Friday, December 2, 2016

At Home With A Naturalist: Rejecting Consumerism for the Environment's Sake and Yours

The Christmas season is upon us!  Evergreen trees, bright red berries, pinecones, sparkling snow and... mountains of crumpled wrapping paper? 

Though it might be economic heresy to say it, our country's consumer habits are out of control.  I don't claim to be an economist, but I can tell you a little bit about what our consumer mentality has done to both our personal happiness and the wellbeing of the environment.
A snowy walk through the woods: perfection for a naturalist, and 100% free of consumerism.
First, we have to realize that we are being taken gross advantage of by marketing and advertising.  Companies know that American consumers don't really care what the product is, we only care how it is marketed to us.  Is it faster?  Bigger?  Shinier?  Easier?  Better?  Anything to make us look cooler, thinner, stronger, smarter, better.  Americans want it, and they can't shell out the dough fast enough to get it, whatever "it" may be this week.  No one seems to realize... that the only thing these ads are telling us is that we aren't good enough or happy enough the way we are. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with trying to better oneself... but true betterment comes from practicing things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, compassion, generosity... you get the idea.  Nothing you can buy will accomplish this. 
American consumer debt is through the roof, completely out of control.  And mostly due to purchases that we wouldn't have even considered, had we not turned on the television or walked into that big fancy store.
And, oh, the waste generated by all of this stuff!  The environmental damages wrought by our unquenchable lust for stuff!  Not only do our possessions require raw materials to manufacture, fuel to ship across the globe, even more materials for packaging... not long after we acquire them, we're done with them, tossing them into a landfill, incinerator or cargo ship to be hauled back overseas for disposal.

Of course, we have to buy some things.  We have to have clothes and shoes, and my husband and I would both argue that books are basically a necessity.  But there are limits we must set for ourselves.

So, what does it look like to "reject consumerism" on a practical level, in our home?

One of the most significant things about our home is that we don't have a television.  Not just that we don't "get" TV or pay for cable or whatever, but we don't have the appliance at all.  This means that we don't see or hear television commercials.  And when I do hear them, boy what a shock they are!  Last summer, we watched some of the Olympics at my parents' house... and saw commercials.  On Thanksgiving Day, again at my parents', the Macy's parade was on television, followed by the National Dog Show, followed by football.  So. Many. Commercials!!!  They are so pretentious and actually painful to watch in their glaringly desperate attempt to get to you buy something.

We also don't have a radio in our home, so radio ads are eliminated.  In the car we enjoy the quiet, listen to our extremely eclectic "road trip playlist," or talk.  No annoying radio commercials allowed!

When junk mail comes, with all those glossy advertisements - and the tease of possible coupons - it goes straight into the recycling.  And then, I go online and figure out how to stop these ads from clogging up my mailbox every week!  You'd be surprised what you have the power to unsubscribe from.  (The same goes for email.)

I am a ruthless clicker of the "close" box when internet ads pop up on the screen.  I haven't figured out how to get rid of internet ads entirely, but I will persevere!

Another great habit to develop is one of not shopping.  We just don't go shopping for the sake of shopping.  Stay out of stores; avoid the flashy billboards and sales signs like your life depends on it.  My husband will attest to this: shopping makes me cranky.  And when I do have to go to the store, I go as if I am on a mission!  I plan my route, bring along the coupons or gift cards or what-have-you, decide in advance what I need and how much I'm going to pay for it, and then attack.  I get what I need, nothing more.  Again, ruthless! 

The number-one way to reject excessive consumerism at home, of course, is simply don't buy things you don't need! 

Rejecting consumerism has a vast number of benefits to both the environment and our own personal sense of contentment. 

So much happiness could be gained, and resources conserved, if we shift our priorities away from material things.  Focus on loved ones, generosity and giving to others, kindness and compassion, the natural world.  Learn to be happy with less stuff; learn to appreciate the outdoors and nature, take delight in the birds and wild things, find joy in a hike or walk through the wilderness.

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