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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Not so plastic fantastic

Eight broken 'clam' pools, three kid's potty's, and countless pieces of water-swelled furniture are just some of the things I noticed on the nature strips of my neighborhood while out walking this morning. Each day the piles grow larger in anticipation of the council hard-rubbish collection, which happens each Spring in metropolitan Melbourne. They grow smaller too, thanks to opportunistic folk like us who cast a discerning eye over other peoples castoffs in search of something worth nabbing (a potty has been on our shopping list!).

I find I'm equal parts horrified and excited when hard-rubbish season rolls around: it's the ugly underbelly of mindless consumption en masse, where the spoils of planned obsolescence are in plain sight for all to see. The trouble is, we don't really see it for what it is. The broken printers, cheap plastic, unfashionable gadgets which were once so shiny, new and coveted, are simply replaced by more shiny, new and coveted things and so the cycle continues. 

October is Buy Nothing New Month and i'm sure it's no accident that it coincides with hard rubbish collection in many municipal councils. Keeping things out of landfill and giving them a new life is one of the great joys of hard rubbish season, I'd just love to see more conscious awareness of our consumption habits in the first place - Australians spend over $10 billion each year on goods we never use, clothes we never wear and food we never eat.

Often, mindless consumption happens because we're looking to fill a void in our lives and so we plug that void with material things. Marketing tells us that our self-worth is tied to doing or having stuff. It's all around us, and even if we're aware, it's challenging to detach from this way of thinking because in Western culture today most of us have been inoculated into a materialist consumption mindset from early childhood. 

The 1999 film Fight Club is a confronting example of the excesses of materialist consumption and this quote from the film, while bleak, sums things up pretty well I think:

"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes. working jobs we hate, so we can buy shit we don't need." Tyler Durden, Fight Club 
So what to do? Get in touch with your true values, ask yourself if you really need or desire that next thing on your wish list, bring awareness to your spending and look to buy secondhand or borrow from a friend. Most of us have too much stuff, cluttering our homes and our minds (me included!)
"I make purchasing decisions with conscious awareness, understanding that my happiness depends on the work I do on my internal Self, not on the things I acquire."

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