Consuming Less is a Sustainability Strategy We Can All Adopt

By Bronagh Loughlin

We are enticed daily to purchase and consume products, from the ads we see on our television screens to the ads in magazines, on billboards and much more. We enjoy buying new things because it gives us a brief feeling of happiness, however, it is exactly that, brief.  

The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming how we travel, work, speak to one another and consume. With shops being forced to close their doors and consumers switching to purchasing goods via their mobiles, it is important to address the impact of our consumption on the planet. 

Although quite a few of us still avail of online ordering options, the pandemic has caused a shift in our regular consumer behaviour; we are buying more of what we need and less of what we want, trying to navigate the store and leave quickly for our safety. This shift is something that should stick.  

Our overconsumption of resources has a huge impact on the planet. Part of the problem is the amount we consume, but another side to it is the model behind these products, linear. We operate in a linear economy. Put simply, this means a product is created, used and then discarded.  

This model of purchasing has many drawbacks when it comes to the environment from the emissions associated with the product when it is created to the emissions from its travel from the factory to the store or person to the emissions in the phase where it is discarded. Additionally, it is important to consider the packaging it is wrapped in and any other packaging used when shipping these goods. 

The circular economy, by comparison, is where products are reused again and again. Whilst many brands and companies have not adopted the circular economy as of yet, as individuals, we can easily implement this and consume less.  

We can do this in a variety of ways. We can become conscious consumers and purchase products that have already been used. For example, if you need a new microwave, why not purchase it on a second-hand marketplace? 

Beyond consuming second-hand products, we can make use of what we already have and try to reduce our purchases. The most common example of this, is using the clothing that is already in our wardrobes as opposed to popping out to the shops to buy a new summer wardrobe.  

Upcycling and DIY-ing comes into play here also, for example, cutting a pair of jeans you no longer wear into shorts for when the weather gets warmer or making your own reusable cotton pads so you no longer have to purchase single-use ones.  

In addition, purchasing items of better quality so they last longer rather than subscribing to the linear economy model. For example, spending more on a good quality pair of jeans or purchasing a reusable water bottle so you no longer have to avail of plastic water bottles.  

Another way to consume consciously is to buy from small, local businesses. They will appreciate your purchase much more than bigger companies will and small businesses tend to have better ethics when it comes to the environment.  

Each day, we see new products come to the market that companies encourage us to buy. They tell consumers to offset their carbon, recycle more and opt for sustainable products, but never tell them to consume less. Consuming less is an easy to implement action we can all adopt to create a more sustainable world. 

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