The last year was a wake up call.
The environmental crisis, systemic racism and inequality, deep polarization on cultural lines, global markets showing cracks and the mental toll that came with the pandemic all shone a light on how deeply flawed things have become. It made me sit back and think about the way I live and what I can do to fix some of these problems.
While there are many theories on how to change society on a macro scale, the only thing I can do is change my own behaviour.
I decided to look closer at my life and make changes that help build community, resilience, diversity and reduce reliance on these systems. The biggest thing I can do is reduce my consumption as much as possible.
Without a fundamental change in how things work I am not going to get away from making a few purchases this year. That’s not the goal.
Instead, I am going to make sure those purchases are 100 per cent thought out, necessary and fit into my ethics as much as possible. That means they will last a long time, have minimal packaging, and fall into one of four categories: repairs, necessities, food and experiences.
First on my list is repairs. I believe in fixing things rather than throwing them out.
Repairing things is a valuable skill that can come in handy in case one’s primary form of work disappears, like it did for many when businesses shut down earlier this year. A side hustle fixing stuff is a great way to support the community while keeping dollars close to home, and repair work can be done for trade or on a sliding scale for those who can’t afford to pay full price. Besides, knowing how to fix my stuff has saved me hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years.
Necessities are next. No matter what, eventually I am going to need to go pick something up.
My phone cable will stop working, or I’ll break a plate, wear out a toothbrush or need soap. These things happen. However, when buying necessities, I am always going to opt for a locally-produced or -owned option. Part of building a community is supporting the people who live in that community, and making a purchase in a small local shop will ensure those dollars are going to local people, not some monolithic overlord with way too much money.
Food is a no-brainer. What I can do to make sure my food purchases are ethical, however, are to again shop small and local when I can, and to grow my own food to reduce my load on the system and boost my own skills. Home grown and locally sourced food helps build the area’s food security and makes us more resilient to stresses like border shut downs and shortages.
Finally, experiences are on my list. Without making purchases I don’t need, I hopefully will have some money left to enjoy the area. Experiences can be anything from trying your local rock climbing gym, taking lessons either online or in person (when safe), buying passes to local attractions, donating to non-profits and charitable organizations and treating yourself to a massage or acupuncture treatment.
These all have the benefit of helping people who provide services in the community and who have had a rougher time than usual through the pandemic.
Hopefully, doing this I’ll be able to save some money for when things really get bad, and I’ll reduce the amount of useless stuff that gets put into the world on my account.
I’ll be able to make do with what I have, reconsider unnecessary upgrades and avoid things I don’t need.
With things not looking so good economically thanks to the pandemic, the wallet is going to be a bit tighter than I would like. I don’t need to buy an extra snack at the grocery store, or throw something in the car because “Hey why not?”
Hopefully this will help save me some money and start to build towards a brighter future.
Most importantly, I’ll simplify my life and make room for what matters most while reducing my impact on the planet.
Marc Kitteringham writes for the Campbell River mirror. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.