Making the least of the January Sales
|So it's 2008 and we still haven't solved this wee problem of climate change. Who would have thought it?|
This is a good time of year to think about such things, mostly because many people are feeling hard up and it is much easier to be environmentally-friendly when you're living on Queer Street. Indeed, as far as your British consumer is concerned, by far the most significant behavioural change an individual can make is simply to buy less stuff. Every single little thing we purchase required a certain amount of energy to produce and transport to us. And we have a lot of stuff.
Of course, nobody has a great investment in promoting this message and amidst the constant barrage of messages equating stuff with happiness, it may sound a little depressing.
Here in the West, spending money is a national past-time. It is quite extraordinary compared to other cultures and our own culture just a few generations back. People always wanted stuff, people always aspired to have nice things for all sorts of practical, social and psychological reasons and they always will. But that doesn't mean Epirucus wasn't right.
Is there any relationship between the stuff we have and our quality of life? Financial security is one thing, but that's quite different - and sometimes incompatible - with having a load of stuff. This culture of constant buying is not sustainable. Even if it wasn't for the small matter of climate change, it is not economically sustainable. And indeed, it's not psychologically sustainable; frankly, I think it makes us miserable. None of us have enough money to buy all the stuff we think we want. The last person who actually used the phrase "hard-up" to describe their financial situation is actually one of the wealthiest people I know. But they are hard-up in the Mr Micawber sense; lots of people owe money and feel that they can't afford things which they need.
Epicurus, by the way, is my second-favourite Greek and people imagined that his household, intent as they were on a life of pleasure, was a place of orgies and hedonistic consumption (thus epicurean). In fact, having studied the matter in great depth, Epicurus hit upon what we really need:
"Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one's entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship."So there you go.
Anyway, Sage has given up buying stuff for New Year and many other bloggers - lead by Andrea at A peek inside the fish bowl - are participating in the Shopping Embargo 2008, giving up non-essential buying for the first two months of the year (a project I came across through Nna Mmoy Andrea, who has written a number of super posts about The Green Family).
I think this is ambitious and very much worthwhile, but as Sage pointed out in an excellent post, to be environmentally-conscious can sometimes be a little like belonging to a religious sect which can alienates those who feel they can't commit to the entire doctrine. Therefore, some suggestions about reducing the amount of stuff you buy, without making any solid promises or feeling that you're missing out:
1. Use the stuff you have. Often revisiting old stuff can be as rewarding as brand new stuff; books you haven't read and movies you've not seen in an age. If you enjoy the things you actually possess, you will have less desire for the things you haven't got yet.
Do you get the impression that all I ever spend money on is books and groceries? Hmm, not quite.