of us to live, and in so doing, thwart our ability to reach our full potential.

As I shared over the weekend on IG, I was without my phone for one week due to a malfunction that required my phone to be shipped and fixed. Initially, I was actually quite excited to be without a phone for reasons I wasn’t fully conscious or able to identify at the time, then I stumbled into unexpected moments in which I became slightly inconvenienced, and yes, at times frustrated, but eventually liberated and finally more aware of how often and unnecessarily I was using my phone throughout the day.

One immediate observation I made was the ease that had been erased due to not having my phone to make purchases with, in my case, Apple Pay. As I was setting up my phone upon its return, I was prompted to set my Apple Pay (my virtual wallet, essentially) back up, and I took a pause as I asked myself, do I actually need to set this up? Fairly confident in the answer, I decided not to do so, which prompted more wonderings about my consumer habits. It just so happened that this video produced by The Atlantic magazine, and coupled with more than a few of my students giving end-of-the-year persuasive speeches on climate change, I began to assess how I was involved in this global unconsciousness when it came to the rampant consumer culture.

Admittedly, refraining from buying anything at all would be the fastest way to curtail the waste, stop adding to the plastic islands that have accumulated in our oceans, and reduce the excessive emissions caused by the multiplying shipping routes that have been added to satisfy the online shopping culture, but a more realistic approach is to become a more conscious consumer. Delineating ten questions to ponder and answer thoughtfully which are shared here is the first place to start as each of us will be somewhat different regarding our needs. However, there are some simple things we can all do to consume less and not only improve our own well-being, but the planet’s as well.

1.Refrain from connecting your “wallet” on your smart phone

However you purchase items via your tech devices – with a virtual wallet, saving your purchasing information, etc. – consider making it far less easy to click “purchase” while on your smart phone, tablet or computer. When we give ourselves time between seeing something that either catches our eye or something we think we need, stepping away at the bare minimum to go get our wallet, let alone 24-48 hours to sleep on it and consider if we sincerely need it, will help prevent unnecessary purchases.

2. Purchase quality items that will last

As readers of TSLL you know that regularly, but not excessively, I share clothing, decor and other items that I find that readers may be interested in purchasing. As per the ethos of the blog, I do my best to recommend or suggest items that are of good quality and will last if purchased. I do not make these suggestions lightly, but sincerely as not only from my own experience but now with further understanding of how items are made and fast fashion works, it’s a smart purchase when we choose quality. When an items lasts, we don’t have buy more, AND it saves money in the long run as well when it comes to cost-per-wear or cost-per-use.

3. Schedule one week per month of no spending

An advocate for blocking out an entire week each month in which no spending will take place, I have shared in detail how and why this works in the money chapter in my new book when it comes to adhering to our budget, but it also reduces what we consume and thus bring into our homes and our lives as we are forcing ourselves to be actively conscious about handing over our cash or card to make a purchase.

4. Unsubscribe from and unfollow the temptations

Yep, I realize this may mean some readers don’t want to subscribe to lifestyle blogs such as this one, but primarily it is the shopping websites whose marketing job it is to entice you to peruse and hopefully buy something that I find myself unsubscribing from their newsletters. Whether it is an email subscription and the emails that shout “sale” that are too tempting not to click or the influencers on social media that are wearing the latest trends, if you find, after thoughtful self-analysis, they are too good at what they do (in other words, you click through to purchase too often), then maybe unsubscribe for a trial period and see how it goes. If you notice a decrease in your spending during this time, consider making it a permanent decision.

5. Identify when your willpower is waning

If #4 goes too far too soon, maybe you only fall prey to the marketing tactics during certain periods of the day, after certain events have happened in your life, etc. Examine when your willpower is at its weakest, and if upon being aware, you can refrain from checking your email or checking your social media feed, you may not have to unsubscribe, but rather be a more thoughtful consumer of the media you enjoy.

6. Skip or block advertisements on television, online, etc.

DVR, Netflix and many of the other streaming services have spoiled us in many ways, but in one way, such spoiling has been very good for us – the absence of advertisements. As such when I find myself watching a television show in real time, I mute the television when the advertisements are on. There are many ways to remove all, if not most of the ads online as well. And for blogs, such as TSLL that you still want to support, you can subscribe for ad-free viewing, but there are ad-blockers as well. Either way, removing the temptation, as those smart cookies know what you have been viewing online and may be interested in, is a preventative way to reduce any impulse shopping.

7. Strengthen your critical thinking muscles

Similar to #5, when you become a savvy consumer and can identify the “why” behind the programming, advertising you are viewing, you can watch and enjoy what you see without being fully manipulated. As I have shared on the blog before, critical thinking is a skill, which means we can all learn it and strengthen it. Begin by asking the bias of the creator, then dive deeper, what is the exigence (why was this show, ad, etc. created?), dig deeper and examine the strategies that are being used to hold or gain or motivate you to act or feel a certain way. And the more individual question and answer – how does this effect me? – will determine if you want to continue welcoming this influence into your life.

8. Ignore the trends each season and craft your capsule wardrobe

From the first few years of TSLL, shopping and curating a capsule wardrobe has been the foundation when it comes to clothes. Involving the pillars of knowing thyself and your lifestyle, as well as purchasing a limited amount of clothes that can mix and match and be enjoyed for multiple seasons not only because they are timeless but also made well, enables you to buy fewer, but better items.

9. Refrain from purchasing kitchen tools other everyday tools that only have one function

As I shared on Monday’s new episode of the podcast (#253), the tools you need in your kitchen are the ones you will use to make the food you love. Additionally, purchase tools that are multi-functional. In other words, no bread maker, no vegetable noodle maker (I made this mistake), or anything that as a solitary purpose. Instead, purchase quality kitchen items – three well-made knives, 3-4 pots, 1-2 skillets, etc. (view a full list of recommended items in my books). Not only will have you have less clutter, but you will still be able to make what you love even if that changes from year to year.

10. Leave your phone off (or on airplane mode) when you don’t need to be using it anyway (at work, while you are asleep, etc.)

Everyone’s work situation is different, but if you have a job in which your personal phone does not need to be on or cannot be on (or should not be on), leave it off to prevent mindless surfing or temptations to purchase. What I noticed about not having a phone at the ready last week was that I either engaged more often with others face-to-face or enjoyed time reading a book or an article without the distraction of everything else that was on my phone asking for my attention.

11. Plan ahead with a shopping list (food, capsule wardrobe, decor, etc.) so you won’t buy something you actually do not need

Making lists will not only help when your willpower is weak, it will help you make smart decisions as you purchase items you have given thought to purchasing, recognizing that you would use the item, it suits a need, etc. (check the list of 10 questions to be a conscious consumer shared above in the introduction).

12. Recognize and understand the effects of the consumer culture and dismiss the myth that you cannot play an impactful role

Maybe you viewed the above YouTube video from The Atlantic and thought, “but what can I really do to combat this problem?”. The truth is you can do a lot. Not only will your actions reduce at least one fewer item being eventually discarded as well as the shipping route being traversed to deliver it, but you are modeling for others conscious consumer behavior, and your actions are powerful. If there is nothing else that is stopping you from making the purchase, even when you do not need the item, consider the planet, consider the video you just watched, consider the future you wish to live in and leave behind. Let your conscience motivate you to make the better choice for more than just yourself.

13. Shop for technology based on need not flash or pizazza or keeping up with everyone else

Becoming Minimalist included this item in their list of large and small ways to reduce consumption and live better, and it is a great question to ask ourselves when we are going to make a purchase of a tech gadget. Do I need that Apple watch? Do I need an additional computer? For some, depending upon our careers, our lifestyles, yes, we do. But for others, if we are being honest with ourselves, we are simply doing it to be part of the culture we wish to be a part of. As a matter of fact, this would be a great question to ask ourselves whether it was tech-related or not – when it comes to the size of our home, if we are planning a wedding, what is truly necessary; when it comes to any material item, what is it that we need, and what is being purchased in an effort to “keep up”? When we live with awareness, our decision-making improves, and therefore our lives improve.

14. Find a decor aesthetic you love and gradually cultivate it rather than overhauling everything every decade or every [insert amount of time]

As someone who has furniture from garage sales nearly 30 years ago, I know this is easier said than done for some people. Granted, most of us don’t want to be living in an outdated home decor scenario, but often this can be curtailed by being more patient with our decor preferences. When we accept that a thoughtfully decorated and curated home takes time, we can purchase more gradually and thoughtfully, we can edit regularly, and shop at antique, consignment and second-hand shops knowing what we want and will use for many years to come, taking care to enable it to last perhaps for decades.

15. Discover how to be a conscious consumer

16. Understand where true contentment resides

Experiences that create moments and memories that will last for many years versus the fleeting dopamine hit when a new item arrives in the mail or makes its way home from the store. When we understand how our minds work and thus what true contentment is (not happiness, but contentment), we begin to choose to invest in building a life that doesn’t seek external “fixes”. (I have linked to a list of true contentment posts, so be sure to take a look and select the specific topic that speaks to where you are on your journey to either understanding, discovering or cultivating a strong sense of contentment.) Ultimately, when we understand how an economy, especially a primarily capitalist economic functions, we can become more aware of how we are either consciously or unconsciously contributing, and question whether or not it sits well with how we are trying to live our best lives.

The good news is true contentment is monetarily free, but it may take some hard choices to solidify our foundation, it may take some shifts in our perception of what “living well” looks like, but the good news is we are all capable of contributing to improving the well-being of the world we call home for the current generation and for generations to come when we choose to be smarter consumers and consume less.

~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~9 Ways to Organize Your Kitchen, Improve Your Health & Help the Planet

~Why Not . . . Tailor Your Life to Fit You? episode #246

~Why Not . . . Consumer Less? (7 things to of which to consume less)

~Image: Jurassic Coast, England



2 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Consume Less to Improve the Well-Being of Our Planet, and thus Our Lives? 16 Simple Ways

  1. All good ideas! I would like to add to idea #2. Purchase second hand clothing and other items from consignment and thrift shops. Due to our consumerist culture we have a VAST overabundance, which has led to minimalist thinking and the backlash of Marie Kondo clean-outs. These both have led to VAST amounts of goods to be sent to thrift shops. Some of these items have not even been worn/used! This is a particularly good place to find items like that special occasion dress you won’t likely wear very often, or the specialty pan you’d use once a year. Another good resource is FreeCycle. These are volunteer groups set up in local areas where you can advertise what you have to give away for FREE online. Then people who want it can email you and arrange to pick it up at a convenient time. Nothing is ever sold, only free stuff can be advertised. You can also post if you are looking for something and others can post if they have it and are willing to give it to you. I’ve even seen stuff to borrow, like party goods and tools. Anyway, those are my thoughts. Best wishes and thank you for all your inspired advice.

    1. Thank you for sharing these ideas. I couldn’t agree more with shopping at thrift-shops or second-hand or consignment. However, we need to not purchase initially, when buying new, with the buffer thought knowing we can take it to a secondhand shop. Conscious shopping involves this needed awareness as well.

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