How Being a Mindful Shopper Can Help the Environment

How being a mindful shopper can help the environment.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

How being a mindful shopper can help the environment. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How being a mindful shopper can help the environment

The older I get, the more agitated I feel about possessing or seeing unnecessary stuff sold in stores. At least twice a year, I go through all of my things (mainly clothes) and try to get rid of the things I no longer use. Maybe there is an underlying problem with how much I consume, but I can say, with confidence, that my consumption is far less than the average person. We’ll get to the consumption of clothing in just a second.

It makes me anxious when I walk into a store and see the sheer amount of stuff that stores sell. Stores seem to be getting increasingly packed with stuff all the time. Where is it even coming from?! What’s even worse is the amount of stuff that people are actively buying. Where do you even put it? And let’s not even get into how much stuff inevitably gets thrown away because it doesn’t get sold, it breaks because it is cheaply made, or the consumers finally realize they have no use for it.

I always like to think about how much stuff people have in their house. How many things never get used, and how many items of clothing get purchased but never worn? How many things are in their original packaging? And what about those storage facilities you can rent to hold even more stuff? All of it is extremely concerning. And I apologize if I have just ignited an anxiety in you, but it’s facts. We have too much stuff!

In 2019, Mercari, a selling app, found that American homes hold 5.3 billion unused items, with the most common item being clothing, followed by books and clothing. But why do we have so much stuff to begin with? Studies have shown that our accumulation stems mainly from gifts and memories, the feeling of comfort of having items, and practicality, just in case, reasons.

Mercari LSE How Being a Mindful Shopper Can Help the Environment
America’s clutter epidemic. Image: Mercari

I’m totally one of those just-in-case people, especially when it comes to clothes. I mean, to be fair, I live in a city where it’s hot in the morning and then snows in the evening, so realistically, you have to be prepared with various clothing options. But there isn’t anything in my wardrobe that I haven’t worn at least once. I try not to buy pointlessly and make it a point to buy secondhand.  

Even in secondhand store situations, you can see the problem of overconsumption firsthand because much of what is being donated still has the tag. We’re buying because it’s cheap, but what does that mean if we are not actually using what we’re buying? Is it better to buy it, have it sit in our closet or give it away? Or should we leave it in the stores that might throw unsold clothing in the landfill? Think about that one for a second.

This post comes at a great time because it’s the time of year when the most common word you’ll hear is “sale”. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Holiday Sales, Boxing Day sales, to buy all the things you didn’t know you needed until you see a sale sticker slapped onto it. I know I’ve written about the issue of sales and the explosion of fast fashion more than once, but it needs to be said, especially when these sales are becoming more prominent. Black Friday sales last a whole month now; they even have them several times during the year and not just after American Thanksgiving when it first became a thing.

Everyone has their reasons for having stuff – they find it hard to let go, they are sucked into these meaningless purchases driven by sale and liquidation prices, or they live in a society that is driven by material possessions. I’m not qualified to discuss the psychological reasons why we have so much stuff, but I can say that by consuming a little bit less, we can do our part for the environment.

As a general rule of thumb, if everyone just bought less, think of the impact this could have.

  • Buying less means less will end up in the landfill. While we may see issues with companies throwing unsold items into landfills, if demand goes down, they will eventually supply less.
  • Buying less can encourage a circular economy, especially if you donate your unused items. We can also encourage renting items instead of buying new ones when we need them.
  • Buying less means you will develop a consumable consciousness because you become more aware of what you consume by having and needing less.  
  • Buying less means that you will prioritize quality over quantity. You’ll start to buy items that have a higher quality that will last longer.
  • Buying less means that you may choose to repair your items instead of throwing them away (especially if it is of higher quality)
  • If you really need to purchase something, you’ll start asking more questions, such as where and how it is made, how long it will last, etc. You’ll begin shopping with intention, allowing you only to buy what you need.

It all comes down to taking a step back and thinking, do I really need this? Does the person I’m buying this for need this? What am I going to do with it? Especially with the holiday season on its way, the way we think about our consumption habits is even more important.

I’m not saying you need to stop shopping at all costs, but if we really want to reduce our environmental impact, we should become more mindful shoppers and consumers and see what it brings. Even if you become a mindful shopper in very small steps, every little bit you do impacts and inspires others. And maybe we’ll find out that we can get by with less stuff.

Read my other posts about consumption during the holidays:

Unwrapping Our Reciprocity with Nature

“Maybe Christmas Doesn’t Come From a Store, Maybe Christmas Perhaps Means a Little Bit More”

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