The path to climate crisis has, in large part been forged by capitalism, which relies on us to play the role of consumer. It creates a booby-trap fashioned from our insecurities and catches us when we’re least aware, like the add-on isle at the supermarket.
Most of us already have our basic necessities taken care of and yet, we continue to update our wardrobes, or add an extra step to our five step skincare routine. David de Rothschild sums is up beautifully; “we've turned ourselves just into these consumers,” he says in a recent conversation with Goop, “we've lost sight of the fact that we're citizens.” The way we consume has become mindless and unquestioned. We’ve established buying habits, from our daily coffee, to our sneaker shoe collection, without really stopping to ask “do I really need this second or third pair?” Often we don’t ask these questions, because we’ve been programmed with over a century of product advertising. Our consumer behavior has driven the thirsty engine of capitalism, but since we give it power, we can choose to take it back.
So how do we begin to change what is so deeply rooted?
First, we can take the time to find sustainable alternatives, whether it’s plastic-free personal care, or recycled toilet paper. Making the shift from consumer to citizen requires focused intention, until our spending habits are no longer subconscious.
We must widen the barriers between ‘impulse’ and ‘purchase’ and respect every transaction with careful consideration for our environment.
Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard is empowering his customers to shift from a ‘replace it’ to a ‘repair it’ mentality; offering free clothing repairs for all Patagonia customers, no matter how old and disheveled. Demand always drives supply, so it’s our responsibility as consumers to begin looking at options like repairing our clothes, shopping second hand, avoiding plastic and being discerning with what brands we buy from.
Another way to shift from citizen to consumer, is to remember our inextricable connection to the natural world. Any considerable effort needs a strong ‘why,’ behind it and staying connected with nature keeps us in touch with that ‘why. Focusing on the advantages that come from buying less and buying more consciously is another great motivator. These include; more savings, which lead to more time, a greater connection with the objects we already own and respect the natural world from which they came.