I was thinking about this question the other day, and I feel like it relates to two topics that I care about; minimalism and sustainability.
We live in a time where most humans want for nothing. We can get whatever we want or need, whenever, wherever, and however we choose. It's a great time to be alive, but what this fosters is a literally deadly combination of selfish, excessive, mindless consumption in many aspects of our daily lives. I've talked about this topic numerous times before, but I wanted to address how our behaviors are shaped to default to being wasteful and how we can all try to be better.
Easy to be Selfish
In life, especially in America, we're taught and encouraged to be self reliant. We need to look out for ourselves, and not worry about anyone else. If we go it alone, we can do whatever we want, however we want, and we don't have to think about the impact on others. The world doesn't actually (and shouldn't) work that way. The choices we make impact others. Just because we ignore it doesn't make it go away, but the fact of the matter is, being selfish is easier than being empathetic. We have to be mindful and concious of what we do and how it affects those around us.
Pattern Making Machines
Our brains are always trying to make our lives easier for us. A big way they do this is by forming patterns so we don't have to constantly be figuring out how things work. This is great, but sometimes it can get in our way. We can set in routines without even realizing, routines that are needlessly wasteful. It can be using disposable coffee cups when a reusable one would be just as easy, or continually getting plastic bags at the store when bringing your own canvas ones would work fine instead. Inertia can be a hard thing to overcome when we are trying to change our habits, but if we focus on one thing at a time and be patient, we can make small personal changes for a big impact.
I've walked around a few times lately and remarked to my partner that there is just so much stuff in the world. Taking a stroll through any warehouse sort of store and the amount of things filled each shelf is overwhelming when you think there are several other places just like this all over the country. Granted, a lot of goods can be made sustainably at scale, but most of the time, processes are going to be ripping natural resources out of the ground or emitting harmful emissions to make those products. Nevertheless, the capitalist system around us pushes us toward buying stuff and consuming things. As opposed to utilizing reusable products or living with less. We have to actively work against the norm of seemingly endless consumption propagated by systems of "infinite" production.
The amount of resources it takes to produce all the stuff around us is unsustainable, so we need to consume less and for the things we do use, use them in a responsible way. I hope this post helps you think differently about how you live and consume. I don't know about you, but I'd like to live with less stuff and more love, energy, and joy in my life.
For more on this topic, check out my posts below as well as some other resources:
- The Minimalists
- Book Review: The Life Changing
- Our Sustainable Waste Impact, By the Numbers
- Our Sustainable Energy Impact, By the Numbers
- Why I Love Sustainability (and How You Can Too!)
- Podcast Episode w/ Kristin Skarie
- Book Review: The Year of Nothing New