“Because when I shop, the world gets better. The world is better. And then it's not anymore. And I need to do it again.”
Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)
Ten years ago, the funny yet hard-hitting movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher, was released. Adapted from a novel with the same title, the movie leads the story of Rebecca Bloomwood, a journalist living in New York City with her best friend who is, of course, a shopping addict. Through this movie, we can see the world from Rebecca’s point of view and how shopping means more than just purchasing a product.
We are often eluded with the notion that shopping addicts are merely bad financial managers. But there’s so much more into what makes a person feel liberated when they shop (even when it gives a bitter aftertaste when the credit card bill comes). Shopping is therapy, buying more stuff means treating ourselves.
Nowadays, the obsession of owning more and treating oneself with luxury or merely expensive stuff feels outdated. One of the reasons might be the growing abundance of cheap products, i.e. fast fashion, fast food, buffet, etc. We are surrounded by so many options for just one type of product that we grow to become quite picky.
Another reason could be the rise of climate change, labour injustice, and other related issues. Many activists are working on grassroots movements; showing how ordinary people like you and me can contribute to tackling ‘global matters’. From eating less meat to purchasing products from ethical brands, anyone can take part in making a change.
One movement is conscious shopping. While there are many definitions of it, conscious shopping basically refers to conscious consumption, where we shop for what we need or what feels valuable for us and take into consideration the impact of what we consume.
It is no surprise that those who are adopting the popular minimalist lifestyle are also drawn to conscious shopping. Being conscious about what we actually need, what will add value to our life, leads us to become a more conscious shopper.
However, the concept of conscious shopping goes beyond the impact of a product in our lives (though it is one of the considerations). It also includes how a certain product affects livelihood from across the world.
‘Less’ Gives the Power for our Earth to Recharge
In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day --the day when our demand for resources in a given year exceeds what Earth can give-- fell on July 29th, two months earlier than 20 years ago. The fact is, the day has been occurring earlier every year. Scary to think, but there might be a day when we are deprived of resources if we don’t act now.
Conscious shopping is all-encompassing of where we live, how we move about, what we consume, the history of the products we use (from growing the ingredients to the distribution).
For instance, our global food system generates a huge amount of emission and pollution, from chemical fertilizers, methane emission from cows, to the carbon release from land clearing (burning forests). It keeps happening while the climate crisis worsens with extreme weather, damaging crops, and threatening the availability of nutritious food.
So, behind cheap meals, there could be high-emission mass production of ingredients. And behind expensive meals, there could be a long carbon footprint of imported exotic ingredients. In other words, it’s a huge cost for the earth just to get a simple meal on our plate.
This also applies to not contributing to unfair treatment of garment factory workers behind many big fashion brands, eating less meat to lessen the carbon footprint, the pressure to reduce emission from individual road transportation, and even to invest in sustainability and allocate our capital for long-term risk-adjusted returns.
Be attentive to what’s actually important: life, humanity. Purchase products that add value to your life and to others (and the environment too, for that matter) at the same time. Maybe you need to spend a little extra, but think of it as paying for what it’s worth.
A shirt made of recycled polyester and produced by a community of women refugees may be priced a bit higher than shirts produced by big brands. But have you ever thought that maybe those brands could get such a low price because the workers may be underpaid and work overtime? Or because they use fabrics that will degrade after 100 years?
So, the next time you shop, ask yourself these questions:
"do you need it? Why do you need it? What are you contributing to? Is it worth the price? What kind of impact am I going to generate by purchasing this product? What’s the story behind it? How was it made? How will I use it? Am I going to do some damage by using it?"
Make a change by start being conscious of what you buy. It may be just a dress or a flower bouquet, but think about the journey of how those things get to your hands might leave a good or bad ecological footprint.