Who and what has been exploited to make this possible? And why? How many towels or pairs of jeans does one person need?
We continue to buy more and more, of less quality at cheaper and cheaper prices. But why? Buy Nothing New asks us to stop and think about the real price of endless shopping by pledging to Buy Nothing New for the month of October.
What’s wrong with buying lots of new stuff? Its fun isn’t it?
An ad I caught recently (for K-Mart) had a woman saying something like “$10 jeans! I could have a pair for every day of the week!” Really? Who on earth wants that many pairs of jeans? Another one had a woman saying “With prices like these I had a full trolley in no time – and I just want to come back and keep shopping!” If this was an ad for food, and there was someone stuffing themselves with cheap junk food to the point of bursting, there would be outrage. But in the world of clothing and household items, this mindless consumption now seems the norm. Why not buy more if you can?
Chances are we will barely use what we buy, if at all. According to the Buy Nothing New website, Australians have admitted to spending over $10 billion every year on goods they do not use.* Think about the last council Clean Up on your street.
|Council Clean Up (Photo by Jo Smith, My Project Daphne)|
Buying more and more for less and less impacts more than just the environment. Someone actually has to make these items. Someone sits at a machine and adds the finishes to the towels, someone sews the jeans. If we are buying a pair of jeans for $10, how much does the person sewing them get? Considering that this price must include purchase of the material used, transport to get it to us, the overheads of the retailer… you can do the maths.
It just doesn’t add up. Despite all of the above, destroying the planet, exploiting people poorer than ourselves, the saddest thing about mindless buying is what it has done to us. When did shopping become entertainment? As Bill Bryson famously said, “We used to build civilizations. Now we build shopping malls.”
We build shopping malls, where we buy poor quality items, mostly clothes. Clothes which we wear - to the shopping mall. We probably only wear our purchase once, because while we are there, we buy more clothes for the next time we go ‘out’ – to the shopping mall.
If you are worried that scaling back your purchases will cramp your style, this is what Vivienne Westwood, one of the most stylish people on the planet, has to say on the subject: “If you ask me what I think people should be getting next season. I’ll tell you what I’d like them to buy – nothing. I’d like people to stop buying and buying and buying…”
And if you must buy, I say buy quality. I understand that not everyone is so keen on the idea of second hand clothes. But maybe think about buying one pair of ethically made jeans, a pair that will last and continue to look stylish.
And then leave the mall.
*Based on 2005 paper from the Australia Institute by Clive Hamilton Richard Denniss and David Baker