Buy less, love what you have more.
I can see how people could call me a hypocrite. I talk about how rampant consumerism and over-consumption is killing the planet, meanwhile I’m creating Doc’s Essential Gear Review for people to find just the right thing for that adventurous person in their life. But I really see these as two distinctly different things and I’ll tell you why.
In grad school I dated a French girl named Marie, who always dressed fashionably in clearly high quality clothing, which went so well with her thick French accent. I, on the other hand, was a poor grad student, so was doing most of my shopping at Ross. One day I asked her how she afforded such nice clothing.
“I only have a few articles of clothing. But I love each and every one of them. It’s hard for me to pick which one I want to wear most in the morning.”
This gave me pause as I reflected on my own daily routine of just trying to find something I want to wear at all! The reality for me was I wasn’t happy with what I had, so I would go buy something cheap from Ross. The initial rush would satisfy me, but it was never anything I was completely in love with, so it’d end up jammed in my closet with all the other clothing I didn’t really love. In the end, I probably spent more money on clothing than her, and the joy the clothing gave me was far less.
Years later, Marie and her girlfriend were translating books on sustainability from English to French. I asked them what the best thing an everyday person could do for the planet. They said, buy used clothing. I looked it up and the clothing industry is the second worst one for the planet, responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. Search the web for and you’ll discover how terrible our fashion industry is for the planet. In 2013 we produced 150 billion articles of clothing according to an Esquire article. Americans alone throw away 15 million tons of clothing, that’s an average of 80 pounds per person. To be clear, it’s not just about the CO2 emissions. It’s also about the water pollution, the miserable working conditions globally fast fashion perpetuates, and that the majority of the workers are women.
And it’s not just the fashion industry, we’ve moved to a throwaway culture. It’s cheaper to buy a new one than to fix the old. We need to have the latest technology in our homes, cars, pockets. And it’s not making us happier as Carolyn Gregoire points out in her Huffington Post article: The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy.
The part that really scares me is to think of the billions of people outside the United States just starting to aspire to this materialistic lifestyle. When I travel outside the United States I see our most pervasive export, culture. People around the world watch our movies, watch our TV and think that’s how it is in The United States and they want it. When my Swedish friends visited the United States for the first time last summer, they were shocked at how poor we are here. They thought we all lived like the people they see in movies and TV.
Meanwhile, in the United States, there are new trends emerging: sustainability, mindfulness, and the experience economy. This is where we’re headed, but unfortunately the rest of the world doesn’t see this. They’re still sitting down to dinner with the Kardashians and heading off to the mall the next day to chase the consumer’s dream, which we’re now realizing is a nightmare. This planet cannot sustain our current addiction to stuff, now imagine doubling, tripling the number of addicts.
So what’s the solution? The slow fashion movement says to do just what Marie taught me in grad school, buy less, love what you have more. And as an American, buy doing this you not only help the planet, but you’re being a good role model for the entire world.
For me, these days, I only acquire things I really love. In fact, I’m happiest when traveling the world with a single personal item sized bag (not even carry-on) knowing that everything I have with me is an essential piece of gear or garment to make it possible for me to thrive. These articles of clothing and gear are what I’ve selected to review in Doc’s Essential Gear Review.
So as we enter the holiday shopping season, get the good stuff for people. Get things people will love and will last. And if they’re like me and are perfectly content with what they have, then have them over for dinner and plan an adventure together.