Shop less, drive less, save your sanity and save the world
Lock- down saved us time and money (if we had work)
How many of you have hardly spent anything during lock-down apart from on food?
So many people I have spoken to have told me how much money they have saved, how little they have spent and how they have realised that most of what they bought before, was a waste. So many people spoke about how they loved driving less and saving all that money they would have spent on fuel. So many people have told me they liked the extra time they have from not commuting or driving. The survey I did on 9th May has some of these findings is here.
And yet, here we are, back to it again; the queues outside Primark, the scenes on the beaches.
I remember reading an article while we were still in lock-down, how exactly this would happen. How we would be sold a story that everything was OK and how there would be huge pressure on us to get out and spend again. Here’s the article and it reads as nothing short of prophecy.
If we shopped less, bought less, we would have more time.
Because we wouldn’t spend all that time in the shops, or driving there.
We wouldn’t have to work so hard to earn money, to spend it on things we realised in lock-down we didn’t really need.
If we stopped shopping we would stop exploiting the sweat-shop workers, the zero hour contracts which keep so many people, disproportionately women, in poverty.
We would stop the steady flow of ‘disposable’ clothes and commodities to landfill.
If we shopped less, there would be fewer lorries on the roads, less diesel in the air, less oil drilled from the ground.
The air we breathed would be cleaner as lock-down showed us.
If we shopped less we would stop making profit for corporations and start looking after our own health.
Because so often shopping is linked to looking better, ‘feeling’ better, to impress others, to look the right way, to fit in. I am aware of the mental health issues of lock-down and isolation but we were not mentally healthy before. Parents were working all hours, not seeing their kids, were stressed and absent. Lock-down brought us home again.
Gabor Mate’s work conclusively shows how stressed parents lead to stressed kids, and they were. Fear of missing out, fear of looking right, fear of not having the latest iphone, pods, games, shoes. Work hard at school to pass exams to get a good job so you can ….what? Have money, so you can spend it? On what? For what? Compulsive eating, scrolling, shopping, working. These are not signs of health.
I volunteered in hospices years ago, no one dies wishing they had bought more, driven more, spent more.
Oh but the economy!
Of course this is the story, the story of the economy, that if we don’t get out and drive to the shops and spend, spend, spend, that we will bring down the economy and people will lose jobs. Let’s be clear, the economy makes money for corporations who yes do pay people, but keep most of the money for a few. The richest 10% of households now represent 70% of all U.S. wealth. The richest 1 percent [in the US] now owns more of the country’s wealth than at any time in the past 50 years
The most vulnerable people during lock-down were often the people who were working in retail and hospitality on zero hour contracts with no security. Going back to shopping will not stop them being exploited or give them any more security.
ESG (environmental, social and governance) ratings show us how some of the most profitable companies are those who are the most exploitative. in 2012 figures showed Walmart who own Asda have a social score of 1/100 because of how they treat workers. Oracle, the tech giants only score 2/100 on their social score, again, for the way they exploit workers. Skechers the shoe company score 2/100 for their governance (directors being paid loads without transparent accounting) and 1/100 on the social indicators for not having workplace safety policies.
Let us not kid ourselves that when we shop in the big stores, that we are being doing some kind of social good.
If we all shopped less we would be extracting less from our earth. The oil industry has shrunk partly from the grounded flights and garaged cars. Plastics and many cosmetics are made with the by-products of oil. We know the state of the environmental crisis, and shopping and driving are part of the machinery which are slowly poisoning the earth which we need to be alive.
Do it differently
Buy second hand.
Buy locally from independent producers and outlets so you are supporting your local community and driving less.
Buy as near to the source as you can. Buy eggs from the people who produce them, strawberries from the local farm. Not only would this ensure you know where your food is coming from (at a time when we are importing sub-standard food from abroad), but you would also help your local producers get a fair wage for their skills.
Walk to the shops. Not only will you get fitter, save on fuel and pollution, but you will only buy what you can carry, what you really need.
Make more yourself. Bake, cook, bottle, jam. We all did it more in lock-down because we had more time, but if we needed less money, we could work less so we would have more time.
Swop. I used to swop child care for logs. I have too many plumbs, my neighbour had too many tomatoes. Swop and build community and avoid waste.
Instead of going for a day out shopping, go for a walk from your house.
We know how the world is, but often chose not to see how our individual actions can have any impact. The environmental crisis can seem distant and overwhelming, the social injustices and poverty gaps seem beyond our control and so we go into paralysis and do what we have always done. There is so much uncertainty at this time it is tempting to cling to old habits and old structures but systems thinking can really help us navigate this:
‘There are consequences to our actions that we are oblivious to…..By understanding and changing structures that are not serving us well (including our mental models and perceptions), we can expand the choices available to us and create more satisfying, long-term solutions to chronic problems.
In general, a systems thinking perspective requires curiosity, clarity, compassion, choice, and courage. This approach includes the willingness to see a situation more fully, to recognize that we are interrelated, to acknowledge that there are often multiple interventions to a problem, and to champion interventions that may not be popular ‘ (article here)
We know in our hearts of hearts that the current systems and structures are not serving the world or us. They may be growing economic wealth and social opportunity for some, but are leaving many behind whilst paying no attention to our relational, mental, emotional, physical, social, environmental growth and health.
There are other measures we could be using such as Gross National Happiness rather than just gross national product. Imagine if we lived in a world where the measures below were what we focused on growing.
● Psychological Well-Being: optimism, senses of purpose and of accomplishment;
● Health: energy level and ability to perform everyday activities;
● Time Balance: enjoyment, feeling rushed, and sense of leisure;
● Community: sense of belonging, volunteerism, and sense of safety;
● Social Support: satisfaction with friends and family, feeling loved, and feeling lonely;
● Education, Arts, and Culture: access to cultural and educational events and
● Environment: access to nature, pollution, and conservation;
● Governance: trust in government, sense of corruption, and competency;
● Material Well-Being: financial security and meeting basic needs; and
● Work: compensation, autonomy, and productivity. (Happiness Alliance, 2014c) https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1131&context=jsc
Imagine a world where everyone has enough of what they need, where the environment is reviving and is sustaining itself and us for generations hence, where you live in a peaceful community where you feel you belong, where you have enough time to spend with the people you love and where you felt content. Now imagine how much money would be saved on medications, law enforcement, mental health. Imagine a world where children grow up feeling like they are enough, that they have enough, that they are loved and secure. Imagine how those children might grow up to be in the world. Just imagine.
Systems theory shows that although it might not feeling like avoiding going shopping is going to save the world and your own well-being, every action is inter-related and has un-predicted outcomes.
We do know how the world used to be pre-covid. We don’t know how it could be. But living with ‘clarity, compassion, choice and courage’ for me means becoming every more conscious of the consequences of my choices. One way I am doing this is to ask ‘What is this action growing? What is it diminishing?‘ If it is just growing my wardrobe of clothes it is shrinking my bank account which means I have to work harder to re-fill it, so I have less time with my kids so my relationship with them diminishes and if I work harder, I am outside less so my health diminishes. See how it works?
If I swop apples for a hair cut locally I have diminished my time in a car, the cost of fuel, the pollution of the atmosphere, global warming and I have grown my bank account, my time in nature collecting the apples, my social relationships locally, my sense of belonging and community.
So I offer you those two questions as we navigate out of lock-down. We have a choice to think for our-self about the measures we will use to live our best lives. See where they lead you.
- What is this action growing, nurturing, supporting, allowing?
- What is this action diminishing, eroding, destroying, threatening?
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