Consumerism Detox: 4 Ways To Buy Less By Doing More

We are a culture driven by over-consumption: We eat too much, buy too much, and generate too much waste. Small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference, but it starts by waking up to the reality of what we're doing and how that affects the world.

January 21, 2016
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I spent a large part of my young adult life wearing blinders. This wasn’t a conscious choice. I was responding to the strong influence of a culture that convinced me I needed to be part of the norm. Like most young adults, my main goal in life was to fit in and be liked, so I did what most people do. I compromised my gifts, ignored my intuition, played by the rules, and stayed safe.

Now that I’m older and have been through some eye-opening life challenges, the blinders have come off. I was in part unwillingly stripped of fantasy and false beliefs, but also consciously driven to see what had been hidden from my view for so long. Getting divorced and receiving a cancer diagnosis within the same year definitely jarred me out of my haze, but these life challenges also primed me for viewing life through a different lens. The blind faith that I had held for so long was eradicated by reality; once I saw the truth, there was no turning back. Sometimes I miss the illusions of life, but I also know that facing the truth of things has deepened my connection to everything–including myself.

You may be untouched by some of the life-changing experiences that knock off the blinders, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see what you’ve been missing anyway. You’re not alone in maintaining invisible belief systems that shape your perceptions and drive your choices. We all unconsciously inherit these beliefs from popular culture and through socialization. All of us unknowingly act against our core values, our own interests, and the interests of others to accommodate to the norm. It’s much easier to go along with the crowd than to forge a unique path all alone, but you pay a price for conformity both personally and globally.

The one area of life we remain most blind to is our habits of consumption and waste.

Food just appears on our grocery store shelves, we flush our toilets without a thought about where that waste goes, and we throw out heaps of trash without questioning where it will end up. This isn’t because we are cold-hearted or don’t care. We simply don’t inquire because we’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s not a problem or our concern. Change is hard for everyone, and self-induced change is even more difficult. Making a shift in your lifestyle choices may not seem like it would have an impact on the greater good, but it actually does, because your actions and behaviors have a ripple effect that spans the world.

You don’t have to make any changes today, but it’s important that you become aware and conscious of your own beliefs, values, and interests around how you live. It’s your human right and responsibility to know the truth behind what you consume and the impact your actions have on the world.

Here are four ways you can begin to shift from being a blind consumer to an aware consumer and ultimately change the world as we know it:

Explore where your food comes from.

It helps to “buy local,” but raising your awareness about how your food gets from its original state into your body is essential for your own health and the health of the world. Ask about the vegetables you buy, watch a video on how animals are raised and treated on factory farms, or simply look at the back of a package of food to see the ingredients and the process it took to get the product to you. Keep in mind that you’re spending your hard-earned money on the food that you’re depending on for your health. Make choices with that in mind.

Practice zero waste.

You can do this for a day or a week to get a sense of how much you personally consume and throw away. Challenge yourself to go for a period of time without producing any kind of waste. You’ll begin to notice how much unnecessary packaging you buy and how easily you use a product only to throw it away. We are an over-consuming culture, so getting a sense of your own personal contribution is a big step.

Ask yourself, “Do I need it?”

When you go to buy something over the next week ask yourself if it’s a want or a need. We often buy things because we feel we need them when actually we could easily live without them. I never thought I could live without eating meat before becoming a vegan, but I’ve been amazed at how unimportant it was for my diet and personal pleasure. You’re being sold things every day through multiple different mediums, so you have to think critically to get out from under the conditioning all around you.

Do other things.

The pull to purchase and consume is so ingrained in our psyches that we have to make an effort to become aware of the impulse before we can change it. Consumption can be an addiction, so behavior change can only happen if you reflect on your actions before you take them. There is a moment in time between the urge and the action that offers an opportunity to do something different. Take advantage of that moment by choosing a walk over shopping or reading instead of watching junk television. Redirecting your actions will help you form new habits that could potentially improve your well-being and that of the world.

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