The Desire to Consume
Oh hello darling and welcome back to benpechey.com! August has always been full of joy throughout my life. I thought this month would be great to focus on desires and explore the things we all want in life.
To continue this month I wanted to explore the human desire to consume. This is not the first time I have explored this as a concept. I shared some choice words with you back in March 2019;
“We purchase things to receive instant gratification, we know it won’t last, but we don’t care. We are more likely to purchase things when we are low or upset. Science then says that things, in the long run, will not make us happier, as they will not make us like our life any more than we do already.
All the science and people who write about money, say that instead of buying things we should invest our money in experiences. Which does make sense, but we don’t all have £6000 for a kayaking holiday down the Amazon. So there is not that many life-changing experiences most people's wages can buy. Of course, we can all save, but that means months of waiting, and like many, I am very impatient."
I think what I wrote over two years ago still stands, but now more than ever I have a deeper concern with consumption. I am constantly reminded of the impact spending has on the climate around us.
More than ever before our economy relies on personal spending, and in the wealthier West we do the following things;
We buy 13 times as much as people in a poor country
We are using the planet’s natural resources at a rate 1.7 times faster than they can regenerate.
We order 50m tonnes of clothing each year!
Consumer spending has increased by 25% in the last Decade
Many of us engage in conspicuous consumption, which is buying things to show them off.
It is a hard one to unpick, and most of my business outputs kind of fall into all of these categories. I buy new clothes, I travel for work, I spend money that I earn (on things!) and I show you products weekly that many of you go on to buy!
Certain tactics can work to reduce the strain on this overburdened planet. We have seen the slow fashion movement gather speed and momentum - and now size and inclusivity is a priority I feel that there are a great number of options out there for more people.
This mirrors the economist Alfred Marshall who in 1890 wrote that “The world would go much better, if everyone would buy fewer and simple things, and would take trouble in selecting them for their real beauty . . . preferring to buy a few things made well by highly paid labour than many made badly by low paid labour” - clearly many of us need to consider altering the tactics we employ to discern a good purchase and consider the cost to the planet too.
Clothing is of course the main focus, but there is also a growing issue with fast homeware. Consumers are now looking to approach home decor in a similar way to clothing - looking at seasons and trends. Familiar names like Zara home, H&M home, Mango, Urban Outfitters, and Anthropologie (part of the URBN brands which includes UO) all offer affordable trend lead pieces to instantly update our homes, but at what cost?
In a similar way to fast fashion, the cheaper mass-produced items will be made in poor working conditions, with cheap labour meaning that the social impact is just as much of a problem. The items will also be made with materials and chemicals that will also affect and impact the planet. Wherever we turn, consumption is causing harm.
Yet to consume is to be human, and whilst I see no shifts in this, I do think we can all commit to scrutinising our desire to consume. When it comes to homeware, think beyond trends, and more about pieces we will keep for longer and treasure. Continue to explore slower more sustainable options when it comes to our wardrobes.
In all areas, beyond what I have discussed, when it comes to the damage our desire to consume is having on the planet we need to exercise control. Move away from haul culture, the need to always have new in our lives and engage less in conspicuous consumption.
I know this has left me a lot to think about, and I wish I had more answers for you, but as we move forward in a more conscious mindset, believe we can reverse some of the issues we have contributed to!
Thank you so much for joining me, as always, I love you lots like jelly tots, until next time, uh buh bye.
Info, and quotes taken from the Financial Times by John Gapper (Shop tactics — can we ever curb our desire to consume?)
Shot by Ruth Pechey