The true cost of consumerism

Every day we make new decisions, it actually takes up a lot of our mental energy. We don’t quite realise it or notice it. Every day we face hundreds of decisions, most of them subconscious, but so too are most of them significant.

Many of our decisions are about one thing, in particular, consumption. We drink water, we eat foods, we fill our cars up with fuel, we buy house items and clothing. All of this is a form of consuming.

We need to consume to survive in many aspects, but unfortunately, most of the consumption of our species results in obscene negative effects.

When you buy something new, like an item of clothing, have you considered the true cost?

Recently, I watched the film The True Cost by Andrew Morgan, an American future-thinking director. The film is a documentary exploring the impact of fast fashion on the planet. Whilst I learnt quite a few things about how the fashion industry works, nothing in it surprised me about the state of consumerism.

Becoming more mindful of my purchasing over recent years has had a large impact on my purchasing of any clothing item. To the extent that I could count on one hand the number of clothing items I have purchased over the last year or two.

As I have explored utilising minimalism as a tool for a more meaningful life, I significantly reduced my spending overall and this too had an effect on my buying of clothing, shoes, and similar.

As time has passed I have become more and more ecologically mindful, trying to be more aware of the fast fashion that is advertised at us during, what has become, each of the 52 fashion seasons (weeks) of the year.

I remember not too many years ago I was very different, I was pretty into my fashion for a guy. Hell, I even studied the business side of it at College. With every pay cheque I earned in a part-time job during my student years, some 60-70% of it would likely go on my latest haul from ASOS.com. I liked my clothes and I could get it cheap. Win-win.

As I have become more mindful of every aspect of my life (whilst striving not to become obsessive) I want to know more about the things I spend my money on. Not only asking myself questions like why do I want this? but also where did this come from, who made it, and who am I really paying for it?

In our modern society we are used to a society of consumption, it seems natural to us now. Every day, in Western society, we go out into the world and anything we could ever want is available to us – and at a low cost.

But, there is always a cost. Every action we take, there is a cost. And that couldn’t be truer than with consumer purchases.

We’re still playing catch-up to understanding the true impact of our consumer decisions. Recycling, more mindful purchasing decisions, environmental impact, fair trade, all these things are seemingly still in their infancy as public knowledge is concerned; and to me, that is a real shame.

But we can change. We can make the minimal effort to think about our purchasing decisions before acting upon them. Just by asking yourself a few simple questions, you might find that you already know the answers or find curiosity in knowing them:

  1. Where did this come from?
  2. Who was the person who made it?
  3. What is the impact of buying this thing?

Often, the negatives of consumer purchases outweigh the benefits on the world. And perhaps more importantly, on your life overall.

I don’t wish to give you a whole lecture about how consumer purchases are bad and you need to feel shame for buying a new top every now and then, but I want to hope that I can reach someone like you with the idea of curiosity.

By being curious, we take it upon ourselves to not accept things at face value. We naturally dive deeper into the how and why of every aspect of our lives and by doing so not only do we become more aware, we also become more in tune with ourselves and find greater happiness day-to-day.