Materialism is a key factor influencing waste worldwide. To understand the materialistic concept, we must first look at standard of living. A standard of living is not an easy thing to measure as it is more about the perception of the life the individual has. The higher the standard of living the higher the perceived quality of life there is. When materialists experience dissatisfaction in life from non-material things, they tend to turn to material things to cope. Their goals turn from a need basis to a “I feel I deserved this” basis. Much of the ideals that materialists experience are related to their relationships and social expectations they experience. Material can mean things like wealth, status, and make or break a relationship for them. If someone has more possessions, it is seen that they have more money or a better life than another individual. This leads to over-consumption as others try to exude their status to compete with the one above them.
If we are in this vicious cycle of buying things, how do we know when to stop? Well, we don’t. We go, go, go, until we get to the top and then what? Ride it out? Spend more money? Buy more things to “make us happy?” Research has shown that no matter how many possessions you have, money you make, and how big of a house you have, your quality of life may be worse than a person living in a hut in the middle of a dessert. There are so many things we try to cover ourselves in: food, jewelry, fancy clothes. But those all have a much greater cost, an environmental cost and a mental cost. Not only are you draining your bank account, you are depleting the earth’s resources, and depleting your mental state.
Every impulse buy is one strike against Mother Nature. You don’t need that product, what you really need are relationships. You need a network of support and a reason to live rather than for status, wealth, or beauty. 20 tons of waste is produces per ounce of gold causing water, soil, and air pollution. Are those earrings worth harming the ecosystem? Is your perceived misfortune the reason our capitalist economies decide to keep selling us things we don’t need to be happy?
People across the globe are living on no money to millions of dollars. To compare a person making nothing to a person making a million dollars, you will see distinct differences in clothing, appearance, and hygiene. What you won’t see is the quality of their life. The person with no money may be the happiest person on the planet and has nothing to show but his attitude. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly buys us more trash. From small to large, purchases made globally eventually end up in landfills to sit and decay for centuries. Whole livelihoods are built around making things for consumers from factories to facilities where people can search out enjoyment. What if the solution to this waste was not to find sustainable material for the product, rather find a sustainable mind set change? Go from a place of needing things to finding solace in a peaceful walk or talking to a friend. Imagine to depth of changes that would be made if it was that simple to change a mindset from “I need” to “I have all I need.”
Live simply. The key point I am trying to get across from my quaint life is that you don’t need to surround yourself with things. You don’t need 20 pairs of shoes to be happy, you may only need two to play a crucial role in your life. Living simply is shifting your mindset from I want this and this and this to…I can live with just this and this is all I need.
See, once you get rid of the things, you leave yourself open to feel what is happening. You open your mind as you discover that if you buy less food, you feel better, if you watch less TV, you have more time to read, think, and dream. When you have that time to dream, there is no telling where your story will end.
Sirgy, M.J. Social Indicators Research (1998) 43: 227. doi:10.1023/A:1006820429653