Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My life as a consumer

This post was started much longer ago than I care to admit. With the winding down of another Christmas season, I thought it would be good to revisit (and finally post it!).... 

As I continue to develop this blog, I realize most of my posts relate to consumption in one way or another. Overall, I have come to peace with that since I do believe that consumption can be a deliberate, contemplative way of relating with the world. However, I also realize that my consumption (and the consumption of others) can take on a life of its own if I (we) are not careful. 

There are some basic teachings of Buddhism that remind us that the material world does not bring us lasting happiness. I think anyone who pays attention to their feelings around consumption would agree. However, I also realize that part of our basic human experience involves consumption in some form or another. But if we are not careful, the deliberate consumption that many of us strive for can get out of control. Some of us are aware of this tendency; others, not so much. I personally consider myself relatively conscious about these types of things. But despite my best intentions, I often succumb to the enormous pressure to consume and sometimes fall vicitim to the hype despite my best intentions. 

About a month ago, a colleague forwarded me this article about Lululemon. This is obviously an opinion piece about a certain company but it was a good reminder to check my decisions of where and what I buy. It hit home because it dawned on me that I had gotten completely caught up in the hype of owning Lululemon yoga clothes (they do make your butt look amazing people!), but forgetting about my values in the process. This article reminded me that my wallet makes a statement every time I use it. 

This seems like an old, obvious argument. Buy local, organic, small; shop your values. But I realize that while telling myself this mantra over and over again I am quite often searching for bargains from big name brands and questioning whether I should spend the extra $5-10 dollars to buy local. It is so easy to talk about these things. It is a heck of a lot harder to live by them when your wallet is concerned. 

So the question I ask myself is, am I really ready to start shopping at a more conscious level? To start buying less and making good on the mantra I keep telling myself?

What helps me come to the answer is that I'm reminded that my motivation to buy small, independent and whenever possible, local, is the deep sense of satisfaction I get from it. Buying a shirt from Wiksten is a much different experience than buying something at the JCrew outlet mall. 

How we consume is a decision. A decision to support and nurture ourselves, neighbors and friends in a more selfless way or continue to simply accumulate more stuff. 
Am I REALLY willing to give up convenience and cheap prices to consume in a way that I know is better for me, my community and the earth? I think the time has come. 

Photo by Barbara Kruger 1987

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