What is this message really saying?

The first step is to understand what sustainability means. Here is a definition that is clear and concise.

Sustainability consists of fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations, while ensuring a balance between economic growth, environmental care and social well-being.’

Even if a product is produced ethically and sustainably and is designed to last forever, should we be buying it when we have something that is functioning perfectly adequately?

Here are a few examples from my own experience.

Stainless steel clothes pegs have become easily available in Australia in the last 5 years or so. I have plastic pegs which work well. It would have been pointless to discard them to landfill and replace them with the stainless steel ones. If the plastic pegs ever become unusable and need replacing, I will consider stainless steel ones.

On the other hand, I bought a plastic multi-peg hanger in 2009 which lasted for about 10 years until the plastic became brittle and sections gradually broke until it was rendered unusable. By the time I needed to replace it there were excellent stainless steel options available and I expect that this one will last forever.

Beeswax wraps are a great idea, used primarily for covering food in the refrigerator. I have a couple that I made at a workshop but I generally use perfectly good containers with lids for storing food. I already owned them and they work well. If your container does not have a lid you can always use a plate.

Then there is the matter of updating items we already own such as chairs, refrigerators, interior décor and clothing. Marketing departments constantly remind us that we ‘need’ the latest fashion or updated version of everything. We do not!

Next time you are tempted to wander into the shops and purchase something new, ask yourself whether you already own something that will achieve the same result.

This is really about conscious consumption which is ‘consuming to minimize impact; consuming differently, without excess or waste, so that there is enough, for everyone, forever’.

Finally, follow in the footsteps of past generations and consider upcycling and/or repurposing what you have.  Our grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s followed by the rationing during World War II lived sustainably, albeit unwittingly.  Their lives could probably be best summed up by the mantra:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’.

This slogan was coined by the American War Office during World War II but for most people it was simply the way they lived.

The other quote which references sharing resources equitably is:

Live simply so that others may simply live’ from Mahatma Ghandi.

So to sum up, everyone can consume consciously and live more sustainably by using what we already have.