“I’ll buy that.”
“Do you actually need it?”
“Well, it’s pretty handy. It doesn’t cost much anyway.”
Let’s face it. We’ve all said that before. But what does our consumption really cost us?
A thing costs what we pay for it. The key indicator for consumption is therefore the monetary value in Euros. We know these costs. But we only know one side of consumerism.
It’s about the other side. A change of perspective for those interested in minimalism and for minimalists. The point is, that costs are more than money and how to quantify the consumption of material things. The six other costs of our “stuff”.
1. The costs of the environment
Just as we and/or our children have to pay the national debt at some point in time, we also have to pay the costs for the environment. Probably even much earlier than we think. And in some parts of the world, the population already has to pay the price for our consumption, e. g. in the form of droughts and thus famines or in the form of air pollution and thus health risks.
Any product has begun its life from the earth, whether it is wood from a forest, metal from a mine or plastic from an oil source, somewhere in the world. These resources extracted from our mother earth remain taken away forever. And someday we’ll miss them.
The best thing for the environment is to 1) Renunciation 2) The less, the better. 3) If it is really needed, pay attention to seals in the sense of a more sustainable production.
2. The costs of “added value”
How much does an apple puree cost? The usual answer is 1,50 Euro.
Another answer is about 2-3 hours of work: picking apples, washing, cutting them into small pieces, boiling them soft, tasting them, disinfect the glasses with boiling water and filling them with apple puree.
Due to globalization and the constant availability of almost everything, we are losing consciousness for the value adding process. With everything we buy, other companies have dealt with – to do it well. Rarely does a company do everything. After all the components of the product have been brought together and assembled from different locations, it is transported to our shop where we pick it up or have it sent to us again. What is for some – the employees of the manufacturing companies – their work, is for us only “a product”.
But if this product is our apple puree, which we have produced ourselves in laborious work, we appreciate it much more. We should therefore consider before every purchase who made this thing where and how hard it was made, before we buy it carelessly (without really needing it).
3. The costs of storage
We’ve been dragging our feet around this for a long time. We don’t feel like it, but leaving it undone burdens us. Because when it’s done, we feel much better. Don’t get so cramped. What am I talking about: Cleaning out.
It is somewhat ironic that we feel more comfortable in a ransacked apartment, but we have to buy new things for which we have to use the free space again.
Once the item has been bought, our perception stabs us in the back: The old “it’s already quite full here”, the new “well, we still have some storage space”, because after all we were able to accommodate the new item. And then the way is clear for us to go on step by step filling up again.
4. The costs of wanting more
If the purchased items break down, we have to buy a replacement – even if we never really needed it.
At some point, we believe that what we bought back then was good enough, but not anymore. Maybe someone we know has a better model and is “fully satisfied with it”, “can recommend it to everyone”. Or there is an “important” addition. And already we go and buy it. We sell the old one “sustainably” at Ebay. And your conscience is clear.
One purchase becomes so many more purchases.
5. The costs of disposal
We cannot always give the old things a second life and extend the life cycle by passing it on or selling it. If we don’t keep it, it will end up in the trash.
In 2013, every German left behind a mountain of waste of 453 kg per capita. However, the recycling rate is only 66.4%. The rest is being burned. Furthermore, recycling does not mean that it can become the same product again. For example, a plastic bottle becomes a fleece sweater. If it is then no longer needed and properly disposed of, it may become a rag until this rag is burnt.
As long as we have not yet achieved a recycling economy in which the raw materials can be recovered from our discarded products in order to (at least for the most part) be re-established, immense costs are incurred here.
6. The costs of dependency
If we don’t know what is important to us in life, e. g. spending time with family, friends, moving, reading books or acting sensibly, we can never be happy.
We try to close this ignorance with the purchase of material things which we find great. Buying them gives us a positive feeling, a satisfaction. Without it, we’re missing something. We’re becoming addicted to our stuff, our possessions.
Our stuff possesses us and our satisfaction. Is that what we want?
Are the best things in life really things we can buy?
Artikelbild: Unsplash, Jeff Sheldon