You don’t need me to tell you that American culture is addicted to shopping. We see, according to the New York Times, an average of 5,000 ads a day. This makes us want all the latest and greatest gadgets, fashions and food.
The problem (as I’ve written time and time again since this is a favorite soapbox topic of mine) is that all this consumption not only drains our bank accounts, but it raises our eco footprint. After all, the US only has 5% of the world’s population, and yet we use over 25% of it’s resources.
Yeah, it’s not good.
Shopping is a problem I still struggle with. After all, I don’t watch TV and you’ll sure never catch me at the mall. But I still fall in love with things on Etsy. I adore all things French. I have a mild problem buying vintage photographs of people I’ve never met before. And I lovelovelove buying fair trade things (like our hemp handbags!). So, I’m always trying to improve too.
I thought, though, that perhaps setting up a few rules might help.
Rule #1: Always Look for Organic and Fair Trade First
There’s a big difference between buying a handbag at H&M and buying a fair trade handbag. The H&M handbag was probably made by someone in Indonesia making .25 cents per hour. And the fair trade handbags? Chances are the bags were made by hand, by someone who was paid fairly for their work. Often, fair trade bags are made from sustainable or organic materials.
If you’re going to shop, try looking for the most eco-friendly option first.
Rule #2: Donate Money
Take a look at this awesome little gift guide below, courtesy of Design Sponge:
I would love to have the shirt and shoes from this wonderful Francophile collection. I can see myself walking down the street in these items come Spring, especially with that summery tote bag filled with fresh veggies and a baguette from Market.
But these two things would cost me around $175. Ouch.
So the rule is this: If I’m going to buy something that’s not eco-friendly or doesn’t benefit someone who’s socially disadvantaged, then I have to donate the same amount of money to an environmental or socially conscious non-profit.
This new rule is going to make me look at my shopping in a new way.
Rule #3: Identify What You Really Need
Many of us shop when we’re having a bad day, or when we’re angry or upset. After all, buying something new makes us feel good. It’s an instant lift.
If you’re out looking “for something to buy”, stop a minute. Identify what you’re really shopping for. It’s probably not a new pair of shoes. Chances are, you’re looking for a burst of happiness. You’re looking to feel pretty, or you’re looking to relax.
Once you identify your true need, look for a non-shopping way to fulfill it.
For instance, imagine you need to feel happy. So what could you do that would make you happy (besides shopping)?
For me, I could go visit my local botanical garden. My local arboretum is filled with tropical flowers, and is kept at a steady 80 degrees. I have a yearly membership, so aside from that once per year expense it doesn’t cost me a dime to go. Every time I step through the doors, I’m instantly happy. I could also go to a bakery- bakeries are instant pick-me-ups as well.
Identify what you can do to fill the true need you’re looking to address. This will prevent you from overshopping when you’re feeling most vulnerable.
Filed under: Eco Living on December 16th, 2010