I love/hate a good journalistic piece that gets me fired up about rampant and environmentally damaging consumerism. The Atlantic delivers with the 6 minute America’s dopamine-fueled shopping addiction. It explains the double dopamine hit we get with internet shopping: the moments of purchase and delivery. Unfortunately, much of what we buy online is used far less than what we purchase in-person. This is due to increasingly low costs of goods and the hassle of making an online return. The video states why this is a bigger deal than just the sunk personal cost:
"It’s become very easy to donate our unwanted goods to thrift stores, which makes us feel better about getting rid of our stuff, but it’s estimated that most of the clothes we donate actually end up in landfills. The average American throws away an average of 81 lbs of clothes and textiles each year - nearly 5 times more than in 1980.”
Clothes are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve bore witness to thousands of items getting thrown into the recycling bin as I work with clients. Yes, keep recycling!! But, buy less that needs to be recycled!! As with donating items, it gives a sanitized, false sense of environmentalism. The same can be said for recycling. Just because you put it in the bin does not mean it is recycled in the end. The video states:
“We collectively threw away 26 million tons of plastics in 2015, and only 9% got recycled."
America’s dopamine-fueled shopping addiction:
The above video led me to an equally informative video, How fast fashion adds to the world’s clothing waste problem.
My 3 main takeaways from this one were:
H&M has recycling boxes for any garment. They then recycle these items into new garments. We should use these for anything too used up to donate. Learn more here.
A common lifecycle of a donated garment is it is shipped to an East African country for resell in markets, but anything not bought there is dumped.
Synthetic materials don’t break down, sitting in landfills as long as some plastics.
Moral of both stories: buy better and buy way less.