A reflection on consumption and sustainability as an entrepreneur and young adult in times of a pandemic.
When I studied the masters course MA Fashion Futures at London College of Fashion, we had endless conversations about convincing people to stop purchasing as much, because even if all businesses operated sustainably with our current rate of consumption, the world would stay an unsustainable polluting mess. Adding to that obviously it doesn't help that we are living in a capitalistic system, which currently only follows one goal: Making more money, profits, more all the time, every year, every day, every second. Business people are trained to only do that; how can you save money, how can you make more profit. An endless struggle of not being good enough, achieving more.
Burnout. Burnout. Burnout.
So sitting in a group (MA course) of individuals who are all super into sustainability, into changing the world, we had an endless back and forth. We were trying to figure it out, but I certainly never did. How would on earth can you get people to buy less? By throwing facts at them? That never really seems to work and aren't you just reinforcing wrong believes by talking more about them.
“Growing up in capitalism we learnt to cope with stuff by accumulating.”
Now I am trying to observe myself a bit better and my own consumption habits. Our capitalistic society teaches us to buy things to feel good, because as I wrote above making profits is our only goal.
After obsessive teenage shopping years, and then a sudden awakening to the world of sustainability, I have always tried to minimise my buying ( I guess it is easier as well, when you are studying and on a tight budget and then starting a company right after on a again tight budget).
Nevertheless I got really into hunting down cheap second hand stuff, but even then I feel it. This unhealthy need for acquiring. And now guess what lockdowns came into our lives, and at first I kept myself busy with other things, my business, taking care of my friends, my cat. But this third lockdown is harder and I keep catching myself wanting to buy something.
What can I buy today? What else do I really need?
What can I hunt down on the internet?
This question seems to keep coming up. An excuse to buy, or that's what I have thought until maybe last week. It's an excuse, a logical explanation why we buy. And then once you bought that thing, dress, plant pot, plant, bathroom light, you receive it, are happy about it for 10min (ok maybe a bit longer) but then you move onto the next need. So you still need something. What do we need (to buy)? So maybe the question is rather: "What is missing?"
We obviously feel like there is something missing, like something is wrong.
Growing up in capitalism we learnt to cope with stuff by accumulating. Making ourselves feel better. Treating ourselves. Bored on a Saturday go shopping, done well in an exam go shopping, material gift in exchange for achievements.
When what we really should do is look into ourselves and taking care of our mental health. But the system we live in isn't providing us with the right tools.
So when we talk about reducing consumption, maybe we have to talk about mental health and giving everyone the right tools to cope with what is going on in their lives.
I always think this following sentence is over used, but it is true: You can't buy happiness. But do we really know what that means?