Why Shopping Should Be a Last Resort

©. Sarah Lazarovic

Toronto illustrator Sarah Lazarovic's Buyerarchy of Needs urges people to consider other options before hitting the mall.

Sarah Lazarovic does a no-shopping diet every few years. The designer and illustrator from Toronto did her first one in 2006, and then again in 2012, this time turning it into a book called, “A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.” Instead of buying clothing and accessories that she found attractive, she painted them, pairing with thoughtful analyses and humorous criticism of our consumerist culture. The project was a way of enjoying the items without paying for them, and of giving herself the necessary space to contemplate whether or not she needed them. (The answer was usually no.)

do the right things

© Sarah LazarovicLazarovic swears by her shopping diets “the way some people swear by those gross cleanses full of cayenne pepper, baby’s breath and the promise of colonic purity.” In an initial illustrative essay about her experience that was widely published, she blames the Internet for making shopping far too easy and tempting.

“I can drill down and find exactly what I like. And the Internet responds. If I look at something once, it teases me for weeks on end. ‘Hey dork, stop being so coy. Buy this dress,’ it shouts from a box to the left of the serious article about Sudan I’ve been trying to absorb.”

Her shopping bans led Lazarovic to create what she calls ‘The Buyerarchy of Needs' (pictured above). Inspired by psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory in which humans must fulfill basic needs in a specific order to achieve self-actualization, the Buyerarchy is a fresh perspective on consumption. There’s nothing extraordinary about its message, as conscious, minimalist consumerism is something we write about frequently on TreeHugger, but the illustration is captivating, profound, and always relevant.

Eco-fashion website Ecouterre described the Buyerarchy as a “new schematic for consumption, with ‘buying’ becoming a top-level need that should only be considered when all other options (using, borrowing, swapping, thrifting, making) are exhausted.”

quality isn't taught

© Sarah Lazarovic

Lazarovic says she keeps it on her wall as a reminder to keep her wants in check, that it’s better to know how to buy one useful thing, than many useful things -- a skill we could all stand to develop, I suspect.

You can see the entire initial essay here and order the book online. (Or you could get it from the library, in keeping with the Buyerarchy's principles!)