What is Covid-19 Teaching Us About How We Buy?

As I have studied and tried to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, my mind has often turned to our need for possessions and how they are related to what we buy, where we buy and how much we buy.

How often do we stop and think about why we are buying something?  Do we think about how many resources it has taken to create the product? Do we think about where the materials are from, where it’s manufactured and how far it has travelled to get to us? Do we think about what will happen to it when we are either tired of it, can no longer use it or it is damaged beyond repair?

Here is what David Suzuki had to say in his post on March 27, 2020. If we could take a different path from our current one — in which more, bigger and newer seem to drive our purchases, wherein the idea of consumption for the sake of the economy and the impossible dream that endless growth is both possible and necessary for progress — we might move toward a very different future.  In this moment of crisis, we should be asking what an economy is for, whether there are limits, how much is enough and whether we are happier with all this stuff.” (https://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/the-nature-of-things/the-covid-19-pandemic-may-be-an-opportunity-to-transform-the-way-we-live-1.5512241)

I wish I could have articulated my thoughts on consumption as eloquently as that! I understand that consumption of goods is part of how the economy is maintained.  Because I am not an economist, by any stretch of the imagination, I have no idea what the alternative looks like but there must be one.  I am not suggesting that you stop buying things altogether because, of course, if we all did that the economy would collapse. But, to David’s point, perhaps this pandemic is an opportunity for us to question our habits and to question those who are providing our products.

Maybe we should ask the next time we purchase a new chair how it got to us?  It is highly possible that the wood came from a Canadian tree but was then shipped to another country to be manufactured because it costs less. Then it had to be shipped back to Canada for us to purchase it.  The same could be true of the seafood you order at your local restaurant.  That fish may well have been caught in the Atlantic Ocean. It was then most likely shipped to China for processing and packaging, shipped to Canada, and sold to the restaurant where it finally ended up on your plate.

Imagine, if you will, how detrimental that whole cycle is for the environment and how it increases our reliance on moving resources around the world to create a product.  Should we be questioning, maybe even demanding, that our goods are produced right here in Canada. Wouldn’t that help to build a more sustainable economy that could more easily survive the next pandemic? Yes, I know those goods would cost more.  However, if we are purchasing less, then maybe we can afford to pay a little more.

14 comments

  1. Right on, Jane! Ensuring that when we BUY LOCAL, products are not just from local stores, but are actually made, manufactured and produced right here in Canada.

  2. Buy less, and pay more for local – great logic, Jane! A really interesting blog, thanks.

  3. With the current situation in our world, I am buying less. I really don’t have the need to make purchases. Though I like your thought process. Buying local, handmade or home cooked seems to be a very important way to go.

    1. Thank you for reading my blog Ronni. I hope we will all make our way forward when things return to “normal” in a new way.

  4. This is a lot of what I think minimalism is all about. Purchasing what you need, focusing on quality over quantity and buying local. I would love to move towards this way of life. I think it would be a much better way of life.

    1. I totally agree with you Janet. I have adopted a much more minimalist lifestyle over the last two years since downsizing. It is very freeing and I think much better for the local economy and the environment. However, as a result of the pandemic I am much more aware of where my purchases come from.

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