Anti-consumerism and Christmas

from the website: http://blog.ecohip.co.uk

The title of an ABC news article I read this morning was “Anti-consumerism is the new democracy” – it certainly piqued my interest (and thanks to WAste Not for bringing it to my attention). It discussed the case of the Kellogg’s workers who in the 1930’s chose to work less hours a day in order to spend more time at home with their families. They chose family life over more money. The less money you earn, the less money you spend. This article questioned whether this would work and if you earn less money, could you still enjoy life?

I recently, with the support of my partner, changed careers. Well, it wasn’t just about getting a new job as it was about getting a new lifestyle. I work in what we think is one of the first creative co-op agencies in Perth. I now work in an environment that encourages flexibility and a good work/life balance. We have the ability to work from home, drive to work after peak-hour, bring kids or pets to work, and generally it’s a far more relaxed atmosphere. There are no bosses, no politics, no bullshit. The only negative (if you could even call it that) is that I only get paid for the workload I receive, which means no more weekly salary. Starting this system is the hard part, and it meant I had to completely change the way I spent money. In fact, it meant in the beginning I had to flat out STOP spending money on anything other than the essentials (food, toiletries etc). Rather than it being something scary, it’s actually been refreshing.

So, when I saw this article titled “Anti-consumerism…” I was intrigued. Economists freak out at the idea of anti-consumerism, because our society is built around growth and consumption. Whilst I admire people who don’t buy anything new – there is still the need to buy some things. It’s what and who we buy them from that matters.

Here are some of the things that my partner and I have purchased in the last month:

  • Fruit & vegetables from a biodynamic farm (supporting a sustainable, local business)
  • Wood from a salvage yard (supporting a sustainable, local business)
  • Plants from Lullfitz Native Plants Nursery (supporting a sustainable, local business)
  • Body moisturiser from Sukin (supporting a sustainable, Australian business)
  • Face cleanser from Moo Goo (supporting a sustainable, Australian business)

You see where I’m going here.

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s a great time to sit back and think long and hard about what you are going to buy as gifts (that is, if you’re going to buy gifts at all). I have had some horrible Christmas shopping expeditions in the past where the pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone can cause unnecessary stress and overspending. One year, the year I spent the most money, everyone opened their presents at once and 10 seconds later it was all over. Was it really worth it?

No. It’s not worth it. Since then my family decided to set new rules. One year we didn’t buy any presents and instead all rented a beachside holiday house. We’ve also had wishlists and the infamous ‘Secret Santa’. It has never spoiled the essence of Christmas (which for me, is all about spending time with family and friends – and eating lots of yummy food!).

So here are my tips on avoiding unnecessary consumption:

  • Set a dollar limit with your family to ensure nobody unnecessarily overspends.
  • Get everyone to write their own ‘wishlist‘ so that you can all buy them presents that they actually want (and not something that will be thrown in the back of a cupboard).
  • Instead of presents, everyone chips in for something else, like a holiday or boardgames – or something fun like hiring a spa pool or an airhockey table.
  • Buy your presents from local or Australian made businesses. A great place to start is local markets.
  • Buy your presents from ethical/fairtrade stores (like The Oxfam Shop).
  • And most importantly, make sure you take your green eco-bags with you when you go shopping, to avoid bringing home plastic bags!

Do you think you could become less of a consumerist and more of a ‘smart shopper’? If you really want a good lesson then perhaps check out the new Buy Nothing New campaign starting this month for the first time, promoting to (you guessed it) buy nothing new for the whole month of October.

From the website:

Buy Nothing New is not about going without, nor is it Buy Nothing New Never.

It’s about taking October to reassess what we really need, think about where the stuff we buy comes from (finite resources), where it goes (landfill), and what our alternatives are.

It is about conscientious consumption and by not spending on stuff we don’t need, increasing our savings for the things we do need.

If you’re interested in changing your habits, give it a go. Even try it for a week. You’d be surprised how often you thoughtlessly buy things until you’re challenged not to!

So, do you think you could have an eco Christmas? The challenge starts now!

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