Consumerism is one of the most subtle and ubiquitous threats to the environment – but an increasingly important one.
Consumerism is defined as ‘the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods’. From an environmental perspective, it’s fairly obvious that this is not a good thing. Needlessly buying huge amounts of random stuff is one of the major factors driving the relentless depletion of the Earth’s resources and the massive amounts of waste being poured into landfill. Clearly, nobody would suggest that we should abandon consumerism completely, and there’s no need for a radical anti-consumerist movement that ends with us all living in buffalo-hide tents and knitting jumpers from bits of dried leaf. With just a few simple tweaks and adjustments, you can reduce the amount of unnecessary ‘stuff’ you buy, which is an important step towards using the world’s resources more sustainably – and it’ll save you money too.
One easy way to reduce the amount of stuff you need to buy is to share things with other people. If you’re living in a student house or flat, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to own everything yourself. Buy things such as kitchen equipment and cleaning products together as a house – it’s cheaper, you buy one item instead of several, and it’s a nice little way of bonding with your housemates.
When shopping, exercise a little thought before rushing to spend. Is it something you really need, or just an impulse purchase? Is it something you’ll still be using years from now, or are you only going to use it a few times before you get bored with it or it wears out? Buying an über-cheap pair of shoes that are going to fall apart after two weeks probably isn’t worth the money or the environmental impact – but incredibly cute penguin bookmarks that will keep your pages safe for years to come are an excellent investment.
We’re all guilty of occasionally buying things in an attempt to cheer ourselves up (post-exam shopping trip, anyone?) but there are ways to treat yourself that don’t involve buying endless amounts of things. Spending time doing something you really love will probably make you feel better than spending money on random unnecessary stuff ever will – whether that means meeting up with friends, sketching an amazing picture, playing the saxophone – whatever floats your proverbial boat.
The student lifestyle, by its very nature, actually sets you up with some pretty environmentally-friendly habits. The harsh realities of a student budget leave little room for excessive consumerism, while the fact that you’re constantly moving between uni and home means that you can’t carry too many material goods around with you, so you have to focus on what you really need. If you can keep these habits up after graduation, you’ll be living a less consumerist lifestyle and helping to deal with the problems of endlessly-depleted resources around the world.
Thus concludes today’s slightly hippyish post.
Emma Lock, Education Officer