Buying your way to happiness? Consumerism is ruining the environment

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Concern about the environment is gathering steam. Politicians tout policies to prove their environmental street-cred. Young activists prod the conscience of older generations. Everyone feels virtuous as they mouth slogans that demand action. But is this activity enough to make a difference? In reality, are you committed to doing what’s needed? Will you stop buying your way to happiness, and help prevent consumerism ruining the environment? 

Time for talk is over

Of course, the temptation is to think that this doesn’t concern you. Politicians at the climate change conferences should be working it out.

And it’s true that big business and governments should lead change.

Maybe you also think it’s society’s role, not yours, to spur on change.

But who makes up society?

We all do. And the time for talk is over. It’s not enough to spout clichés about the environment. Everyone needs to do what they can, no matter how small.

We all can add our bit to changes happening on a global level.

Having the right attitude isn’t enough

In fact, you may already be in favour of environmental action. But have you made any concrete changes to support the environment? Do your attitudes and beliefs translate into action?

Probably not.

We all know the disconnect between what we believe in, and what we do. Simply believing something doesn’t mean we’ll act in line with that belief.

For example, we know we shouldn’t smoke or eat and drink too much. But we keep on doing all of those things. We hide from ourselves the fact that our words and actions don’t match up.

We’re masters at avoiding reality. And the reality is that consumerism is ruining the environment. 

Just thinking isn’t enough

So it doesn’t matter how strongly you believe in saving the environment. Unless you’re taking effective action, it’s not enough. You need to change what you’re doing as well.

The trouble is, most of us are stuck at the level of thinking, not acting.

We feel virtuous because we know all about the issues; pollution, the eroding of habitats, the poisoning of waterways. We know how climate change is causing more and more natural disasters.

And we’re devastated by these events. We demand that someone do something.

Then we relax when someone like Greta Thunberg plunges into the fray.

Because that lets us off the hook. We don’t have to take any action, after all.

Ignoring how consumerism is ruining the environment

So those of us in privileged countries continue our lives as usual.

We upgrade barely-used furnishings, cars and tech gear, but can’t be bothered recycling. When we’re warm, we bump up the air-conditioning instead of drawing the curtains against the sun.

And do we care that our internet usage uses vast quantities of energy?

Or that our internet usage and bitcoin mining both lead indirectly to the destruction of habitats?

Turning a blind eye

Most of us would say we’re horrified. But in reality, we don’t want to know how we’re adding to the mess.

Because if we admit the truth, we’d have to change what we do. And that would be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Annoying and frustrating.

And who’s to say it would make a difference? That little voice in your head is telling you it’s all hopeless anyway.

So why bother?

Because giving in is the coward’s way out.

We need to face the truth

It’s time we all woke up. We need to dispel the dream of endless consumption. We need to face the truth. Because what’s the alternative?

Life is going to get unpleasant if we don’t act now.

Surely small changes now are better than the huge disruptions we’ll face if we delay acting.

So stop being passive victims of the marketing gurus. Be aware of how you’re being conned into believing you can buy happiness. Because in the long run, consumerism is ruining the environment. 

Take a reality check

Unfortunately, consuming more and more doesn’t make you feel fulfilled. All it’s doing is making others rich at your expense. Not only that, it’s leading to environmental disaster.

Take a quick look at reality. Even after a special purchase, how long is it until you feel the same as you did before?

The “happiness” doesn’t usually last long, does it? It seems to be forever just out of your grasp.

So is it true that the more you have, the happier you are? How much gear would you need to feel good all the time?

And how much damage would that do to the environment?

Feel good through your own efforts

So here’s another challenging thought.

Being happy all the time isn’t a realistic or attainable goal. And consumerism certainly won’t help you reach it.

Instead, you can learn more effective ways of improving your well-being. Ways that don’t rely on being a consumer.

Of course, caring for yourself takes more effort than simply buying new stuff. And in the same way, it takes effort to care for the environment.

That’s why consumerism is so alluring. It promises so much, so easily. But it doesn’t deliver.

So are you prepared to break this cycle to make yourself feel better? Stop the need to keep buying, buying, using, using? And help the environment at the same time?

Be content with less

You can improve your mood and self-esteem in several ways. Thinking more realistically, tolerating emotions, and searching out fulfilling activities will all help. Everyone can engage more mindfully with life. Fostering social connections, exercising, and seeking the beauties of nature are vital.

These new activities will absorb your mind. They’ll also help distance you from negative thoughts and emotions. Over time, you’ll focus on what’s important while letting the rest go.

And saving the environment is more important than having the latest electronic gizmo.

Still hiding behind excuses?

So are you ready to see how your lifestyle affects the environment? Or will you use the old excuse that you don’t have enough time?

The problem is, that soon none of us will have enough time.

We’re reaching the tipping point.

Soon it’s going to be much harder to cope with the rate of change. And it’ll get horribly uncomfortable living on earth.

Why not take action before that happens? Take steps now to stop consumerism from ruining the environment.

Make one small change

So are you willing to make one small change? To change one tiny thing that you normally do?

Make a commitment to one small change today. Now.

Decide what you’re going to do, and write it down. Put this note in a prominent spot.

Then analyse what will make it easier to carry out this small action indefinitely. Set up a system to ensure you remember to do it.

Explain what you’re doing to others you live with. Make it easy for them to do the same.

And praise yourself each time you carry out this action. You’re now starting to live in line with your values.

Keep it going

Once you’ve made this change successfully, start on another. Get that sorted as well, and then work on another, and then another.

Over time, you’ll be living in a way that’s more supportive of the environment. You’ll be more conscious of how much energy your lifestyle chews up.

Not only that, you’ll live with greater intention. Rather than giving in to empty distractions, you’ll find positive activities and people. You’ll learn new ways of being that don’t involve impressing others. And you’ll enjoy nurturing your creative talents and abilities.

So congratulate yourself on taking action to change your lifestyle. You’re now someone who lives up to their values, rather than spouting empty slogans. 

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