Shopping and Sad


We live in a semi-rural area which is about 30 minutes drive to the Sunshine Coast.

Today we braved the retail chaos which is becoming more pronounced as each year goes by. Early January is a particularly crazy time as we combine post-Christmas sales, back-to-school preparations and the inevitable holidaymakers. I think this year is worse than usual as more people are around as they are not travelling further afield.

This was our shopping list:

Roll of chicken wire – to fence a dog run for our puppy
Screws for attaching metal sheeting – to complete one side of the dog run
Galvanised pipe and connections – to make a hanging rail for the laundry
Small saddle brackets – to attach gate for dog run
9V battery – replacement for smoke alarm
Prescription medications – essential
Toaster – a replacement as the previous one has ceased to operate
Pet medication – essential

The list was thought out, planned and could hardly be described as frivolous. Since it is a 70km round trip we try to make sure that we make the journey worthwhile. We did not spend any longer than necessary and were home in under 3 hours despite the busy carparking areas and heavy traffic in every direction.

This is the hanging rail assembled. It needs to be painted and then installed.

So, why am I sad?

I think it was witnessing the overwhelming amount of stock in every shop we passed and the hordes of shoppers buying more and more stuff. Is it to replace an item, as with our toaster? Perhaps but I am more than mildly sceptical of that reason for more than a very small percentage of purchases.

The passion for decluttering in recent years and resultant overflowing charity shops leads me to think that many of today’s purchases or the goods they are replacing will be charity shop stock in a matter of months.

Many items, including clothes, electronics and household goods can be purchased cheaply and we do not value or care for them but almost regard them as disposable. When they break, are superseded by a new model or are simply no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ we toss them aside. Many of these discarded consumer items end up in landfill but to salve our consciousness we drop them at the charity shop. Unfortunately, a significant proportion still ends up in landfill and takes up time, effort and resources of those who volunteers to assist the various charities.

Everywhere you turn there are empty shops and businesses. Online shopping continues to gather pace. Are we buying more stuff because it is so easy to click a few buttons and it turns up on our doorstep in a matter of days? Is the lack of effort or consideration required making us shop more?

There is plenty of discussion amongst marketers on how to make sure that people continue to buy more and more stuff so that retailers and businesses can continue to increase their profits. At what cost?

We are drowning in our stuff and killing the planet in our quest to have more and more. I feel like something has to change and soon.

My personal action is to try not to waste anything, use what we have, source items secondhand where possible and be mindful that we have ‘enough’.

I wrote this post just over 6 years ago. There is a link to an interesting short video which is worth watching.

Shopping – Green, Ethical, Sustainable, Organic, Fair-trade, Local

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How do you balance the competing priorities when you shop?  This is a question with which I constantly wrestle.

While meandering through blogland I found this gem of a post at Little Eco Footprints.  If you are concerned about the impact of your shopping habits I would strongly recommend that you read this and also the very wise comments.

Buying ‘green’ products may salve your conscience but it is not enough to just toss a few green cleaning products in your trolley and assume that all will be well.  Where were they made?  How much transport was involved in getting them to your supermarket?  Are they really ‘green’?

I think the priority should be to reduce consumption because everything, yes, EVERY single thing that you buy has been manufactured and that process uses resources and produces greenhouse gases.

While we can and do produce some of our own food there are still many things which I have to buy.  My priorities are to buy things as local as possible and with the minimum of packaging and preferably recyclable packaging.  Organic is not particularly high on my radar. Here is a reason why.

Today while I was shopping I saw a tin of organic kidney beans that were product of USA.  There is nothing wrong with produce from USA if that is where you live.  However, these beans had been processed, canned and then transported halfway around the world.  I can buy dried kidney beans at Simply Good in Morayfield.  This is a family-owned local business where I can put my purchases in recycled paper bags that I bring from home.  See a previous post for more detail.  Even if the beans happen to be imported there is much less weight/packaging to transport a 25kg bag of dried beans than individual steel cans of processed beans.

I try to buy some things second-hand and also re-home things that I no longer need.  For this I generally use my local Freecycle group.  Freecycle is a fantastic concept which was born in Tuscon, Arizona and is now a world-wide phenomenon where people can give away almost anything (there are rules).

Good quality items, which can cost a little more are also my preferred option as they have a longer life and are much more ‘green’ in the long run than something that gets used/worn a few times before it breaks or wears out and is then discarded to landfill.

What are your priorities? How do you decide?  Have you tried to reduce your overall consumption?