March 26, 2019

The Thing we can all do that will Actually Help our Planet.

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As I wake up on another hot, humid day in Sydney, Australia, in between jobs and with my husband off working in the city, I think to myself, what will I do today?

A list of things runs through my mind. Clean the house? Probably not. Get the laundry sorted? Probably not. Go to the mall? Hmmmm…go to the mall…maybe?

The mall—with all that air-conditioning and endless choices of food, coffee, and clothes! Racks and racks of clothes to be explored, touched, held up against my body, and then, finally, presented beautifully in fresh tissue paper with a little receipt attached, safe for the trip home in a wrinkle-free carrier bag. Shopping! Yes!!

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” ~ Bo Derek

Oh, I love that quote—so true!

But, here’s an appetizer of four little scary facts from The Green Hub to make us think before we shop:

  1. Eighty billion pieces of clothing are consumed globally every year.
  2. Only 10 percent of the clothes people donate to charities get sold, the rest go to landfills.
  3. The United States spends an estimated $2.6 billion on Halloween costumes every year. Worn for one night only.
  4. Approximately 7,000 litres of water are needed to produce one pair of jeans (the amount of water one individual drinks in five to six years).

I know what you’re thinking…it’s so hard to give up that thing that we love. But if we did, the planet might just stand a chance. I’m as guilty as the next person for this pleasure.

After realising that 85 percent of used textiles end up in American and Australian landfills, I’ve researched ways we can change how we shop. Here are five of them:

Retail Therapy

We’ve all heard of this one, right? But we just don’t want to admit it’s us—getting high on buying when in a period of depression or stress, collecting threads as “comfort buys” from the likes of Zara, Forever 21, or H&M of the fast fashion industry. And we justify this as, “It was such a bargain!” I actually saved money! Right?

With the pressure from media, society, and friends to be “on trend,” we seek out our temporary shopping high, only to find as the season changes and those clothes go out of date, we’re back with the same problems that made us go out and grab a bargain in the first place. Just like an illicit drug, the temporary high we get from shopping has its downside.

Those bargains from low-cost clothing companies are produced, sold, and discarded in mass quantities and have serious consequences to the environment. If we’re feeling low, we should go out and talk to someone—a friend, a family member, or even our doctor. We just can’t be tempted to snap up another cheap sundress if that isn’t really something we need!


So, we landed the job we were looking for, or finished university, or lost one kilogram of weight with the latest detox program—time to reward ourselves with some new clothes at the shops!

It’s time to change our thinking about our personal rewards shopping. Fashion, particularly women’s, changes rapidly. Now, in the 21st century with fashion being influenced by social media, it only takes one person to share an idea regarding fashion and it becomes a viral trend. Our shopping reward will be “old news” before we know it. Perhaps instead of rewarding ourselves by adding to our already existing wardrobe, we could look at a weekend away or a night out? If the urge to splurge on style is still too strong, at least look at what we already have in that wardrobe of ours and decide if our little buy is really something we need.

Shopping as a destination

Malls cater to everyone now, from casual food courts to upmarket cafés, from dining to on-site cinemas. Indoor/outdoor playground for the little ones, face painting, and aerial rides for the school holidays. Want some private time for the adults? Let your teenagers go crazy on the arcade games or take a spin on the ice rink. The mall is a place to go for families, a place to hang out, and a place to just be.

Don’t be fooled though, you will never leave this pleasure dome without buying something. Once you’ve parked the car and entered the mall with all its fascinating temptations, it’s worth considering: whatever I buy today, will it be something that I truly need?

Recreational Shopping

According to Urban Dictionary, “recreational shopping” is shopping for the sake of going shopping (i.e., to the mall or into the city). It is shopping for fun, where groups of teenagers head off together wearing those fast fashion hoodies, seeking the stimulation of visual merchandise, those things in glass cases or on racks, daring each other to buy daft things, with the loud beat of the speakers giving them courage and luring them on.

Shopping for the fun experience has become a cultural phenomenon for young ones. Parents may say, “Well, they all went off together, and as long as they’re not hurting anyone…” But do they question where the money goes, what this impact buying this cheap stuff has on the environment, and what it is that all those kids really need?

Do yourself a favour and stop saying, “I need that!”

Online Shopping

This leads me to the big one. These stores are open 24-7, shoppers can scroll and click on their laptops in their pj’s, makeup-less, in the comfort of their homes. No need to worry about queues, parking, or pushy sales ladies. Tapping away, clicking “add to cart.” Oh, the endless amount of time we spend on it. But, there are so many choices, I tell myself, and I have the whole “shop” to myself!

Well, here’s a little fact worth thinking about:
In the United States alone, 35.4 million tons of containerboard was produced in 2014, according to an article from The New York Times in 2016. So, it isn’t only the goods we’re buying online, but the boxes they come in that’s an issue. Our waste management systems simply can’t keep up with the demand for supply and recycling. Add to this the huge amount of Styrofoam, plastic, coverings, and sticky tape, and online shopping is only adding to the ever-growing shopping problem.

We live in a world where we are constantly in the pursuit of happiness.

And now, with social media, the Kardashians, and never-ending “who wore what” during awards season, we believe, If I could wear what she/he’s wearing, I’d look like that and be happier.

The truth is, happiness comes from what’s in our hearts.

I’m going to go through my wardrobe this afternoon and see how many shirts, jumpers, tops, and jeans I already have, and I’m going to ask myself, How many more new clothes do I really need?

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