Definition of CONSUMERISM
1: the promotion of the consumer’s interests
2: the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; also : a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods
~Merriam Webster Dictionary~
“…increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable” is exactly the reason why environmentalism poo poos consumerism.
Why? Because “increasing consumption of goods” makes oodles of money for the companies and is what makes consumerism “economically desirable” for them. But this mass production of goods is for a brief, cheap, consumer’s thrill at a high price, and for products’ eons of shelf life in landfills. And yet, companies advertise to seduce the buyers to buy, buy, buy. What’s worse; this production of unnecessary excess uses non-renewal resources and energy just to create that waste that eventually just sits idling in landfills. So from an environmental perspective, consumerism is an environmental nightmare.
But, our economy has been in the dumps for a few years now. Every now and then, we get little snippets of news that it’s improving. But, most of us don’t feel it. I, for one, don’t have a fat bank account or a huge stock portfolio to retire on so the bad economy news has been pretty depressing.
So when I talk about minimize spending, simplify living, don’t become a victim to “consumerism“, I am really saying it to promote frugal living as much as green living.
But, I wonder it that’s good for the economy. I mean, we need to circulate currency, right? We need increased productivity in manufacturing so that it creates jobs for people and to make money, right?
I am a seller on Etsy that sells eco products and I get depressed when no one buys from my shop. To be fair, I really haven’t stocked the shop lately but as a seller of goods, the mantra of “Don’t buy into consumerism because it’s bad for the environment” doesn’t jive well sometimes. But at the same time, I was so turned off by all the ads that screamed “It’s Earth Day! Get free stuff here!” How “free stuff” and “Earth Day” got married is a mystery to me; if anything, it should be totally opposite - “Don’t give out free stuff on Earth Day” should be the slogan, no?
See my dilemma?
The point is, how do I justify saying, “Buy my stuff” and still promote green living? Eco Etsy and Sprint just partnered on it’s “Green Shop” app. That seems paradoxical when the team is about being eco-friendly and yet, we are really excited about the opportunity to be on its “shopping” app. So, how do we justify our mission of being eco-friendly?
I’ve grappled with this issue for some time now and especially when I read cynical green blogs that down right criticize free spending consumers and greedy corporate America. So what’s the answer?
What’s the answer?
Handmade green goods. Simple.
I never thought handmade green crafts will be considered that popular but it has been wildly popular. And we, especially the green handmade crafters, are the forefront runners of this phenomenon. The reason Sprint chose Eco Etsy was because of its green handmade goods. They could have chosen any green companies that sell myriad of green goodies. But handmade green goods is what attracted them.
How is handmade eco-friendly?
Handmade is not mass produced so every item is different. These coasters that I just listed, are slightly different in size and the design patterns on the top. And even the frayed edges are slightly different on each coaster. No two will be alike, making each item, very unique. But that means, every item is made from limited resources and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m using up resources that served one purpose – carry coffee beans – and using it for another purpose (def. of upcycle) which makes it a very eco-friendly business practice.
Handmade also uses less energy to produce. We don’t usually require a large space that need a massive amount of energy to operate our business. If anything, we require less energy because we are using hands to produce and not machines. I tend to create seasonal items but also seasonally, meaning, my studio is in the basement and when it’s really cold, I don’t make things that require me to sew in my studio because I don’t want to turn on the heat just for my usage.
Handmade artists are compassionate people who care about their arts and crafts. And in general, we also care about the environment in our daily lives and not just in managing our businesses.
So do I feel guilty that I sometimes advertise and market my business? No.
Do I feel insulted when greenies view commercialism as being anti-environmental? Insulted is a strong word but while I understand where they are coming from, I know they are not speaking about “me” because I make less-impacting green handmade products that are reusable and functional. I don’t make ‘junk’ that has a short shelf life on the ‘usefulness’ scale. But if they do get thrown out, at least they are biodegradable.
What handmade products have you purchased to help the environment recently?