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A New Blog: Sustainable Shopping

I am no longer buying or consuming unnecessary material things, things that I want but don’t need, and things sold or marketed to me through a website or app. This Blog will document my experiences.

A very long time ago somebody very important decided that the year should begin in the middle of winter, and somebody else decided that the changing of said year would be a great time to make life changing resolutions. When they both decided upon these things, they clearly didn’t have me in mind. I do not have the energy to do anything productive when it is two degrees centigrade and wet outside. In January everything is grim and awful, and I am still full of food and alcohol from Christmas. I merely wish to get by.

Spring, on the other hand, strikes me as the perfect time for introspect and self-development. Newborn lambs dance in fields, trees bloom with blossom and new shoots spring up across the forest floor. It is a natural time for new beginnings. With this in mind, I have decided that I will make a change in my life, starting from Today. The change? I will no longer be using the internet to buy things, and I will no longer be buying material things that I do not truly need.

This does not mean that I will be abandoning all of my worldly possessions or neglecting my needs, but I will be more mindful about what a need truly is and of what a possession is really worth.

I am doing this because I often find myself buying things that I do not need. I do not consider this to be a serious problem, but I would very much like for it not to happen.

My desire to change has not come about because I am financially unstable or because I am particularly unhappy with my attachment to material things. Rather, this change has been largely been caused by those who would absolutely love for me to spend my money on their products.

In fact, over the last month or so I have almost become sick with reasons to change the way that I spend my money. Some of these reasons are as follows:

• Marketing Bombardment – I have been subjected to too much marketing and it has made me angry. Marketing is no longer appears to me as the creative game it once was. Mad men are now twenty-somethings in Clapham who know exactly how to get me to see their advert three thousand times in one day. From the moment that I wake up to the moment that I go to bed, I am subjected to a barrage of marketing. It is a war of attrition. It is on TV channels, buses, in newspapers and, worst of all, all over the social media apps that I spend several hours a week looking at. You will not win, marketeers. I will not buy your product, even if you tattoo an advert to the inside of my eyelids.

• Not All Companies Are Your Friend – I follow several clothing companies on social media and have been subscribed to many of their mailing lists as a result of purchases (I am currently unsubscribing which works sometimes). Typically, these are brands that I trust and like. Once they are on my feed, they almost begin to feel like a friend, or at least a brand that I know and consider to be a part of my life or even identity. In this, it is easy to forget that they are mainly interested in my money and that the constant bombardment of friendly emails and Instagram posts advertising the fourth different sale this month are not as friendly as they are made to seem.

• The Diderot Effect – I recently learned about the Diderot Effect. In brief, Denis Diderot, an 18th century French philosopher (among other things), sold his library (he wrote encyclopaedias) to Catherine The Great (who dug science and Diderot’s encyclopaedias) for 50,000 livre in order to raise funds for his daughter’s dowery. He hadn’t had much money in his life, and so treated himself to a fancy robe with some of the remaining dosh. He soon realised that in purchasing this robe, he had created within himself a want for other fancy things to go with the robe (one cannot wear a fancy robe with worn out slippers). The effect can be seen as an explanation for uncontrolled consumption, and a desire to buy expensive things in order to establish a sense of identity, especially in the age of Instagram perfection when we all want to look rich.

• Amazon – My mother tried to buy some plant pots for her garden the other day. A google search returned several amazon adverts with links to smaller shops buried further down the page. Having looked at a few different links, she soon found that it was impossible to find what she wanted unless she used amazon (or paid a lot more), and she had already tried to find them at garden centres. What does this tell me? It tells me that Amazon are taking over the world. Empty windowed high streets of Britain are painted in ‘To Let’ signs while Amazon UK saw their sales increase 51% in 2020. And this trend shows no signs of slowing. Good for Amazon, you might think. Well, a brilliant News Night report recently exposed the awful conditions drivers delivering Amazon parcels have to work in. Delivery drivers were shown to be tracked, hurried, given unrealistic numbers of parcels to deliver (far more that they were expected to deliver pre-pandemic), forced to speed or park dangerously and to urinate in the back of their vans to save time. All the while, the drivers, who are self-employed, have no work benefits, sick pay or security, and are often reported to be dropped if they do not meet targets. None of this should be happening, and it all goes to prove that the cut cost world of online shopping is neither sustainable nor fair.

• The Rise of The Takeaway – It is impossible to deny that the ability to sell takeaway food has been a lifeline for many restaurants and pubs during the pandemic. Having said that, something about Deliveroo and Uber Eats does not sit right with me. It initially comes down to the uneasy nature of the gig economy, with its lack of real security for workers. But to me, Deliveroo seem like the epitome of bad capitalism, having never made a profit (how does that even work?), while their drivers have today gone on strike to demand higher wages. The nail in the Deliveroo/Uber Eats coffin is that they won’t leave me the fuck alone. For the good of my health, a takeaway should be a treat, and for the good of my inbox, I do not want to have a discount code thrust upon me on a daily basis.

I could probably go on but had better not. I will instead start a new list detailing the things that I hope to get out of this endeavour. I will be exploring these ideas in future blog posts, but they are summarised here:

• Saving Money – Always a bonus. I hope that by being sensible with money I will have more down the line to do really wonderful things (I have always been bad at this).

• Proving a Point – It would just be good to know that I can do it. A test of mental strength. I can resist spending money and be happy without acquiring unnecessary things.

• Being Mindful – I have always admired Buddhist thinking, and can absolutely see the logic in minimalizing attachment to material things and having a relatively simple existence. Being mindful will also help to ask that very important question: ‘Do I really want this?’

• Learning the Difference Between ‘Want’ and ‘Need’ – I hope to learn what ‘want’ and ‘need’ really mean and to be able to communicate this to myself when I am sat fantasising about the cool thing that some marketeer has convinced me that I ‘need’ when really, I only just want it.

• Sticking It to The Madmen – You’d absolutely love for me to buy that shirt you’ve shown me two hundred and seventy pictures of today, wouldn’t you, Kaitlin in Clapham. Well I won’t. I won’t do it. I’m not buying the bloody shirt.

• Reducing My Footprint – By this I do not just mean having fewer things delivered by vans or creating a demand for materials or water in a supply chain, but that I want to have a smaller immediate presence too. When I move, I want my life to be portable, and when I die I do not want whoever loves me the most at the time to have to do seventy four trips to the tip.

• Supporting Local – I figure that if there is something that I really do need, then I can buy it locally instead of online. This applies to food as well – I will try more restaurants on my front door and look for reasonably local produce. I will benefit and so will they.

• Being Creative – I see not buying unnecessary things as a creative challenge. I hope to mend and make do, to fix things and to at least attempt to make things that I might need before thinking about buying them.

Sadly, we do need to consume some things to survive. Having thought about it for ten minutes, I have decided that we as humans need: shelter, warmth, food, drink, clean air, exercise and some form of recreation. I will also need to be able to engage in professional and academic life. I have therefore decided that I will allow myself to buy the following things, provided that they are all purchased in a shop and not online:

• Replacements for aged underwear.
• Stationary, kitchenware, DIY supplies and basic art materials (when really needed).
• Second-hand books.
• Replacements for broken phones, laptops and headphones (I do not plan on breaking anything).
• Food and drink.
• Toiletries and cleaning products.
• (Edit) Music, event tickets, basic gym membership, transport.

So, there you have it. I have stopped buying and consuming unnecessary material things, things that I want but don’t need and things sold or marketed to me through a website or app. The time for talk is now over. It is now doing time.

I will keep you updated on my progress over the coming months and will share more of my thoughts on the process and why it is important that we attempt to reduce our consumption. But for now, it is goodbye.