A two-part blog here that I came up with while hiking by myself in the South African highlands when everything is pure, simple, wonderful and I have too much time to think…
Part One – Painful Purchases
Every purchase that has even the smallest detrimental effect on either people or the earth should be painful. My guess is that this is around 90% of purchases.
I also believe we should feel the pain in purchases and really analyse if we need to purchase that item – please see an old blog of mine on the purchase of a soda stream machine.
We can’t always avoid some painful purchases and one example is for me probably having to purchase an iPad so I can give global awareness presentations (and have something to be able to read books while travelling full time). I know I can avoid this purchase if I really needed to by organising an iPad or Mac at each venue I will present at but logistically this is very tough and needs a lot of time to organise.
All the excuses we use for a purchase should not lessen the pain (just like the excuses I am giving above). This means for the purchase of this iPad I should feel the pain of the minerals it is extracting, some of the labour practices that exploit people in situations not as privileged as mine, etc… It is important to recognise and feel these factors and see them in the final product that is in your hands.
The most important step is at this point – how to we put that pain into something practical…? It might not always be possible but in the majority of cases we should try to act upon this pain and put something practical into practice. An example in the case of my iPad would be to write to Apple and let them know that I would appreciate their products to have the very highest social and environmental standards and that I encourage them to support the communities they work in with programs of education, health, gender equality, etc and also to the environments they extract from in environmental stewardship, sustainability, etc.
To take a few steps back we really need to be thinking of a purchase as an absolute necessity or a sin. I personally believe that consumerism is the biggest cancer on society and the earth – this is in my own perspective. I make no apologies for this and I will not judge you on your material ‘wealth’ but I will not follow the ways of the mainstream and purchase my way to ‘happiness’, ‘status’ or the biggest false illusion of ‘keeping the economy alive’.
So before a painful purchase be sure to:
- Rethink, reconsider, re-evaluate, recognise its importance, repel the constant pull on you, REFUSE, reduce, reuse, retro-fit, rekindle, recreate, reconnect, repair, rent (or borrow), research, resource, recondition and in the last instance recycle.
As for recycle don’t think you are saving the world if you recycle. Recycling is now at least 20 years old in the mainstream and this is something we do – like brush our teeth or walking. Recycling doesn’t make you a good person it was the starting point for us to recognise our consumption and today’s recycling hero is more like the refuser or repairer or reuser today.
I can not be apologetic or gaily positive about this one as I believe the world has gone beyond repair and more than that we are not happier for the over-consumption gluttony that has become normal in western society. Either that or I am starting to finally get old and grumpy!
But to finish on a positive note I can only speak from experience at the happiness, fulfilment and connectedness that comes from a Happy, simply lifestyle of less consumption, more people, more nature, more time and where the best things in life are not things!
To take steps in getting more information and inspiration on reversing painful purchases try the following:
- Have a look at my Happy, simply. – a lifestyle model and education project blog
- Read the Make Wealth History, Simplicity Institute, Post Growth Institute and Moneyless Man blogs and websites and brilliant radio documentary
- A great intro and perspective creator is the Story of Stuff and their short videos
- Give Buy Nothing New Month a crack in October
- Check out purchases that are less painful like Fairtrade orgs like my favourite 3fish and others – Etiko, Seven Women
- Get involved in online action campaigns that fight for better working conditions for the disadvantaged and better environmental standards like AVAAZ and Get Up
- Support initiatives and leaders in creativity for companies that put more good back into the world than harm they commit such as Patagonia outdoor products
And last of all see part 2 of this blog – Grateful Gifts! Put online soon…