America’s DNA is made up of buying stuff.
It’s A tradition that really took root near the end of World War IIThis was the time when the economy was thriving, and the market exploded full of products that Americans didn’t even want.
Even though the economy is suffering from a pandemic this year, holiday shopping is expected to exceed 2020 levels. All that spending results in 70% of our country’s GDP being consumed. However, it is also causing very real environmental problems.
Let’s find out what the environmental costs can be and how we can limit the damage.
Counting the cost beyond what our bank accounts can afford
It is impossible to determine the true environmental cost of a product by simply looking at its physical material.
It is important to consider the entire process that brings that product to your door, from manufacturing through packaging to shipping and transport.
“You name it!” [an environmental problem]J.B. MacKinnon, a journalist who wrote about it, says “Consumerism drives it.” The Day the World Quits Shopping: How Ending Consumption Saves the Environment and Ourselves.
Mackinnon mentions the deforestation of toxic pollution, climate change and the extinctions of species as some of the many problems that are linked to our consumption.
He adds that consumer culture can have surprising effects on the environment. Mackinnon gives an example of how endangered North Atlantic right Whales are killed when they are struck by cargo ships transporting consumer goods.
Mackinnon stated that one whale conservationist told him that every time you click the ‘buy now” button on Amazon, you are helping to power up the ships that are threatening endangered whales off the east coast.
Companies also have a role
Mackinnon states that while consumer goods are an integral part of the economy, it is possible for companies not to overproduce or overconsume their products.
He believes that Patagonia and Levi’s are more sustainable brands than other apparel brands.
“Both of these companies are moving towards models in which the sale and recouping of secondhand products will make up a smaller portion of their model and the sale and reselling of their own products a larger portion of their model. They also plan to include the repair, maintenance, and alteration of their products in their income stream.”
These companies can increase the longevity of their products while also generating revenue for the economy by creating a system to repair, refurbish and resell their products.
Benefits of buying secondhand
Annaliese Griffin, an independent journalist, made it her personal mission not to buy new gifts. She wrote about this commitment in a New York Times op ed entitled How to Buy Nothing New This Holiday Season
Griffin found it predictable and unsatisfying to buy the hottest new item for her family.
She stated that “to not have that element of surprise or delight just felt like it was against the whole point of receiving gifts”
Griffin is not trying to be a burden on her family this holiday season. She says that her family has received more meaningful and thoughtful gifts because of this practice.
She and her husband frequently peruse the local thrift shop looking for special tokens of affection.
Griffin also recommends that you use online resale platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other similar sites to find people’s reclaimed treasures.
Secondhand shopping can reduce the carbon footprint of your seasonal shopping trips, since these items rarely need to travel long distances to reach you.
Griffin adds that secondhand gifts can help you keep the holidays affordable if you need more inspiration.
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