To consume or not consume…

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Our beloved flat screen television, centre of our living room, has been dying a slow death over the past few months. A flickering, jumping, distorted picture would eventually come back to life after 10 or 20 or even 30 minutes. But a few weeks ago, it didn’t even do this anymore and the television grave (landfill !) beckoned. So we’ve been without a conventional television for several weeks but we’re using our laptops to watch TV, iplayer mainly or the occasional film. Put it this way – I’m not rushing out to buy a new telly….just yet.

As a family, we’ve downsized a lot over the past 3 years and we try not to have too much stuff. We also try not to buy new things if we can get something second hand or even free. Our extremely comfy (new) double bed was from a lovely lady in Kilmington via Freecycle. My 7 year old son’s latest bike is a hand me down from his step-uncle now in his twenties. I’ve just bought the most gorgeous red jacket from a local charity shop and my latest favourite purple cardi was from the clothes swap at Transition Town Honiton’s Sustainable Saturday in February. It’s not something I can say is a recent transformation, I loved charity shops and antique shops when I was a teenager too, but I did go through my twenties buying mainly new things as we climbed up the career ladder, then got our first house, had our children etc.

I’ve just read George Monbiot’s article ‘Let’s stop hiding behind recycling and be honest about consumption’ and he says “on 24 April, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue. I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?”

In the local paper today, there’s a piece about a family in Axminster who lost nearly everything in a house fire a couple of weeks ago. There’s a photo of them looking quite happy to be alive and a photo of the charred ruins of their family home. I remember reading about the fire there when it happened and thinking how they all left their house in the morning, a home full of things of sentimental value they’d accrued over their lifetimes – to return at the end of the day to find everything they own had gone literally in a puff (or two) of smoke. I had a similar experience at the age of 17 when my family was made homeless, and all I took with me was what I could stuff into a small bag in a hurry. Luckily I was able to go back a few weeks later and pick up a few more things which meant something to me. By that time, I’d changed my mind about what was important anyway but unlike the family from the fire, I did manage to get my childhood teddy bear, photos and precious books etc, most of which I’ve carted round the country until this day.

I would love to hear your comments, your ideas and views – are you making a conscious effort about what to buy and what not to buy? What things are important to you in your life?

6 Replies to “To consume or not consume…”

  1. About three years ago I gave away my television set and have felt increasingly liberated ever since.
    Now, if I could just convince friends and aquaintances to communicate with me by writing letters, telephone (landline) or just walking in through my ever-open front door, I could get rid of that other time waster; the computer!

  2. I think you and your family to a great job of fighting against consumerism Sharon. We are no where near as good as you but we do try to get as much as we can second hand. It’s really hard to get the children to understand that’s it not all about stuff, but I think if you stick at it then eventually it rubs off on them.

    Keira really loved the Mexican Gods Eye Natasha made her for her birthday. She actually said “the Paveys always send us lovely things for our birthdays”. You can’t beat homemade!

    At the Green drinks we ran the other night there was a guy there who was quite radical about climate change. I think he frightened us a little with the things he said, but deep down we also knew he was right. We have to stop consuming. It’s really hard to do, that’s why we need radical policies to make us do it, waiting for people to change is taking too long.

    The film Trashed (http://www.trashedfilm.com) is really enlightening if you haven’t seen it yet.

    Keep up the good fight!

    Marieke

  3. I am outnumbered. By 2050 there will be 9 billion of my species all wanting to live the American Dream.
    This planet cannot sustain growth of this nature, even if we all adopt green practices it will not be enough, the population will continue to expand using up and destroying the remainder of arable land we have left with wildlife almost extinct.

  4. A sustainable approach is for every new item into the home , something old has to go. By new that can mean secondhand, but the rule is one in, one out. And if the new can be AAA+++ efficient and high quality, then future replacement may be years away. We had to replace a washing machine recently and ended up buying an appliance which is guaranteed for 10 years, can be repaired locally, all parts are replaceable and is likely to last 20 years. It cost a lot more but will be worth it. Paula loves to declutter when there is a jumble sale or clothes swap coming up, so we are generally on a reducing trend!

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