post consumerism


We can all appreciate that there are multiple stages of life that everyone goes through. We each go through infancy, childhood, teenage years, then various stages of adulthood including post secondary education, married life, home ownership, children, work and so on. During the first part of adulthood we are also going through what can be called an 'acquisition' phase where we are acquiring all sorts of goods to allow us to become independent of our parents. The first apartment requires the first of many things - first set of pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, towels, furniture and so on. Maybe a move up to a house requires more of such things, or bigger or better versions of the same things. Eventually these needs begin to be mixed with our wants. Do we really need to replace the sofa this year, do we really need the latest usb memory key, do we really need the latest DVD?

Eventually some of us come to the realization that we have acquired too much. Eventually we notice that all of the things that we have 'needed' are making our homes look cluttered or too full of things. What is being proposed here is that the idea of being a consumer is shifted. Learn to identify clearly what is a need and what is a want, ask if the wanted item will truly bring with it lasting pleasure, or will it eventually (next week, next month, next year) be a dust collector. The following steps outline a procedure to become a post-consumerist.

Step 1: Learn to ignore advertising

All of the companies out there are so smart in making us feel we need something even though we have come this far and have gone without. You must first stop looking for these advertisements. In a magazine or newpaper or website, often our eyes are drawn to these ads first, or we look at them to see what they are before reading the article. Stop doing this! Make a conscious effort to read only the articles or the information and try to ignore the advertising. In time, this will be habit and you will be far less likely to pay attention to advertising.

Step 2: Rid your life of things you don't need

With places like ebay and work-place classified ad systems, a lot of what is in your home that you don't need or use could be sold. Don't think anymore about what that item has cost, put a value on the peace of mind that you will have by removing this item from your personal existence, and remove it at any cost. At home, go through each room in your house and consciously identifty everything you can find. Is it something that continues to serve a purpose, is it a quality item that will last a long time? Two months later, repeat this process and continue every two months until you are at the minimum of posessions that keep you happy. Any more than this amount of 'things' would be excessive.

Step 3: Buy only what you need and buy quality

If you really do need something either to fulfil a new purpose or replace a broken item at home, ask yourself a few questions: Will this item have a specific place in the home where it will go when in use or not in use? Is this item I am about to buy a quality item that will last a long time? Try to look for things that serve more than one purpose, can easily be repaired, or which are solid enough to withstand most every day usage. The idea here is that there is no way to get through life without buying basics like a bed and a refridgerator, but if you are to buy these things, buy the best you can afford. Considering you're saving a lot of money by not buying all sorts of non-essential things, you should be able to afford top quality items.

Step 4: Avoid packaging where possible

Instead of going to the super-store supermarket, buy fruits and vegetables from markets where they are not prepackaged, bring your own cloth bags so that you won't be bringing home any plastic ones. Go to the butcher for meats and ask for the meat to be packaged in paper, once you get it home, put the meat in tupperware containers. Throw the paper out; putting paper in the garbage will decay much more quickly than plastic. Some products are sold in prepacked convenient small wrappers in addition to being sold in large volume non-individually wrapped packages. Buy the latter and save on your garbage production.

Step 5a: Gift receiving - make a change

At Christmas, your birthday, or any other occasion during which you might receive a gift, make it clear to the potential gift givers that were they to get a gift for you, ask them to make a donation to a charity you name, or leave it up to them, and just have them create a home-made card indicating that a donation was made to the charity.

Step 5b: Gift giving - make a change

Get a list of three or more things from the person for whom you are shopping and be prepared to buy one of the things on that list. In a casual conversation with this person present among other friends, initiate a conversation about how hard it is to find something for someone, and suggest the idea that donating to a charity and giving the person a card indicating as such as a gift is a good idea and try to guage your gift-recipient's reaction to the idea. If it seems they are keen about it, give them this instead of an item on their list. If you do end up giving them a physical gift, ask a crafty friend to go to a fabric store with you and pick out some gift-wrapping-like fabric, and ask your crafty friend to sew the fabric into a re-usable wrapper.

Step 6: Talk about it

Ask people what they think a 'post-consumerist' would look like, or what they would do, or how they would live. Explain some of your thoughts about what it means to be a post-consumer, what it could mean if this became a large scale movement. Talk about what would happen to companies with lots of packaging, or with the volume of plastic bags that would be reduced. Talk about energy conservation as being one of the goals of a post-consumerist.

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