Consumerism is a huge problem in today’s society. Buying things “just because”, or instead of fixing what we already own ultimately leads to climate change.
Yes, that is a bold statement, but if we can’t curb our purchasing, and the waste that comes along with it, we won’t create the change we need to see in order to slow down our carbon production.
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m not a heavy consumer. I don’t buy things “just because” (or at least very rarely.) I wear my clothes until they literally fall apart, and I don’t change my decor with the seasons. The grocery store is practically the only place I go, and shopping online isn’t for me either.
Of course, with kids, it’s hard to avoid consumerism. Christmas practically screams “spend all your money on things your kids will play with once!” And kids grow a lot, so clothes and shoes are constant requirements. But there are ways to avoid over-purchasing, and creating waste, even if you follow trends.
Try these tips to help you cut back your consumption:
Make meaningful choices with your purchases
This is a tough one to move into, but it will make an impact. Researching the businesses and brands you support with your hard-earned money is a wonderful way to learn what businesses stand for, how they manufacture and ship products, and their standing in the eco-world, but it also takes a lot of time.
An easy way to start making intentional and meaningful purchases is to shop locally. Forget about the Walmarts and Costco’s of the world, and look into local small shops and grocers. Often you can find almost everything you would regularly buy at these smaller retailers, your money stays in your community, and it’s easy to ask where products are from, and how they travelled to get here.
Bonus: You might get to know the retailers in your town or neighbourhood, and often local and small businesses can order in products from their suppliers on request.
See some local fashion retailers who are have, or are working towards providing sustainable and eco-conscious choices for their clientele: How to move into Sustainable Fashion
This is easy. Shop at thrift stores. Buy clothes and household items that others don’t need or use any more, and add them to your own wardrobe for a fraction of the price.
But keep making those meaningful and intentional choices here. Is there a local re-use store in your area? The big chain thrift stores are fine, but if you can find local, smaller second-hand retailers, support them first.
Another “thrifting” option is sites like Kijiji or FB Marketplace. I list items quite often that we don’t use anymore, or that my girls have grown out of, and people buy them. We have purchased books, toys and clothes from online “local” markets like these, and passed them on when we no longer used (or fit into) them.
Re-use and find a good tailor
This is something we don’t do – the tailor part, I mean. Perhaps now that I’m trying harder to purchase eco-friendly fabrics and low-carbon emission clothing items (which do cost more than “fast fashion”) I will have to find a great tailor, but so far I have been sewing my own easy-to-fix problems with our clothes.
Holes in seams, and lost buttons are easy edits for clothing. I’ve taught Emma how to do a basic stitch, and she asks to fix her own clothing now, so that’s pretty amazing. I do know some people who I can ask to help me out in a pinch, but I don’t own formal clothing or even much office wear (anymore) so most of my clothing can be fixed by me without much worry of how the end product will look.
And for re-using, the basic way to do that is to pass your older children’s clothing on to their siblings. I feel like every family does this – but maybe not. We have been fortunate to have been given hand-me-down clothing since my kids were born. And then we turn around and pass those clothes (along with anything else we’ve gathered) on to others as the kids keep growing.
Re-using isn’t just about clothing though. We re-use as much as we can: grocery bags, take out containers (plastic and aluminum), jars and containers, completely threadbare clothing (for cleaning), and anything else that seems useful. Creativity is key here – so many things can have alternate uses.
Set a good example
Talk about what you’re doing with your children and family. Make sure they see you mending your clothes, washing out those reusable containers (and then finding alternate uses for them), and buying secondhand when you can. At the risk of overusing a cliche: “Be the change.”
There is a great article on David Suzuki’s website where they share ways their readers are reducing their consumption. I would also love to hear what you do day-to-day to avoid consumerism and reduce your carbon footprint.
Drop your own eco-friendly lifestyle tips, or things you do regularly to cut back your consumption in the comments. Let’s inspire each other!