Conspicuous consumerism: we’ve all heard the phrase. Coined over a century ago in 1899, it refers to the way people will sometimes we tend to spend more or buy more just for the sake of being able to spend more or buy more. Whether it’s wearing the designer dress in order to make your coworkers jealous, or driving the luxury car, or adding a room to your home to keep up with the Joneses, sometimes we all like to be a bit wasteful because, well, we can.
Consumerism, however, could be defined in another way: the opposite of conservation. Think about it. Conservation, at its core, means getting by with less. Showing off your ability to have more is, well, not that.
Conserving means consuming less in every walk of life. It means reducing what we literally consume – a green diet incorporates less meat and fewer animal products, fewer processed foods, and fewer imported foods. The greenest diet is one that you produce yourself, like fruits and vegetables directly from your greywater garden.
Conserving means reusing and reducing waste. It means shopping for used clothing, or even better, not buying new clothes at all when you don’t need them. It means learning to sew so that when your favorite sweater starts to wear out or you rip a button off a jacket, you can cut up your old clothes for scraps and make something new out of them. It means that when something no longer fits or no longer fits your style, instead of throwing it out, you donate it or sell it to a used clothing store rather than allow it to end up in a landfill.
Conserving means learning about the processes to create the things you like to buy and saying no to the things you want but don’t need, especially if those things are harmful to the environment. It means eschewing bottled water in favor of tap water when possible. And when tap water isn’t available, it means planning ahead and bringing your own reusable bottle rather than buying more. It means not upgrading your phone or your tablet every year, but instead getting the most use out of your current technology you can. It means when you can choose between a green version of a product or a non-green version, you make the forward-thinking choice.
Ultimately, our society doesn’t really value conservation. Sure, we can talk about the importance of recycling, but we love to shop. The world tells us all to consume, but at some point, we have to stand up to that pressure and conserve instead. It’s a hard step to take, but a necessary one.