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Home » Ethical Consumerism

You’re trashing 99% of the stuff you buy – This one question will help you stop

Submitted by on Monday, 13 October 2014 Loading Add to favourites  One Comment

Wants-Vs-Needs-Sticky-NotesI’m thrilled to be back on the ‘Change the World Wednesday’ bandwagon.

I haven’t taken part publicly for ages and although I’ve read and followed every week I just haven’t had time to blog about my experiences.

And Small Footprints has an amazing thought-provoking challenge for us this week.

Especially as we move towards halloween and Christmas…

She wants us to think about wants vs needs.

It’s an interesting one, as every time I’m interviewed I suggest people separate their wants from their needs.

But it’s not black and white as Small Footprints writes in her invitation to take the challenge:

She begins “The concept is simple: buy less and fewer natural resources will be required to create stuff. While the concept is simple, the reality is complicated. We don’t always know the difference between what we need and what we want. And, of course, advertisers spend a lot of time and money to blur that line.

A need is something you have to have to survive … something you can’t do without. Examples are food, water, and shelter.

A want is something you would like to have but it is not absolutely necessary for survival. Examples are music, books, cosmetics, etc

But even the boundaries between wants and needs in our own minds and within our own lifestyles are different.

For example we need shelter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean living in a house that is as big as the one we have. I *could* downsize to a one bedroomed home but I like my space and feel the location of my home is important to my welfare.

We need food, but people on the poverty line struggle to eat healthily on a budget. My own sense is that if we don’t eat healthily we are more likely to get sick which could have a knock on effect on the things we buy and use – I might need to turn an electric heater on to stay warm, use hot water bottles throughout the day, burn more wood to keep the fire in at night and keep a tank of hot water on the go in case I need a bath. You might need to get in your car and drive to the chemist to pick up medication, buy convenience foods because you don’t have the energy to prepare a meal, use up your text minutes calling people for help and have to buy more credit, treat yourself to magazines and newspaper to keep boredom at bay during your recovery…

And while Small Footprints bought up the issue of cosmetics as a ‘want’ – you might argue that you need deodorant and shampoo to enable yourself to stay looking presentable in order to hold down your job which you need to bring in money for your mortgage and food bill.

Likewise a car – it’s clearly a ‘want’; or is it? For someone like me who lives in the country and uses a wood burner I need a car to collect wood otherwise I’d need to rely on the grid to keep me warm. But I run a 16 year old 4 x 4 instead of ‘needing’ to update my car every two years – which is generally the message from society.

It’s quite a conundrum isn’t it?!

So I think that while food, water and shelter certainly ARE the basic human needs, we have to come to our own conclusion about how wants and needs fit into our own personal lifestyles.

For other things a good tip is to stick it on a list and come back to that list in six weeks time. If you’ve been thinking about it constantly then perhaps it’s time to buy. If you’d forgotten it was on the list or find you don’t even really like it, you’ve just saved yourself some money, reduced your consumption and can give yourself a pat on the back for not wasting so many resources.

According to Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff” – 99% of the stuff we buy ends up trashed within six months.

Not exactly sustainable, is it?

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One Comment »

  • I really like the idea that giving into our wants could, potentially, cause us to spend money on a host of other things. So, a “want” just might lead to a bunch of “needs”. Kind of a vicious cycle. I’ve also thought a lot about how we have to buy certain things to be marketable in the work force. Society does seem to have a prejudice against people who don’t present themselves in a certain fashion. Makes me wonder how many brilliant minds are ignored because an outfit isn’t in style. Wonderful post, Mrs. Green! Thank you!