With over 40 years of consumer capitalism, we have been led through every purchase via deliberate and coordinated manipulation techniques employed through mass-marketing campaigns to benefit the sellers. How can we rid ourselves of these learned behaviours and detrimental consumer habits to help our society and planet before it's too late?
Across the country, we are scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds, fantasising over different lifestyles, receiving umpteen marketing messages, being constantly targeted via websites, emails, product placement, celebrity endorsement, posters, tv screens, ads, magazines and newspapers to want more for ourselves in every part of our lives.
Capitalism has made it possible for us to gratify ourselves with gifts and treats, and society has standardised it. Progress is essential in the developing world, however over-production to supply this demand has lead to normalising our over-consumption of every commodity out there, while constant entertainment clouds our ability to see what's important in life or even to step outside of our routine to question why. I often wonder if our love for a happy ending in almost all narratives from the entertainment industry stop us from taking the very real threat of climate change and its consequences seriously - do we simply believe it will right itself because it has to? Sadly that kind of blind faith makes no sense to me.
Supermarkets, retailers and industries have made our lives easier and purchases cheaper with products manufactured for single use and foods produced via mass agriculture. Demand for cheap items perpetuates production, often risking workers' lives and rights, and diminishing the quality and longevity of the items, creating a throw away culture that values very little. I am reminded of a quote from the documentary, The True Cost, "...If you are buying cheap clothes, someone, somewhere is paying the price".
Debord's theory of The Spectacle, Marx's concept of Commodity Fetishism and Adam Curtis's proposal of Hyper Normalisation all provide insight into how, as consumers, we arrived at this point. As long as there is money to be made by corporations and industry, there will be over-consumption - it is a fatal cycle.
We have been conditioned to purchase, influenced by material hopes and dreams, but our job now, is to try to start somewhere by throwing a spanner in the works of this well oiled money making machine.
The only way to start is to ask ourselves one fundamental question, "What makes me happy?" If the answer is "stuff" then perhaps, don't continue reading, but if the answer is family, exercise, food, travelling, reading, learning or even just life itself then you are already capable of making a difference.
Knowing what we truly value can help with every decision we make as a consumer - ethical, environmental and sustainable choices are available for most consumables, but asking ourselves if it's truly necessary to need something in the first place is essential in changing our consumer habits.
Guy Debord, The Spectacle, 1967
"The Spectacle is the heart of the unrealism of the real society. We are all jammed up against the plate glass of the Spectacle, our faces crushed as we window shop in search of the same old commodified poison".
The first rule in zero waste is to "refuse", this can be translated across all aspects of our lives; refuse single use plastics, refuse unnecessary purchases, refuse low value and badly made goods, refuse unethical products or retailers, refuse unethical banks, refuse unethical energy suppliers, refuse our existing way of life and embrace a new, guilt free and sustainable outlook.
Starting out on a new journey can be daunting, support for change is here and it doesn't matter at what point your journey to a sustainable future begins, but that you chose to change in the first place, there's no room for judgement when we have all been part of the problem.
For advice and support on how and where to start your environmental journey, please email us or request Earthkind's better living checklist.