The Unsustainable Cycle of Upgrading; Are You Playing A Part?


I drive a ten-year old, slightly banged up, Toyota Prius - as does my husband. We bought them together ten years ago as a conscious environmental choice, (I realise there are some debates about the energy it takes to make and dispose of the battery but we still thought they were the best option) and for what they stand for. This was a big move for my husband who is a sports-car lover! Each time over the years we have thought about changing cars and "up-grading" we continuously come back to the same arguments that got us to buy them in the first place.

Generally, the concept of "upgrading" is not sustainable; it is not environmentally friendly and defeats the point!

So we continue to drive the cars. They are a little beat up but they drive well, they are brilliant on fuel and each time I get into it I am reminded WHY I drive it. Because I LOVE this life, this planet and want to live in a way that will allow the future generations to also enjoy it! 

My car now triggers a host of my fashionable friends - they freak out every time we drive in it and have been on my case for years to get something new. I like nice things, I really do. However things will never define who I, or anyone, for now, the car stays!  Many of the great people throughout history that I respect greatly, such as Gandhi, lived simply by choice, without being tied down by possessions.

80 million NEW cars are sold a year, world wide. Just think about the accumulative effect of that over the years. With hope, Tesla looks to be redefining this space with new technologies and innovative, more sustainable designs. Going forward all designs will need to consider sustainability — otherwise it isn't really such good design anyway...But even if I had a new Tesla, the same personal issue would apply. Designers can do their part, and as consumers, we have to do ours. We have to learn to curb our desire for constant upgrading to satisfy our thirsty desires of the "newest" and the "best".

Australia is one of the highest producers of waste per person in the world and the waste we are sending to landfill is getting more toxic and difficult to dispose of.  We are creating around 4000 kilos of waste each every year!

"Almost 99 percent of everything we buy becomes waste within six weeks of purchase. Every wheelie bin of waste we produce from our home, equates to 70 wheelie bins of waste from the mining, manufacture, production and sale of the materials in that bin."


Why do we turn to buying?

Sometimes it is because of a true need. Sometimes it is because of a true appreciation of beauty that can bring moments of joy into your world. BUT a huge amount of the time we as a society are buying "stuff" that we don't need in an unconscious craving to fill a void and often we are doing it without thinking of the human and environmental price paid to get it to us. When only considering fashion, the world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing each year — up 400% from two decades ago.

So I gave myself a little challenge at the end of last year, to see if I could go a whole year without buying any clothes/accessories/shoes etc for myself. I don't like the idea of being owned by a habit, my possessions or playing a part in the over-consumption of our society. Surely I don't have an issue ... but do I? Compared to my husband I do. He is a true minimalist.

It has been six months so far and there have been a few twinges of desires and even annoyances. I had two formal occasions  I would have normally bought new dress's for, but shock horror, I wore old ones to both and I still had great nights and still received lovely comments of what I was wearing. It has got me re-looking at my wardrobe and cutting out half of it that just sat there unworn for years. The thought process is also drip feeding down to everything I purchase for the family and hopefully to my children's thinking.

In life I have been implementing some values that have had wonderful effects. Going into the future I will be mindful of them also when I am shopping;

  • Simplify 

  • Quality over quantity 

  • Only if you truely love it a — not as a distraction.

Why don't you give it a try? Hold that purchasing for a month, for six or even a year! See what you learn about yourself and bring it into conversation. That is how I got thinking about it and how we will slowly turn around a materialistic model that is simply unsustainable!

Check out doco, 'The True Cost' to really get you thinking the next time you go for that quick, cheap purchase high.