Sustainability : Needs, Possession and Sharing

The Story of Stuff video that I mentioned in my last post talks about how consumption was pretty much engineered to keep the ever higher production capacities going. It mentions that 99% of all stuff produced in the US gets discarded within 6 months! People are egged to buy, buy more and keep buying by messages that communicated the strategies of planned and perceived obsolescence to consumers.

Need ?

Some words thrown in this mix of marketing, messaging are cool, need, efficient, faster, cheaper, savings. Its either a sense of comparison with the rest of the world around you, and often a false sense of missing out on something thats started to define even what used to be basic “needs”.

Brushes that tell you they’re due for a change. Phones which are so out of date in year that you have not even used a small fraction of its features, but that new one is so much sleeker. Cars which drive perfectly alright, but hey we’re not keeping parts available beyond 2010.

Water ? Yes, even good old h2o has gone aspirational with major lifestyle water brands!


Even worse is stuff that we use maybe a couple of weeks in a year, but each of us must have!

We have a ladder at home that’s needed once is a while. A couple of people asked how much it was, etc, and I suggested they could use ours since we didn’t need it at that point. It now gets circulated a lot within our apartment complex and its saved a lot of people a lot of space, money and all of us a lot of needless products sold!

Sharing is a simple tool that will work for a lot many things like it worked for the ladder!

Kids, for instance, see a lot of toys with their friends, and there’s an immediate follow-up at home with a demand that the same be mad available. Parents, especially those with busy schedules and decent disposable incomes, by and large give in to “not deny my kids simple pleasures”. The alternative, which a few parents around where we live have started practicing, is to encourage kids to interact, and share whatever they have. Not only does it avoid unnecessary purchases (have you seen the number of toys that just live inside boxes and under beds once they’re brought home?) – but also helps social interaction, negotiation skills, and a respect for valuation of considered needs and desires over every impulse to own this and have that.

What else can we share ?

Carpooling is a form of sharing as well. Taking a bus is sharing-nirvana!

I remember a whole bunch of us sitting around our neighbour’s TV set during major cricket series when we were kids. It was actually a whole lot more fun than watching the matches alone, as is the norm now. Hand-me-downs still keep my daughter’s wardrobe quite fresh and there’s a minor freecycling movement of sorts in our apartment around kids prams, cots, clothes, shoes, etc!

Its sometimes economics that forces these choices. But I have increasingly felt a need for these choices driving our economics. Built it around services that work for sustainability, and not consumption.


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