hand holding out credit card

by Marsha Rakestraw

Despite the rise of minimalism and conscious consumerism and the possibility of “peak stuff,” we humans still buy a lot.

Grist recently reported on a new study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology showing that “the stuff we consume — from food to knick-knacks — is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total land, material, and water use.”

We know buying stuff can have significant negative consequences (beyond contributing to climate change), and yet our media and culture and government still tell us that we have to buy to be happy/successful/a good citizen.

It can be challenging to stop and ask ourselves whether or not we need (or want) this stuff that’s triggering our covet buttons and to think consciously about its impacts beyond our pocket books.

Bringing mindfulness to our potential purchases with a few simple questions can help us move beyond the consumerism clamor and stay in touch with our deepest values. Here are a few simple questions we can ask before we buy.

1.    Is this a want or a need?
2.    How much will I use it? How long will it last?
3.    Could I borrow it? Make it? Do without it?
4.    Will having this add meaning to my life?
5.    Is purchasing this item the best way to care for myself and the planet?
6.    What is the true cost of this item to:

  • myself?
  • other people?
  • nonhuman animals?
  • the environment?

7.    What will happen to this item when I’m finished with it?

Making choices that do the most good and least harm isn’t about perfection; but when we start bringing awareness to the impact of our choices, and take a few seconds to think about questions like “Is this a want or a need?” then such questions become part of our new awareness and gradually become easier habits, and then grow into old easy ones.

For more tips and resources about making product choices that do more good and less harm,  heck out our Ethical Consumerism Pinterest board.