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Progress Over Perfection: 3 Small Ways to Live More Sustainably, Part 2

Buy Less Stuff - Progress Over Perfection: 3 Small Ways to Live More Sustainably, Part 2
Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

In our first post about Progress Over Perfection: 3 Small Ways to Live More Sustainably, I talked about how to switch to reusable items to minimize your plastic waste.  The second tip I have for living more sustainably is to reduce our overall consumption of goods, particularly new goods.

Many of us Americans, particularly in my generation (millennials), have been raised to consume, consume, consume.  I was just talking with some friends the other day about how when we were children, there were so many “it” toys/trends.  Beanie Babies, Pokémon cards, Furbies, Tamagotchi, etc.  All of these were things that we had to have, because someone, a company with a hefty advertising budget, told us so. But did we actually need those things? Nope. Did the constant churn of new goods vastly improve or add value to our lives? Nope.  We have been raised in a society that is built on a foundation of over-consumption and a need to have more of everything.  One of the most sustainable things we can do in our lives is really so simple: buy less stuff.


Now, if you have been part of the sustainability community for a while, you have probably heard this before, but I think it really can be an easy thing to overlook because consumption is so hardwired into our subconscious.  I think this also sounds like a very counterintuitive thing for a clothing brand to be promoting, but I want to be clear, I genuinely think we need to consume fewer goods! So, how does one go about buying fewer things? I am not perfect, but here are a few things I try to remember when I’m contemplating buying an item to help me buy less.

Is this a need or a want?
This is a simple question, but a good place to start.  Is this something I really need or do I just want it?  A lot of us can confuse need and want, so it is good practice to truly think on this first question. You may just find that something you thought was a need is really a want.

Do I already have this item or something similar?
Whether this item is a want or a need, I also ask myself this question. Sometimes if it is an item I need, but I already have it, I do a check to see if I actually need a replacement for this item, or is the one I already have still usable or repairable?  If it is a want, and I find I have something similar already, I will continue to ask myself more questions.

How will this item add value to my life?
This is a question I often ask myself for something I want, rather than need. I know we can all come up with “valid” reasons for why something might add value, but asking this question allows you to think more about what you might be buying and why you might be buying it.

How long will I keep this item?
Is this an item that I plan to own for a long time and use many times or do I consider this a one time use or disposable item?  If I am only going to use something one time, I try to avoid buying it.

Who is benefitting from my purchase of this item?
This is a question I have recently started asking myself, and maybe I still use this as a justification to buy things, BUT, I think this is a really important question. We are humans and realistically, we will still buy things throughout our lives, so it is incredibly important to consider the impact of our purchases. 

Am I purchasing from a big corporation that uses unethical labor practices?  Am I purchasing from a small business that employs people in their community? Am I purchasing from an independent maker that relies on their business to provide for their family?  Am I purchasing from a brand that aligns with my values? Am I purchasing from a brand that cares about transparency?

I still buy new items and struggle to consume less, but when I spend my money, I want to make sure my purchase aligns with my values.

If you want to learn more about consumption and how we can consume less, I strongly recommend reading Consumed The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change & Consumerism by Aja Barber*. Aja expertly explores the topic of consumerism and how it is intrinsically interwoven with western colonialism and the climate crisis.  

Do you have any additional thoughts or ideas on how to reduce your consumption?  Or have you been making progress recently on consuming less.  Let me know, I would love to hear from you!


*I am not affiliated with Aja Barber, she is an expert in this field and I believe her work should be shared with more people.

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