In May 2022, we want to ask, is it really possible to be a conscious consumer? Can we harness the benefit of material goods and services, to add value to our lives without costing our planets health?
Google has two definitions for consumerism:
the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers.
the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.
The second definition, whilst labelled derogatory, depicts a harrowing message about how consumer capitalism has come to dominate Western society.
The term ‘retail therapy’ suggests that shopping is an effective form of self-love. Marketing promises fulfilment to consumers if they trade cash for stuff, for an enhanced image and lifestyle. New things enable consumers to communicate individual style or affluence to peers, either in person or through a constructed ‘self-image’ on social media. Ability to keep up with consumer trends is regarded as aspirational, suggesting that if happiness was dependent on our consumption, we should be 100% content. We consume more than any other point in history, yet we’re facing growing mental health crisis.
Contradicting the fulfilment of consumerism promises, a Greenpeace survey of shoppers found that half of respondents shopping cheer wore off within less than a day. The fear of missing out poses to be another purchase stimulant. The birth of online shopping makes purchasing easier than ever, with 24-hour access to limitless choice at the click of a button.
However, the vastly linear economic model, married with planned obsolescence, means that much of our consumerism contributes to a take, make, waste system, whereby diminishing global resources are extracted, commodified, used momentarily, before being discarded. Not only is this incredibly wasteful and harmful to our planet, but it also leaves us unsatisfied by design. Linear growth consumption released on continued consumer spending. Meaning, to entice consumers to spend, the illusion of trends is adopted, to persuade consumers of the message that newer = better. So, how can we harness the benefit of material objects or goods and services, in a way that adds value to our lives and doesn't cost the health of our planet?