I bought a DVD from Giant Tiger for $3.29.
And before that item, I bought a shirt for $5.48.
I don’t need either item, but I bought them because they seemed interesting and inexpensive – and they are both interesting and inexpensive.
I don’t particularly want to contribute to the cycle of consumption of goods, and I don’t contribute more often then I do contribute. I feel guilt when I buy things that I can live happily without, unless they have a sustainable background. And I rarely know their background.
I would like to pledge to never buy items new, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable for me to do. The catch with such a pledge is that we can’t ALL do that. If we all shopped at good-will stores for everything from books to pots to clothes to bedding, there would never be enough to sustain everyone.
We will continue to bury ourselves in stuff as long as we sustain the following mentality,: “I have six t-shirts in my closet. One t-shirt has a hole in the armpit, one has an oil stain. Consequently, I will purchase two new t-shirts to replace my gently used ones, so as not to create an image of poverty, lack of self-confidence, or possibly incompetence”
According to my limited understanding of this (limitations imposed by corporate confidentiality, lack of statistical evidence/availability of statistical evidence, and/or simply lack of research on my part), an economic gear change is required.
I could complain that people value their “clean-cut” appearances too much, which may be true to some extent, but I could rather stress the need for efficiency in our goods. When I buy a common t-shirt, why can’t I depend on its durability? Because the business has chosen sub-par materials in order to extend a lower cost to me.
But I don’t want a shirt that will satisfy the short term. I want a shirt to satisfy the long term. I am willing to pay extra to acquire textiles that will last me a life-time. For example, spider silk can be weaved into long-lasting, bulletproof textiles. And we don’t even have to farm hundreds of billions of cannibal spiders- Canadian scientists have been able to splice spider genes into the mammary glands of sheep, allowing us to milk spider silk from them. If one shirt made of spider silk would last me 100 years or more, I’d pay up to $500.00 for it. It’s lightweight, biodegradable, virtually indestructible and potentially environmentally friendly (depending of course on the farming methods of the sheep and production methods).
But I digress.
I can’t buy a spider silk shirt – I’m not allowed because the funding for this endeavor is going somewhere else. Corporations like Walmart and Target are paying businesses like “By George” and “B.U.M. Athletics” to produce very low-cost clothing in order to increase the profit margin and volume of sales.
And we end up with trash. Tons of it – like a scene out of Idiocracy or Wall-E. We are in a cycle of planned obsolescence; items are made with a short lifespan so that the cycle of consumerism can continue. Walking down the streets of Panama City, it’s hard not to acknowledge this repulsive facet of our societies.
I just want efficiency. Is that so much to ask from the most intellectually evolved creatures on earth?
And just for fun, here’s a radical (and rad) example of an anti-consumerism movement in the first world food market.
Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded. One third of the world’s food is wasted—in shops, restaurants, farms, factories and homes. Freeganism is often seen as part of a wider “anti-consumerist” ideology, and freegans often employ a range of alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.
Freegans “embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.”(“What is a freegan?”. Freegan.info. 2007-06-19)
The word “freegan” is a portmanteau of “free” and “vegan”; not all dumpster divers are vegan, but the ideology of veganism is inherent in freeganism. Freeganism started in the mid 1990s, out of the antiglobalization and environmentalist movements. The movement also has elements of Diggers, an anarchist street theater group based in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in the 1960s, that gave away rescued food.
The manifesto pamphlet “Why Freegan” (written by former Against Me! drummer Warren Oakes in 1999) defines freeganism as “an anti-consumeristic ethic about eating” and goes on to describe practices including dumpster diving, plate scraping, wild foraging, gardening, theft, employee scams, and barter as alternatives to paying for food. Motivations are varied and numerous; some adhere to freeganism as an extension of anarchism or other anti-capitalist tendencies, or simply for environmental reasons, some for religious reasons, etc. A short 2008 documentary film, Bin Appetit, gives reasons people become freegans.
The pamphlet does include a lengthy section on non-alimentary practices, including conserving water, precycling, reusing goods, and using solar energy. Some freegans consider these non-alimentary practices components of freeganism itself; others simply consider them complementary, while some are against them and/or have deeper analyses surrounding capitalism and its affect on the world.
Check it out on Youtube-