Reflective Journal: Consumerism and Materialism-Part 1

Introduction:

For two weeks I have tracked my spending to help determine and understand my consumption habits and patterns. During this time I attempted to spend and consume as I normally do, but also pay attention to any sort of activity that may impact or prompt what I was purchase. Below are the “highlights” of what I noticed over this two week span!

October 15-28 “Spending Journal”:

Monday, October 15-Friday, October 19  &  Monday, October 22-Friday, October 26– Starbucks Coffee. Yes. Now that I type this it seems like a LOT of coffee trips! I’d like to put a few things into context about my Starbucks visits!

*I ALWAYS bring my reusable cup. No cup…no coffee!

*I realize that I do NOT need coffee from Starbucks. I’m just trying to be honest about by consumption!

*Although I realize that buying my coffee from a smaller, local place of business is better I do think Starbucks makes somewhat of an effort to social responsibility and sustainability

Monday, October 15– Acupuncture appointment. *Pre-purchased visit

Yoga *Pre-purchased classes

Wednesday, October 17– 90 minute Massage

Yoga *Pre-purchased classes

Friday, October 19– Yoga *Pre-purchased classes

Sobey’s- Supper groceries (brought my own bag!)

Outdoor furniture for the deck (balance that was owed). We ordered new furniture for our deck-all made from recycled milk jugs! Interested in learning more?! Check out the C.R. Plastic Products website

Sunday, October 21– Breakfast at a local Winnipeg restaurant

Yoga *Pre-purchased classes

Safeway- Weekly grocery run (again…no single use plastic bags used)

Monday, October 22– Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues game *Pre-purchased tickets

GO Jets GO!! (My girl Hudson is a Wheeler fan too!!)

Dinner at the Jets game *No single use cutlery used

Wednesday, October 24– Subway Lunch (no drink = no straw!)

When I do use a straw I make a conscious effort to use my own stainless steel straw. I love that it came with a little brush to clean it. I often carry it in my purse…just in case I need it!

Yoga *Pre-purchased classes

Thursday, October 25– Facial

Friday, October 26– Domino’s Pizza for supper

Saturday, October 27– Latte & Scone from my favourite local bakery

Sunday, October 28– Yoga fundraiser: “Holidays for the Homeless”. The proceeds from the 200 tickets sold will go to getting coffee, female hygiene products, toques and lunches for 500 people on December 21!! Everything from breakfast to attendance prizes to location for the event are donated. It’s a great cause run by local Winnipeg philanthropist Amy Tung (@i_am_love_project). The downfall…too much waste from the donated breakfast (plastic spoon, small portions of a variety food that come in single use containers and everything comes in an oversized paper bag).

Consuming without purchasing:

Now…besides merely spending I also consumed things that other people purchased for me. A friend purchased a coffee for me and I drank it…out of the single use cup. This hurt. My friend knows that I only drink from reusable cups. When I purchase coffee for her I bring her a reusable cup too! I know she purchased for me out of kindness, but all I could think about was that cup 🙁 It reminds me of this recent post I saw from the Plastic Tides instagram account (@plastictides). I’ve been really bothered by this because I have allowed myself to think about stand not just push it to the back of my mind. Something needs to be done about the amount of single use coffee cups that are used on a daily basis.

Things of note from my “spending journal”:

  • I pre-purchase Yoga classes because it is more cost effective. WELL it is more cost effective as long as I go regularly. My Yoga studio offers a variety of packages, but the one I use the best ‘deal’ as long as I go twice a week!
  • I pre-purchase acupuncture appointments too. The clinic offers a pay for 7 sessions and receive the 8th for free! Again-this package is ideal for those people who require many visits.
  • I spent money on services/experiences vs. ‘stuff’ (other than food)
  • I go to Starbucks for coffee because I enjoy drinking it the most. My regular Starbucks employees actually expect me to being my own cup since I do each time (like to the point the barista has noticed when I’ve brought in a different cup!). I also choose Starbucks because they have a good rewards program. For every 125 stars I earn, I receive a free menu item. To prompt more visits, Starbucks has BONUS star offers such as “Double Star Days”, “Menu Challenges” , discounts after 2:00, etc. To be honest, on “Double Star Days” I purchase a latte instead of a regular coffee…because I get more points! These promotions are sent via e-mail so I always feel “in the loop”. They work for me and I’m sure for millions of other people. It makes me think that I NEED that latte even though I understand that it is a total want. Starbucks advertising and rewards program has definitely worked on me!
  • I go to Yoga, massages and for facials all at different locations, but all are run by local Winnipeg women who are following their passion. I seek out small businesses and am loyal to these service providers because they love what they do and they go the extra step to get to know me. I don’t feel like a number at these places. That is important to me!
  • The furniture we purchased was chosen very carefully! We wanted to buy something that was manufactured in Canada and from a small store (versus a chain store). We have a relationship with this store owner and enjoy doing business with him. We saved for the furniture by doing a “52 week savings plan” (we put cash aside each week and spend it on items we really want). We were able to pay cash for the furniture because of our effort to save for these types of expenditures. What we chose was more expensive than other furniture that we had seen, but it is also made from recycled milk jugs (which we are pretty excited about), it is built to last and requires minimal upkeep (can be left out all winter). When you factor this all in-the cost makes sense! C.R. Plastic Products uses an environmental approach to sell their products. This is appealing to many people looking for a small way to make a difference. I do wish that the furniture didn’t have to come from Ontario and was produced in Winnipeg by the place we bought it from. Although, things coming from Ontario to Manitoba is a lot better than being shipped from half way around the world.
  • I don’t often go out for lunch. I did during this week because it was a “Forest Exploration Day” for me at school and it was very busy! I felt like I needed a break during the lunch hour. A coworker suggested Subway and that seemed like a great option. I didn’t get a drink because I was being mindful of the cup and straw. I realized too late that my sandwich was in a plastic bag.  I took my own bag and my coworker’s and used them to pick up after my dog-hoping that using the bags twice instead of once would make me feel better about taking it. It didn’t really, maybe a bit, but not enough. I’ll pay more attention next time!
  • In general, I ate out more than I should have. For me, going out to eat seems to be more for social reasons than any other reason. The Domino’s was because I was meeting some friends and that’s what they chose (I had never actually ordered from there before) and the breakfast was because it was part of our “date day”.  We could have easily made our own food at home, but it feels like such a treat to order in or go out with friends and family. How can I make the best choices when socializing with friends and family? This will be something to consider for the future!
  • The local bakery I go to is one of many businesses that use The Local Frequency card. When you shop at these businesses and use the card you get “money” that you can use to spend at these same businesses. There is an app you can use instead of carrying the actual card. You get 1-3% of your purchase back to spend using the card/app. You can also load the card with “Frequency Dollars” and earn more money on your purchases as you spend them (up to 20%). It’s a neat approach to “keeping it local”!

    My Local Frequency card!

Final Thoughts:

  1. Tracking what I spent made me feel guilty in some ways, but also reminded me that I make a decent effort to make a difference-even if the difference seems small
  2. There is always room for improvement! I need to be more vocal with my beliefs and spread my ideas with others. I sometimes assume that other people know what they can do to make a difference, yet choose not to and it turns out to be completely different! More often than not these people hadn’t even thought about the significance of their choice. I can be gentle with my approach, but be more vocal about suggestions for positive choices. Leading by example has allowed for some success but I’m ready to lead more people into environmental stewardship!
  3. It is time to revaluate my personal goals. Yes I have created some good habits such as only using reusable cups and bags, saying NO to straws, cutting down on single use plastic utensils (by refusing, using my own bamboo utensils and washing and reusing when possible) and buying local, but these have been habits for a long time. What are own my next steps? How will I put what I have read in Mulligan’s “An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Personal Perspectives” as well as what I have learned from the supplementary materials and other students into practice? I will continue on my journey of ethical consumption “a values-based approach to purchase and consumption which puts the onus on the consumer to exercise his or her choice wisely” (Mulligan p. 42) and voluntary simplicity “effort to live with less as a result of a conscious decision to avoid waste or complexity in life” (Mulligan p.43).

While reading through the supplemental material I’ve decided to use Anup Shah’s Consumption and Consumerism article to guide me to my next steps.

“We consume a variety of resources and products today having moved beyond basic needs to include luxury items and technological innovations to try to improve efficiency. Such consumption beyond minimal and basic needs is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, as throughout history we have always sought to find ways to make our lives a bit easier to live. However, increasingly, there are important issues around consumerism that need to be understood. For example:

  • How are the products and resources we consume actually produced?
  • What are the impacts of that process of production on the environment, society, on individuals?
  • What are the impacts of certain forms of consumption on the environment, on society, on individuals?
  • Which actors influence our choices of consumption?
  • Which actors influence how and why things are produced or not?
  • What is a necessity and what is a luxury?
  • How do demands on items affect the requirements placed upon the environment?
  • How do consumption habits change as societies change?
  • Businesses and advertising are major engines in promoting the consumption of products so that they may survive. How much of what we consume is influenced by their needs versus our needs?
  • Also influential is the very culture of today in many countries, as well as the media and the political institutions themselves. What is the impact on poorer nations and people on the demands of the wealthier nations and people that are able to afford to consume more?
  • How do material values influence our relationships with other people?
  • What impact does that have on our personal values?
  • And so on.”

I am looking forward to Part 2 of this task as I shift something in my consumption habits and add a fresh perspective to my responsible consumerism journey!

Until Next Time,

Danielle

Citations:

Mulligan, M. (2018) An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Personal Perspectives. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.

Shah, Anup (January 5, 2014). Consumption and Consumerism. Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All

http://www.globalissues.org/issue/235/consumption-and-consumerism 

Instagram Accounts:

@we_saveplanetearth

@ecoroots

@bambooherb

@cranbrookfarmersmarket

@plastictides

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