How I got from Hyper Consumerism to Sustainability
March 13, 2021
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had great respect and admiration for all living things; as a kid, I was fascinated by everything I would see on the Discovery channel. I would watch Wildlife shows for hours and remain in awe of what those people saw with their own eyes. Classic, I know. Obviously, my dream was to work for the BBC. That went down the drain, as it usually happens with childhood dream jobs.
My family wasn’t the nature type. I wasn’t taken on walks in the forest or mountain-climbing and traveling wasn’t a part of our activities as a family. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lovely childhood, we just weren’t very…outdoorsy. I was raised a city girl. Whenever I found myself camping with friends I was always the negative-Nancy. You know the type: the b*tch who squeals at the sight of bugs, complains about the rain, is always cold, hates getting dirty, and asks “can we go home now” every 2 hours.
You might ask, “Didn’t you say you loved all living things?” As a matter of fact, I did.
The word you’re looking for is conflicted. I was very conflicted. My upbringing and my fascination for nature did not go hand in hand. They mixed together like cheese and pasta. No, wait, those actually go well together. They were like Vincent and Jules. No, that’s not it either. You get the idea. Back to our story, I became consumed by city life. I was in the Rat Race. Keeping up with my classmates’ stuff was my top priority most of my adolescence. So here I am, in high school, being a materialistic prick, a hoarder, a hyper-consumer, buying everything that looked nice, or interesting or was simply ON SALE.
I was especially obsessed with clothes. And especially concerned with looking hot. I was buying anything that would make me look like a highway hooker on Friday night. 50% off? Must buy it. Sale? Gotta buy that as well, it’s not every day I stumble upon a discount pancake maker in the shape of a fish.1I have never made pancakes in my life, ever. I was becoming the perfect buyer. The ideal consumer. But the worst part was: I was aware of it every step of the way. And I hated it. I instinctively knew it was bad, even though at that age I didn’t know why.
At the same time, my love of nature and life in general extended to many other things. I admired handcrafted work and I had great respect for objects. Not in the materialistic sense, but rather respect for the creation process of that object. I was perfectly aware that someone put a lot of work and craftsmanship into making it. Yeah, I know most things we buy today come from factories, but I was young and an idiot, so get off my case. The point is, I knew the value of things. I would never, ever throw away anything 2Another lovely trait passed down by generations in my family: hoarding the shit out of everything., I was extremely attached to my toys as a child, I had a lot of items with sentimental value and I hung onto them for decades. I still do.
If you combine my respect for stuff with hyper-consumerism you get a person who is buying insane amounts of things and never throws away ANYTHING. This, my friends, is how you end up with 20 sacks of clothes, moved from rent to rent, over a span of 15 years. You heard me. I moved clothes which were in my possession since I was f*cking 15 to every rent I have ever lived in. I literally had to pay a truck to take all my goddamn shit from one place to another.
However, at some point in my life, I gradually started to become more and more bothered by my consumerism. I also became increasingly aware of environmental issues. With each day, month, year, I was more appalled by what we are doing to the planet, and the feeling that I was a part of it became unbearable. One day, I decided to stop. Not all at once, this is not one of those inspirational stories of sheer will. But deciding I need to change my habits was the first step towards a more sustainable life.
I began a slow but steady journey to sustainability, over a span of many years. Despite being nowhere near perfect, each and every day I get closer to where I want to be. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Maybe today I ditch plastic bags. Next month I try to buy locally. Perhaps 2 months later I decide to start looking for cruelty-free products whenever possible. Maybe the next time something tears, I take it to the tailor to fix it, instead of buying a new one.
You see, sustainability isn’t the picture-perfect life most Youtube gurus bullshit you with, convincing you to buy their vegan-gluten-free-eco-bio-whatever coffee matcha. It’s not all white flat lays and living a perfect life. It’s flawed and mundane. It doesn’t have to be pretty or instagrammable.3The fact that this is an actual word makes me hurl. You don’t need a 20$ perfectly crafted mason jar, you already have jars from grandma. Don’t be fooled, being sustainable has nothing to do with looking good or being perfect. It’s very difficult to be 100% sustainable. That’s not the goal. It’s about choosing a sustainable option whenever you can, as much as you can. It’s not about going cold turkey overnight, it’s a process. It’s a lifelong journey with small steps. Steps you decide when and how to make.
Over time, these habits will come to you so naturally that you won’t even notice until a few years have passed and you look back on what an ignorant douche you used to be. And you will feel proud.