In the wake of Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day, consumers and those opting out all have the chance to contemplate the merits of their choices.
According to the Global Footprint Network, if the whole world consumed like Canadians we would use up the earth’s annual global resources by about mid-March every year.
It seems that somewhere down the line we lost the big picture of what level of consumption is sustainable. Likely, though, we didn’t set out the door on Black Friday or any other shopping-spree day to destroy the planet. So what is it that drives our impulse to shop?
Apparently, one of the reasons we start swiping credit cards at sales is that we love deals. We may even ignore the fluctuating prices throughout the year and extended sales that make the rarity of the sale days less relevant. A wave of dopamine rewards shoppers with good feels, too, making the experience positively hard to resist.
Then there is the whole fear of missing out on a bargain that may send us online or into stores to catch a sale before it’s too late. Those who know the psychology of buying entice us with a few items sold at cost in order to get us in the door to peruse and fill our baskets.
Fortunately, we can crack this marketing ploy with a few tricks that fight back. What better time to arm yourself than the holidays when sales and pressure to shop is at its peak?
Before heading out the door to shop, make a list. We’ve heard it said, but it truly helps keep us from spontaneous purchases. Another fun truth is that we may make better consumer choices when shopping with someone else. That is, unless they are the kind of company who shops until they drop. Generally, though, we are more conservative about random purchases when someone is there to witness us.
One of the best known hacks for shopping less is to volunteer your time instead. Helping others creates a trifecta of good feelings that is hard to beat. Serotonin is released when we are in service to others, along with dopamine when we’re doing something novel. Throw in a hug and we get some oxytocin going as well. It’s really hard to top.
Much of our impulse to shop comes from a desire to connect with others. We sometimes buy things in an attempt to replace our natural need to be in community, rather than finding free ways to be social. Hosting a dinner party, breaking out a board game, taking a night class, or inviting neighbours over for a backyard fire can all fill our tank while also being kinder to the planet.
If you’re finding your purchases fuelled by stress, it might be that true solace will only be found investing in longer term solutions such as exercise, nourishing food and deep rest.
This holiday season, think outside the gift box, both for yourself and your loved ones. Gift time instead of things, and focus on wellness rather than things that cover over stress temporarily.
Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program.