I am by far not a perfect person but felt inspired to share a few things I’ve begun to do to cut down on consumerism. Small steps, but I feel good that I’m beginning to take a stand on what I believe in.
1. Looking at where something is made before purchasing.
It’s so easy to go into H&M or Zara and get a cute top. What I often forget are the conditions where these clothing items are made. While I purchase a $15.99 top that I’ll probably only wear a few times to “look cute,” someone else sat in a crowded factory working day in day out for a couple dollars to feed their family.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to developing nations and see how hard people have to work over there to make pennies. I remember one time I was in China and saw an old woman making hand embroidered buttons. Weaving one button took an insane amount of time and her hands were beat up. For each one she made she earned something like 3 cents. It’s heartbreaking.
It makes me feel like an asshole when I’m sitting at my computer, editing photos, and start complaining about how I hate sitting at my desk for that long. I live in a country where I get to do what I love and make a living doing it. It’s the ULTIMATE dream. Editing is part of my job that I choose to do.
I’ve been buying more from artists/designers/brands where I know the conditions are fair trade.
Another thing I’ve begun to do is have clothing swaps with my girlfriends. 70% of landfills are textiles. How often do I really need new clothes? Fashion marketing wants you to wear a new trend literally every couple weeks. It used to be every season but because labor is cheap overseas and information is being shared at lightning speed via the internet, corporations push consumers to want to buy new things all the time. They will literally wipe things off the shelves (i.e. “don’t sell the chokers anymore; we have to get them to want something new”) in a couple weeks to create new demand.
By the way, if you haven’t seen any sweat shops in person I suggest Googling it to see what is out there. Not all brands who have factories overseas are unethical, but in general, the way of life in developing countries is unfair.
2. Using items for multiple purposes.
I was bringing clean laundry up to my bedroom and one of my dryer balls fell on the floor. I looked at it and rubbed my foot on it. It felt good. I remember my friend had a set of “massage balls” that you could use on your neck, back, feet, and I almost bought some because I liked how it felt. The dryer balls felt the same, if not better because it has the prickly nubs on it! It reminded me to think twice before I buy something. I don’t need to spend $20 on “proper” massage balls when I have dryer balls that can be used for the same thing.
I teach Marketing & Branding so I know exactly what companies are doing when they want to sell you something. Nothing wrong with it – they are doing their job, and hopefully doing it ethically. But it’s nice to have awareness on the other side. Yes I like the way they are selling this product, but do I really need it/want it? Sometimes it’s a yes, but more often now, it’s a no.
The first time I went to Sierra Leone, I saw a baby sleeping on a pile of clothes in a laundry basket. Man, it looked so comfy! It was just as good, if not better, than a Potter Barn crib. Happy healthy sleeping baby – what more could you want?
3. Cut down on eating animal products.
EVERY ONE IS DIFFERENT. Different blood types, different family health history. I don’t believe one diet is right for everyone.
I have tried cutting animal products out of my diet multiple times and it did not benefit my health. Protein substitutes didn’t help. I can be low on iron and my body needs protein from meat. Other people can be completely vegan and thriving. Your body is extremely intelligent so I listen to what it needs. Sometimes it’s vegetables. Sometimes it’s meat. Sometimes it’s red velvet cupcakes (life is short).
The reason I raised my awareness on the amount and kind of meat I eat is because of the conditions that farm animals are often raised. My problem with it is again – the consumerism. Farm animals are born, live in horrendous crowded conditions (tortured), and then slaughtered. Many do not get to enjoy being outside. What kind of life is that?
From a biological point of view, humans are evolved to eat meat, like how lions and cheetahs would hunt us in the wild. You’re in the savanna, and all of the sudden you get eaten. Sucks but that is how nature works. (*Queue Lion King music).
When I do eat animal products, I do my best to see where it comes from. There is a restaurant here in LA called Bel Campo, where they get their meat from a farm that has discovered a more humane way to raise and slaughter cows. I won’t share the whole process but basically, with the traditional method, farmers have to forcefully push them into the slaughter house because the cows are scared. They resist because they sense danger. With this new method, the cows walk calmly along a maze in a circular motion (something they naturally do while grazing), and the slaughter process happens before they sense any danger. Am I in the cow’s head and do I really know what they are feeling? No. Have I visited this actual farm? No. But my point it that I am trying my best to not blindly consume things without any care of where it came from.
I came across a video on Facebook where there was a stopped truck full of live pigs in LA. People ran over to give them water. They gulped it up and were SO thirsty. You could also see the sad look on their faces. They weren’t thriving. That is cruel and not necessary. There are better ways to do it.
4. I keep reusable chopsticks in my purse.
Disposable utensils are wasteful.
So far I’ve saved ~50 pairs of wooden chopsticks by using my reusable chopsticks. That is a lot of trees. If one million other people did the same, that is even more trees.
Me at the airport the other day.
Of course there is the issue of social grace. I work in the luxury wedding world, so if I’m at a fancy event, am I going to bust out my chopsticks and disrespect the restaurant/my client? No. But again, small steps. Cut down.
Some people can be extreme with their beliefs and have harsh rules for EVERYONE about it. Worry about what you are doing, share it with others if you feel inspired, but no need to push it onto others.
PS. I also use my chopsticks to eat all sorts of food: blueberries, spaghetti, apple pie… It’s amazing what you pick up with those things.