Conspicuous Consumption, Conscious Consumption, and the Fulfillment Curve


Where should shopping fit in to our sustainable lifestyles? The latest bulletin from the David Report delves into consuming and where to draw the line between conspicuous consumption, conscious consumption, and the sociological and psychological implications of both.

Beginning with the (correct) assumption that we can't discard consumption altogether, and that consumption has both good and bad connotations, the report encourages us all to take a sip from our consumption cocktail (stirred, not shaken): mix in factors of production, corporate social responsibility, necessity, and more; avoid "makeover consumption" and be aware of what your consumption patterns say about you.


For the seasoned TreeHugger reader, though, perhaps the most interesting notions of the piece are the sociological and psychological implications of consumption. Why is our society compelled to shop? Is retail therapy an attempt to replace something missing from our lives? What are the behavioral implications for shopping? The Report thinks, "A classical psychological symptom is also reflected in our shopping, humans are group animals and will do anything to stay in their group. To be excluded means death and to avoid being excluded people do what all other people are doing, in this case shop!"

The old adage that "money (or stuff, in this case) can't buy happiness" also pops up in the discussion, in the big picture context about what part stuff and shopping should play in our lives, essentially coming to the conclusion that we can't shop our way to sustainability. That is to say that there are two ways to look at the way we live, in this context: you can either buy as much stuff as you want, as long as its green, or you can simply buy less stuff. Research, like in the graph below, cited from Encyclopedia of Earth, suggests that the latter is the way to go.


There's some further good reading about future consumption, patterns for sustainability and best the notion that the best lifestyle accessory is mindful presence. Check it out at ::The David Report

See also: ::National Downshifting Week, ::Living with Less - Extreme Edition, ::TH Update: What Ever Happened to Hugh Sawyer? and ::Daniel Akst on Conspicuous Green Consumption

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