This thought dawned on me while watching an interview in which Bill Gates talks about income and consumption. He mentioned if at all, he is to be ashamed of something, it would not be being rich or about his income but his consumption. He suggested the idea of progressively taxing consumption does make sense. It makes perfect sense to me as well but in a different perspective.
“Conscious consumption” is an important issue given the level of inequalities prevail in the world in terms of income, wealth, opportunities to even the food we eat every day.
The true and implied costs of wasting (or consuming without conscience) something is much higher than its price that we usually end up paying.
For example, the plastic bags cost nothing really but their effects on the environment and earth’s flora and fauna are enormous. It is also an important manifestation of the concept of conscious consumption. Hence, to discourage the use of plastic bags, several countries have either banned them completely or these are taxed heavily at the point of consumption which curtails their usage and in turn their production and saves precious resources that are needed in the manufacturing process.
Why conscious consumption?
Everything in the world has a price tag and anything from a small pin to an Airbus 380 super jumbo, need some inputs to manufacture and resources as most of them had already become scarce or going to in the near future. Hence, being conscious about one’s consumption ensures that the utilization of resources to make things we consume are justified and the efforts and investments are duly respected.
It does not necessarily mean austerity nor it means being frugal or refraining completely from spending. It means being true to one’s conscience because none else in the world has any right to speak about anyone’s consumption other than his/her own conscience.
It is exactly what I think, Bill Gates meant to convey through his words.
But before discussing further, answering the following questions might reveal whether or not you are conscious about your consumption. Definitely, there are no right or wrong answers but these can help understand the enormity and importance of the issue of why being a conscious consumer makes sense and how to be one.
- buying a new shirt or trouser on a window shopping spree, do you think for a moment about the clothes in your wardrobe you haven’t worn for a long time?
- upgrading yourself to an Audi, do you think is there something really problematic with your existing car that cannot be repaired?
- being tempted to go on binge-shopping, do you think for a while “do I really need this?” OR “do I need to buy this NOW?”
- stockpiling something that you may hardly use just because that is advertised as “Once in a life time offer”, must-buys, clearance sale, or closing sale.
- being enticed into buying something (e.g. shoes) simply because you always wanted to have it and is advertised at an enticing 50% off but you already have many lying untouched?
When was the last time you
- repaired your shoe for a small tear even if you can very easily throw it away and get a new one?
- resisted the temptation to dump your newly bought phone for another newest model that is just released?
- wore a shirt for another day because you did not sweat much as it did not smell much and you felt comfortable with it (others too !!!)
- stood against the pressure from your peers to wait all night and sleep on the walkway in front of a store to buy a new model phone or shoe or clothing
- opted for an ordinary decent room instead of a suite when you know you would need one just to take a shower and check out to rush for meetings.
I always wondered how people in the history of mankind used to using golden closets in toilets, golden pistols and cutlery or a few thousand pairs of shoes and I realize it is their false mental predisposition and their inability to resist their psychological craving to flaunt what they have as status symbols.
Just to give a perspective, being an agribusiness professional, I go emotionally berserk over the fact that globally billions of tons of food get wasted while billions go hungry. Nearly a third of all food produced in the world does not end up consumed.
(The next part in this series will discuss specifically about food and the ideology of conscious consumption).