Resolve to Buy Less Stuff

January is the month of New Year’s resolutions. For our third week of resolutions, I wish to talk about consumerism. Wikipedia defines consumerism as “a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.”

Pope Francis speaks of consumerism in Laudato Si:

Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. 

The reality is that many of us live on the merry-go-round of consumerism, where we buy lots of stuff that is made by poorly-paid workers, often working in terrible conditions, and mostly made from materials and with energy that exacts a high carbon footprint. Then we order it online from amazon.com or another online store and more carbon is spent delivering it to our door. Later, these products with short lives, perhaps along with their packing materials, end up in a landfill.See storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/. Thinking that it’s all good, as long as you recycle, think again (see tinyurl.com/lsia-recycle).

And what happens if you opt to return that product to the online store where you purchased it? Shockingly, in many cases, the returned goods end up being dumped directly into a landfill. Don’t believe me? Read bbcearth.com/news/your-brand-new-returns-end-up-in-landfill 

Here are some suggestions on how you can resolve to reject unchecked consumerism and lower your carbon footprint: 

  1. Think before you purchase something new. Do you really need it?
  2. Join the Buy Nothing Community (it costs nothing) where you can get things in your neighborhood for free and give away things to others that you no longer need: buynothingproject.org
  3. If you can’t find that item you need on Buy Nothing, there are lots of websites where people sell used items such as CraigsList, OfferUp, and eBay.
  4. Purchase used goods from thrift stores like Goodwill and consignment shops.
  5. Purchase items that are made with minimal or no plastics.
  6. Purchase items that are refillable or promote a circular economy.
  7. Shop locally, supporting small businesses and, if possible, buying things made as close to home as possible to reduce transportation costs.
  8. Buy bulk whenever possible to minimize the use of containers! Great local stores with bulk sections: PCC, Ballard Market, Whole Foods, and Central Market.
  9. But most importantly, think before you buy.

Pope Francis makes it clear in Laudato Si:

Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little.

Can you be happy with less? Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

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