Shopping from communities of ethical and sustainable sellers is one of the best ways to start living in a more sustainable way.
Amongst the countless complex issues that need to be solved in the face of the climate crisis, the nature of how we buy things is one of the most important. The wasteful and environmentally damaging practices of mass-manufactured, fast paced consumerism simply cannot be allowed to continue.
However, that doesn’t in any way mean that we have to do away with shopping entirely. Our creativity is one of our greatest traits, and we should be able to buy beautiful things to decorate our lives with, as it is both an expression of our own creativity and a celebration of other peoples’.
However, the way that the biggest companies in commerce conduct themselves has cast a dark shadow over that fact, and needs to be put to rights. Luckily, there is an almost absurdly straightforward way to buy and sell in a more sustainable way – placing communities and small businesses back at the centre of shopping.
This is the key to nurturing a more sustainable form of world economy; downscaling, localising, and making consumerism more cyclical. Hugely destructive forms of commerce, such as fast fashion [link to other blog], are so devastating because of their gargantuan, open ended, top-down approach. Like a polluted river, products flow from sordid factories in the developing world, along lengthy supply chains to the shops where they’re sold for a low price, before they degrade and need to be thrown away, ad infinitum.
There is a better way, and it doesn’t mean giving up on all the luxuries of modern life and heading off into the woods to live off the land. All that we need to do is elevate community to play a bigger role in the process of buying and selling. This isn’t a novel idea at any rate; if you get things from places like Olio or Depop, or buy from the small businesses in your area then you’re already onto a winner, as these types of shopping centre around a community. Whether it’s buying and selling between people in an online community or purchasing things from people in your actual community, those items have likely travelled only a short distance, plus ethical and sustainable production is much more likely to be the standard.
Things tend to be handmade, are of a much higher quality, and, lets be honest, it’s unlikely that Sarah who runs the organic clothing shop is exploiting workers in Asia or decimating habitats. If you outgrow those clothes or fancy a change-up, don’t throw them away, but pass them on to someone else, either by selling them online or giving them away. By placing community, and particularly small businesses, at the centre of a model of consumerism, sustainability becomes an organic by-product.
Living smaller does not have mean reducing the quality of your way of life, but should instead be considered as choosing smaller; choosing smaller businesses to buy from, choosing smaller distances that your items need to travel, choosing items with a smaller environmental impact.
Choosing smaller puts the celebration of creativity back at the centre of the shopping experience, because who wants to feel guilty about the things that makes their life beautiful?