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Consumption: Expecting Less and Being Bold

January 16, 2013

Natural Soap

I’m not saying I don’t clean myself, walking around dirty and smelly in the name of sustainability, but showering everyday is excessive. It’s also one of the Seven Daily Sins outlined by the UK Daily Mail. Daily hot water mixed with heavy washing rids natural oils and terribly dries out skin. What’s more, it’s dangerous to use chemical laden products on our skin, the largest organ of the body.

While the benefits of skipping a shower here and there are apparent, reducing consumption habits in all aspects of life reach beyond personal health, benefiting wealth, purpose, reduced fossil fuel reliance, decreased CO2 levels and a giant step toward resilient living in sustainable fashion.

Expected Action versus Latent Benefit

E-CommerceNot scrubbing our bodies with copious suds everyday does not jeopardize hygiene, but there is an expectation to do so created by society. If we don’t, we may get funny looks, and nobody wants to get a funny look for skipping a shower.

A funny look, however, is an immediate response linked to expected action, where despite exceeding prominence, latent benefits of showering less are overseen because they are not immediate. Similarly, our behavioral patters as a whole are influenced more by what actions are expected rather than what provides the greatest benefit in the mid to long-term. 

In Perspective

Following the shower analogy, being bold and courageous is demonstrated by doing what’s best for your body and the environment by not showering everyday and saving water and energy. In a wider perspective, being bold and courageous consists of similarly taking bold and courageous steps guided by your individual values and knowledge toward enhancing the overall health, wealth and happiness of your own life that simultaneously benefit Independent Actionall people and the planet through subtle, slow to come results.

As with complex, wicked problems like climate change and consumption, things are not black and white. The grey area includes small steps. With showering, for instance, shorter and cooler showers, less soap, natural and organic shower products and awareness are a few ways to take small, significant steps.

Major issues facing the world today wholly benefit from citizen action no matter how big or how small. Maneuvering through the area of grey makes substantial ripples. Doing what you can and being aware of what you can implement in your life makes a profound splash in the sea of change as collective expectations towards lower levels of consumption on all fronts come to the fore.

A Culture That Collectively Consumes Less

What you can do is take action to change what actions are expected by society. Don’t be afraid to break expectation. Often being different stands out, and standing out is contagious. This is how trends take root.

Whatever you do, it’s likely that others feel the same way and will commend you for your action. In turn, you’ll inspire and welcome others to also act against traditional expectation and create a culture of new found actions supporting less consumption.

Don't Buy EverythingConsumption itself cannot be approached as a problem to be solved. It’s too complex and too socially integrated. If you, we, want to decrease consumption, to save money, preserve resources and discover more meaningful behavioral habits in life, we need to alter our expectations and endure with patience to give sustainable collective change a chance.

Since many find showering produces particularly inspirational thought, next time you are in the think-tub, give a thought to what actions are associated with high levels of consumption that you could adjust in your life.

I’m interested to find out what traditional expectations we can potentially rebel against to initiate progressive action. It’s difficult to objectively perceive what actions are expected by society and how they affect your life in the greater context, but give it a shot and share any revelations.

Whether it’s being crafty to create something yourself, buy second hand, have your own garden, use renewable energy, shop local, eat less processed, packaged, transported and factory farmed food, how to proactively vote with your dollars, how to better use technology or prospective innovative inventions and initiatives, the ideas and potential are boundless! All will benefit from the insight and there are no wrong answers. So, what are you expected to consume?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2013 4:20 am

    “Since many find showering produces particularly inspirational thought”
    Actually, when I shower, I usually think about how much water I’m using!

    Having said that, I completely agree with what your are saying in your post. And I am doing my best to get my students (grades 7 and 8) to think about what they consume. It makes for some interesting conversations!

    • January 24, 2013 11:31 am

      It’s good to be aware of your water use, but maybe you could cut back on frequency and/or use less hot water to conserve water and energy to allow yourself to shower free of worry. Not trying to tell you what to do! But think it’s important to do what we can and keep stress in check.

      On another note, exploring consumption with your students must be so interesting! I’d love to hear how they view the matter. Also, not sure where you’re located, but there is a great organization called CELF based in Brooklyn, NY that works to integrate sustainable awareness in schools that you may find interest in. Thanks for reading and dropping a note.

      • January 24, 2013 8:12 pm

        Thanks for the idea. I am actually in Prince Edward Island (Canada). But still, we technology today, maybe I can get some info from CELF. I’ll take a look.
        As for the consumption talk in my classes, it is quite interesting. Especially with my grade 7 class! It is probably a combination of their ignorance (and I mean that is “lack of knowledge” sense) and their honesty. They can do the math and see that the choices they make have consequences. It’s a great age to start talking about that stuff. In fact, in my experience, you can start even younger.

      • January 24, 2013 9:20 pm

        I agree – the younger the better! But it sounds like a fitting age to engage them. It’s great your spreading knowledge and awareness to the youth in Prince Edward Island. Keep up the good work.

  2. Alex Jones permalink
    January 28, 2013 12:58 pm

    I have a challenge of one sustainable action a day, where reducing consumption is one of my goals. Interestingly reducing calories eaten per day is a good way to reduce consumption, and apparently adds years to an individuals lifespan.

    • January 28, 2013 1:27 pm

      I love your challenge and inspirational actions. That is certainly a positive one for people and planet. To up it, focus on whole foods and more locally produced products, which I’m sure you do! Thanks for the insight, Alex.

  3. February 26, 2013 6:27 am

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the most useful sites on the internet.
    I’m going to recommend this site!

  4. March 4, 2013 4:46 pm

    I heard a panel discussion last week that included the CEO’s of Patagonia (the textile manufacturer) and Levi Strauss. They emphasized not washing your jeans or jackets with each use. Water has a huge carbon footprint resulting from all of the pumping, heating and treatment. In California where I’m from, California Water Service is the largest electric customer in the state.

    I’ve worked for years to consume less to the point where it’s become a neurosis. Starting with not taking bags from retail shops, to reusing anything I can. We live in such a rich society, that almost anything one needs can be pulled out of a dumpster somewhere, and if not can certainly be picked up second hand in good condition.

    Unfortunately, were everyone to adopt my living habits, our economy would collapse within a month, so structural change is needed along with changes to our habits.

    On being bold and courageous, your comments reminded me of the gay rights movement in the 70’s and 80’s. Then as now, one of the main thrusts of the movement was to get every but every person who is gay to come out of the closet. The idea was to get the general population to realize that gay people are all around us, representing every sort of person, even people like you, thereby reducing peoples’ prejudices. It worked, and now we can not only ask and tell, but are on the verge of achieving true equal rights as citizens.

    So come out of the closet with your reduced consumption habits. The funny looks will go away after a decade or so and maybe a court case or two. Cudos to you for promoting this important tactic in the fight against consumerism.

    • March 5, 2013 2:54 pm

      Hi, there. Patagonia is a great company. Recently they launched a “don’t buy our products” campaign, and in the long run I believe their sales went up – but they are a conscious company.

      Your efforts to live with sustainably resourceful tactics in an abundant world are spot on, and it is refreshing that you see and voice the greater contextual landscape, where if everyone were to do it, the economy would collapse – not meaning it isn’t possible, just that there requires restructuring that takes bold movement, divestment in the current paradigm and some struggle before the fruits can be gleaned.

      Thanks for the words! Look forward to hearing about urban planning/garden design and seeing you around.

      • March 5, 2013 7:50 pm

        Not to veer the conversation off topic, but if you’d like to read a great, easy-to-read book about a company doing its best to be sustainable (environmentally and socially), I strongly recommend “Let My People Go Surfing” by the creator of Patagonia.
        And, another great example of a “conscious company” is Interface. It is worth visiting their website!

      • March 6, 2013 3:31 pm

        Totally. Definitely recommend Yvon’s book. Thanks for adding it to the conversation.

      • March 6, 2013 7:09 pm

        My pleasure!

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