It’s that time of year – the Holidays – the grandest consumer-fest of all. We are consumers. We make the Consumer Price Index rise. We are measured with the Consumer Confidence Index. There are bureaus of consumer affairs, consumer magazines, and consumer networks. But I’m weary of being consumed.
Consumption was the original word for cancer. What a grim update of the word: people consuming and working themselves into ill health, money woes, environmental disregard, and cruelty through a cancerous set of practices we failed to realize as time marched on. Isn’t it possible to have the Holidays without such accumulation?
Veganism as teacher of consumption
As vegans, we have already learned that a simpler, minimal approach to food and lifestyle is smarter, healthier, and more compassionate. Still, we take our humanity to emporiums with other consumers and, if not careful, we can still consume vegan junk from well-meaning purveyors. Production and gas use can wipe-out the otherwise good effects from reduction of energy.
One day in my early days as a vegan 5 years ago, I slowly woke up to this. I was running out to buy new foods that would help me be a healthier, more compassionate, more environmental vegan. New websites, new magazines, more quests, finding the goods that would save us all. But doing that meant the same trips to food markets, in real time or online. Then, the actual products jumped out at me showing the same stripes as less thoughtful products. Often, there was too much packaging. Frequently, the product directions dictated using too much content to get the job done. Becoming vegan was still a consumer’s paradise.
As David Owen explains in Conundrum (Riverhead Books, 2011), the zest for energy consciousness can still lead to excess energy consumption. If we must still have batteries to make our toothbrushes go back and forth – or if we must have a Prius to replace a still-acceptable car to demonstrate our conscientiousness, we’re still part of the problem rather than the solution.
Similar conundrums come to mind:
- Vegan or not, if we over-eat on plant-based diets, health can suffer
- “Wash, rinse, repeat” shampoos and potions instruct us – when once is enough.
- Fair trade clothes still had to travel a distance to fill already-full closets
- Garbage disposals exist for food that could be dropped into excess plastic bags
- An over-sized LEEDS certified new home still wastes energy
- Cars, trains, planes, buses to get where we must, must, must go now, now, now
Trade-offs are costly.
Do your purchases serve you and help you thrive? How long will it take to get back the time and money spent that it took to acquire that which then burdens you anyway? It’s taken generations to get us to a consumerism that says buy, buy – instead of pause. There’s little consumer education on how to, for example, sleep on a consideration to buy something for a day or two before deciding. Shopping is fun; but its circle of consumption perpetuates itself.
Try letting go.
Try the wise old axiom “Less is more”. For starters, consider 90% of Holiday memories come from the gathering – not the stuff. Chuckle at over-wrought commercials and ads trying too hard to separate you from your money. Resist.
Figure out what nourishes you and what to extract that depletes you. Some ideas:
- Eat low-brow beans and high-brow greens instead of complicated faux creations
- Pet your pet more instead of buying pet toys. Realize why you took this journey
- Wash your face at night with simple soap. No potions. Bare fresh skin
- It’s cooler now, so clean your home and clothes less. You aren’t that dirty!
- Substitute to save grocery runs: e.g. use Vegannaise for oil. Same result
- Change Black Friday to Sleep Friday – or Donation Friday for charitable giving
- Wear your finest clothes, and buy fewer clothes – but quality instead of cheap
- Avoid goods that traveled the world to get here – and fall from favor or fall apart
- Listen to music and make music. Turn off the TV
- Ride your bike or your legs; leave your car at home
- Turn some lights out. Light a candle
Numbers on scale or statement
Curl up and watch It’s a Wonderful Life – and think about how much more at peace you will be mid-January when you look at lower numbers on your credit card statements or scale. Pour a cup of tea or coffee – water or wine. Sip. Listen to your family and friends – chat or squabble 🙂 Feel the elegance of time to watch the snow or sunsets, make some soup, and enjoy the quiet sparkle of time together – or lovely, nourishing solitude.
Simple. Elegant. Happy consumer-freer Holidays