If everyone consumed as much as we do in the UK, we would need three planets to sustain us.
We live in a consumer-driven, throw-away society. In the fashion industry, for example, our obsession with cheap clothing has led to environmental damage, waste, and poor pay and conditions for millions of workers.
The cost of products, food and services has also declined and people now own, upgrade and waste more ‘stuff’ than ever before.
Unfortunately this model is based on a finite set of resources, already stretched to its limit, and both the planet and people are suffering the consequences. The fragility of our current model is demonstrated through the global economic recession we are experiencing today.
Growing evidence indicates that owning more stuff does not make us any happier (see the Happy Planet Index). Instead, it often leads to longer working hours, unhealthier lifestyles and more stress, as we try to keep up in life. Consumerism has also increased inequality both across and within countries, adversely affecting the richest and poorest of society.
Countries across the world base ‘progress’ on financial growth. This has become the norm across business practice and state policy, and now through civil society. But does this improve our lives?
What do we mean by rethinking stuff?
Rethinking stuff is about people pausing to ask important questions about what we value and strive towards in life.
Should we follow the ‘business as usual’ perspective and value wealth, image and popularity; or should we value and aim for a different set of goals, such as family, wellbeing, sense of community and access to nature?
It’s also about taking more responsibility for the everyday products and services we use. When shopping, factors like durability, energy use, sustainable sourcing and packaging can provide huge benefit for ourselves and our planet. There is also far greater potential to invest in sharing, reusing, repairing and recycling, all of which provide wider community and environmental benefits.
We don’t believe that happiness and wellbeing are inextricably linked to wealth and material comfort. We want to help people to create long-term positive change in their values, ambitions and behaviour. We think this will ultimately benefit everyone.
For us, it’s about wasting less and living more. Take volunteering in a community gardening project, for example:
- Waste is reduced by reducing food miles, growing organically and avoiding the need for packaging.
- Participants live more through learning about food, getting exercise and making friends.
We help people and communities by:
- demonstrating positive values and experiences that reduce environmental impact and improve wellbeing and quality of life
- reducing consumption and making it more sustainable
- supporting charities, social enterprises and cooperatives that encourage us all to rethink stuff.