How To Live With Less In A Consumer Culture

Daily Thoughts

We are all consumers in one way or another. Whether that may be in materials, books, films, art, food, electricity, water, social media, news, internet, advertisements and so forth. How much and how often we consume things over another varies depending on our behaviour, habits, lifestyle and interests. The power of marketing and advertising is immense as it creates the illusion of needing more. The need for intimacy and meaning in our lives is often clouded by the illusion that we need more stuff to be happy. When I browse thrift stores in an ocean of clothes, the reality sinks in that there is a vicious cycle of the production, consumption and disposal of clothes.

I strive to live by the philosophy and mentality that less is more. As we live in a consumer culture, we are encouraged to buy more, even when we have more than enough. Advertising sells us a lifestyle, status, and identity. In terms of clothing, it is one of the top polluters in the world. If we consume less, we also lessen our carbon footprint, and we contribute less waste towards the earth. However, the power of advertising covers it with the glamour of a certain lifestyle. But, the truth is, we don’t need a lot to be happy.

Fill your spaces with love and purpose. Living with less means only having materials that will be used for years to come. Advertising tells us that we are lacking in our lives and that we need to fill our spaces with materials to feel a sense of fulfilment. However, many of us have more than we need.

Buy good quality materials. Purchasing good quality clothing gives it longevity. Many things can last a long time. As I mentioned above, there are many second hand clothing that are good quality. But, the fast fashion industry is constantly moving in and out with trends that are having a heavy impact on the environment.

Money and materials cannot buy true happiness. Consumer culture means that we spend so much on material items that don’t bring us long term happiness. We live in a capitalist system that rewards us for our perceived efforts and productivity. Yet, the definition of success tells us that we are always in need of more. Living with less reminds us of what’s important.

Borrow more books. I must say that if I had my own house, I’d love to be able to fill it up with shelves of books. However, as someone who is always moving suitcases to somewhere every year or so, the library has been a blessing. I remember having to donate dozens of books over the years as they can take up a significant amount of space.

Saving money. If you are saving up for something, whether that be a car or a house, you can save money from the smallest things. For example, if you like to drink a cup of coffee everyday. You could start making your own at home everyday, and perhaps in one year you could save 365 x $3.50 = $1,277.50.

Do it for yourself and for the planet. Consumerism really costs the Earth. The more we buy, the more that is disposed of, and the more rubbish we create in the world. An example would be consuming less meat and dairy. Where we spend our money is essentially who we are supporting.

Living with less is not only in materials. In a consumer culture, we are told we need more friends, more money, more travel and more things. The focus is on having a better future, but it’s important to embrace the present and be grateful for everything you have. Advertising focuses too much on ourselves, whereas long term happiness focuses on aspects such as helping others and forming strong relationships.

What is my intention for buying this? I used to have handbags that end up only getting worn a few times during the year, whereas my black handbag would be worn every day. My trainers and school backpack are worn almost every single day. Minimalism may not be for everyone, but it really helps in having a clearer mind and appreciating what you already have.

What are some of your tips for buying less?

I highly recommend reading the article A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Consumerism

Art by Alessandra De Cristofaro

Ethical Fashion And The Rise Of Consumer Culture

Fashion

ROH7304.jpgClothes are one of the largest polluters in the world. There is so much we don’t see from the clothes we wear, from the source of the fabric, where the cotton was grown, how much water was used to bring the piece of clothing to life, what environment the worker who sewed the piece of clothing worked in, how much they are paid and many other aspects that are often clouded by heavy advertising that shows the clothing in an attractive manner to grasp our attention. We are all filled with stories, and everything we come across has a story to tell. The smallest pebble may have crossed an ocean, and yet it’s easy to see something and only see the surface of it.

I met a lovely person yesterday with such a passion for ethical fashion, it was truly inspiring and motivating. If you have Netflix then I highly recommend watching the documentaries: The True Cost and Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. A consumer culture is an ideology that tells us that we should acquire more things in order to build a sense of satisfaction within our lives. It encourages spending culture, building a desire for a lifestyle and convinces you that it is a source of happiness. It is a fact that the experiences we have outweigh the materials we own, and that building memories and relationships are far more valuable and will give true happiness that can sustain a lifetime.

What we consume should also reflect the value of long lasting wear and use. The power of advertising and marketing, is that it convinces the consumer that purchasing a particular good will change your life in a certain way. They persuade you that certain products can give your life more meaning or interest. In this interesting conversation I recently had with the person, we talked about how in the documentary there is a scene where there are massive sales in an American store. There are hundreds of shoppers rushing and running around the store, grabbing as fast as they can and even some fighting and pulling for something they have seen first.

The problem with the fashion industry is that many large companies mindset is to earn a huge amount of profit. There are those who are passionate about design, sourcing eco-friendly fabric and will only allow their clothes to be made in a production and manufacturing company that pays its workers a living wage in a safe environment. However, the over saturation of the industry is filled with actions that are corrupted. In an article here, it says The tragically poor and exploited lives of Chinese chip makers and Indian and Bangladeshi seamstresses are gaining worldwide visibility. Recent news concerning the unsafe living and working conditions of great masses of people is likely merely the tip of the exploitation iceberg.

I watched a film last night called The Shape of Water, (spoilers ahead) which delved with an array of themes. The film features an ocean creature, who is viewed as a monster by some of the characters within the film. However, there is a character who really is the monster, who takes advantage of his power and creates fear. He is an example of a capitalist consumer, such as when he is in a Cadillac store, the car salesman tells him that the teal car is driven by 4/5 most successful men in America (or something a long those lines). In the next scene, we see him drive off in one. It’s a clear example of how there is a certain value placed around materials, and how it shows and communicates one’s status, lifestyle and position in society.

Fashion is often viewed as superficial, but we all need clothing to wear, and the reality is that it is a form of comfort and communication. I don’t think Fashion is superficial, but really only certain people who make it superficial. It is those who believe that materials can show that they are better than someone else, that is one of the worst yet most common aspects of consumption. The truly superficial are those who produce clothes without any care for those making it, or the environment. These people in power have a lot of power to make great change, yet many companies only care about earning money. They will create a beautiful image from the advertising of the goods, but behind the scenes may be a sad reality.

It’s important to remind oneself of what are the truly important things in your life. The relationships you have are ultimately the biggest, as well as striving to do our best for the Earth. The character shows that many of us have an inkling of what we should do, but may not do it. An example, is when other’s decide not to recycle, those who litter, don’t try to understand the system or don’t care about the environment. It takes time, but it’s a matter of educating, spreading the message and raising awareness. It’s also a matter of turning it into action in your own life, and making the decision to consume less and support brands that have good ethics, transparent production and honest values.

What are your thoughts on consumer culture? How do you think we can make improvements in the fashion industry?

Art by Monica Rohan