Excessive consumption surrounds us in the developed world, complete with the glamourisation of large houses, fast cars, designer clothes, fancy technology and sophisticated furniture.
A ‘consumer culture’ can slowly mould our desires around material possessions and make acquiring excessive ‘stuff’ seem normal. It can also result in a careless attitude when it comes to the environmental impact of consuming more than we need.
Most of all, this pull can leave us in a spiral, caught in a never-ending experience of lifestyle envy in the hope more things will provide us greater happiness, fulfilment and status.
There is a growing movement around the world to escape this cycle and get back to basics, based on the idea that life can be better lived by consuming and caring only for possessions we need. This shift is not only kinder to the environment, it can free us up to focus our attention on more fruitful and rewarding aspects of life, develop a healthier sense of identity and practice generosity more abundantly.
Here are five ways to help you transition towards consuming less while experiencing a fuller life and greater contentment.
1. Reduce your fashion footprint
Being green shouldn't stop at recycling bottles and conserving water. The choices we make when it comes to fashion can have a huge impact on our environmental footprint.
TV presenter, eco-fashion expert and founder of Fashionhound.tv Faye De Lanty dedicated her career to showing people second hand goods can be sexy and slick after realising fashion was one of the most toxic industries in the world.
“Embracing the world of thrift shopping and all things vintage and DIY will save you money and help our planet. There are op shops filled with designer brands and great quality garments. With a little know how you can recreate all the looks you see on the runways, celebrities and in magazines for a whole lot less,” said Faye.
2. Get clear on wants versus needs
It is important to be mindful when considering your purchases to avoid getting carried away in the moment. Eco-model Amanda Rootsey said asking yourself a few simple questions when being pulled towards a purchase could make a big difference.
“I always ask myself whether an item will add lasting value to my life. If I know I’ll end up throwing it out after a couple of uses, I’ll generally leave it on the shelf,” said Amanda.
Amanda was also wary of emotional purchasing decisions which could see people buying things in the hope it would make them feel better, happier or more successful in the short-term.
“Instead of a shopping spree, why not treat yourself to a day at the beach, a yoga class or a juice with your friends? Keeping a note on your phone or diary with the list of things you need and referring to it when shopping can be really helpful to keep you focused,” said Amanda.
“When you do need something, why not check if you can get it second hand? Alternatively, can it be locally made? Is there an eco-friendly or fair trade version you can source?”
3. Reduce food waste
It is estimated a quarter of all fresh fruit and vegetables produced in Australia is thrown away each year because it is not seen as visually appealing. This adds up to thousands of kilograms of perfectly eatable produce wasted daily. This hurts the environment, takes a toll on our farmers and increases the cost of living.
It isn’t just fresh food which goes to waste either. Co-founder of 1 Million Women Natalie Isaacs recommended thinking carefully before buying ‘two for one deals’ for products you may not need or use, studying use-by dates carefully and considering meal sizes to minimise leftovers as great ways to reduce waste.
She also encouraged others to consider creating a worm farm to make wonderful use of excess food.
“All our food scraps are fed to our worm farms, and then we use the worm juice to feed our plants! It’s a wonderful cycle,” said Natalie.
4. Ditch the packaging
Did you know each Australian is responsible for an average of 200 kilograms of packaging waste each year? We live in a society where colourful combinations of plastic and cardboard package the vast majority of products in our supermarkets, with much of these materials not recyclable.
The good news is there are plenty of ways we can reduce our consumption of excess packaging. Health and wellness ambassador for Perfect Potion Rita Balshaw suggested a simple way to get rid of plastic bags.
“Why not try shopping for fruit, vegetables and fresh baked goods at the farmers market or local whole foods co-op using reusable shopping bags, a foldable shopping cart or even a picnic basket?” said Rita.
“It is easy to bring along empty bottles and jars and fill them up from the giant barrels of honey, tahini and olive oils. There are also companies all over Australia that specialise in the bulk buying of whole foods that will help you reduce the packaging you use further.”
25-year-old nurse Coreena Cruceanu’s life turned on its axis when she contracted a Lyme-like illness. The extensive lifestyle and dietary changes she made to facilitate her recovery sparked a fascination with natural health and she is now studying to become a nutritionist.