As I work on reducing my consumption and making it more sustainable, I’ve been thinking through a few approaches that I’m hoping will help me buy less and make do with what I already have: make, mend, and maintain. Although they aren’t exactly new approaches or earth-shattering revelations, I think they can be easy to forget about thanks to the sheer volume of new stuff that we have available to us, and the fact that it’s so inexpensive and easy to lay our hands on.
I’ve always liked the sentiment in this poster (although the customary last line of “or do without” is missing), but I like it even more with the addition of the idea of using labour and goods to help fight at the bottom. This was originally produced as war propaganda, but I often feel like we’re fighting another kind of fight today, and one to which this message can – and should – still be applied.
I do think that the things we choose to buy and have in our lives are implicated in fighting for what we believe in and helping to counter some truly troubling trends in the ways that we consume. It’s far too easy easy to consume more than we need (for what is probably far too little money in many ways), buy questionable products, and get rid of them when they’re out of fashion, damaged, or simply no longer used. Unfortunately, this leads to things like overconsumption, debt, and excessive waste, none of which is really good for us or for the planet.
That said, I firmly believe that how we spend our money and use the resources that we already have can make a more positive difference, especially if we do so carefully and en masse. I’ve only started with some of the tasks I have in mind – more about this soon – and making, mending, and maintaining are only three parts of what is increasingly looking like a rather large and quite complex project, but I feel like every piece counts and that it’s worth considering even things that seem to be relatively small. By choosing to make more, spend and consume less, use what I already have, and extend the life of my things as much as possible, I can hopefully have more of an impact on my own life, the lives of those around me, and perhaps even the world at large – big hopes, quite possibly, but if there was ever a time for audacious dreams, I think now is definitely it.