We need to stop buying unnecessary stuff

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Our ridiculous addiction to acquiring more possessions is stuffing up the planet, so it’s time to call in the experts

Some time ago a person who was an early adopter of environmental concerns wanted a new kitchen. He asked an expert he knew from his work in woodland conservation what wood his new kitchen should be built with. He was startled to get a sharp response: “If you really care, then don't come to me asking which wood to use; ask yourself if you really need a new kitchen.”

A point well made but one that very few people take to heart and act upon and it does not just go for a kitchen. It equally well goes for the cellphone, the car, or whatever. We may want something because everyone else does want this new one but we, at least if we are truly concerned about our environmental impact, as to whether we really need it, or whether it is just a want and not a need.

People often have difficulties to differentiate between wants and needs, and this goes for all ages. While children may express a want as a need they more often actually know that they just want this new toy or whatever else simply because it is new (to them) or because Johnny down the street has one, in that they say “I want” and often add “because...” Many adults do not seem to see that the need they perceive is actually just the same a want and that they do not really need the thing they want.

While we all have to buy things for (daily) consumption, from food, to toiletries and other things, and those are real needs, more often than not, many of the things we tend to buy we do not really need but we want them.

Does one really need a new smartphone – I hasten to add I don't own one – while the old one is not even that old and works perfectly well and does all the things we use it for well? No, but many want a new one just because of the advertising promises about the new bells and whistles on the new one.

This goes for a great many things in that we always need to ask ourselves the question as to whether we really need a new one, whatever it may be, or whether it is a want and whether, if we would be honest with ourselves and everyone else, we could not actually be using the thing that we have and are using.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, is an old adage, though one from, as we would say here, across the pond, but it is,m nevertheless, a good one. Which also means if it does not need to be fixed then we could continue to use it. And, well, if it is broke we should then ask ourselves could we fix it or could it be fixed, rather than tossed and a new one bought.

There are also other occasions, and I certainly, wherever possible, try to do that, when it is a case I can buy that but I can also make that, from scrap wood or whatever other material around, including by means of upcycling “waste”. It may take some skills and a great deal more effort to make it yourself but aside from the satisfaction of being able to say “I made that” you may have prevented a great deal of carbon emissions and also stopped something going to landfill. If I can make something I am not going to buy it and there have been many, many occasions when I have employed that adage of mine. It may not be exactly as the thing in the catalog, so to speak, but it fulfills the very same purpose.

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