Convenience culture needs to die

October 02, 2018

This blog was written by Jacqui Dickson. October 02 2018

About two years ago, I made the decision to refuse takeaway coffee cups. As part of reducing the unnecessary waste I was adding to landfill, I decided I would only get a takeaway coffee from a café if I had a keep cup with me.

This commitment has surprised a few. I’ve had a few friends ask why I’d “punish myself” just because I forgot to bring a cup. The thought of having to remember something like that all the time was “so inconvenient.”

We live in a consumer culture that enables a lifestyle of constant of busy-ness. Companies have a vested interest in feeding our desire for convenience—when their product is easier for us to use or consume, we’re more likely to buy from them. This is how we get individual plastic bags of 8 potato chips for kid’s lunchboxes, and plastic hand soap dispensers that fit next to the sink, but only hold enough soap for a month.

If we really are going to consume consciously, it’s not just about changing to a different brand—it’s about changing our habits of consumption.

Recently there’s been a lot of awareness of the excess waste we’re producing as a society, and talk about becoming a ‘conscious consumer’—making substitutions like buying our takeaway coffee from a cafe that uses plastic lids made from biodegradable corn starch. But how sustainable is this substitute? If everyone switched to corn starch plastic lids, we’d need industrial amounts of corn which will either be purchased from farmers who were growing it for the food supply, or will necessitate the clearing of huge tracts of land for new cornfields. If we really are going to consume consciously, it’s not just about changing to a different brand—it’s about changing our habits of consumption. Convenience culture needs to die.

Moving from convenience to sustainability means starting to think the way our grandparents did. As much as we may have laughed at the way they endlessly fixed things and “hoarded” for a rainy day, we can learn a lot from them. They had fewer options to purchase, so had to commit to sustaining and improving what they owned.

There will be friction and it will be really inconvenient at times. We like options, we like newness and we like convenience because it truly is easier that way. But we’re starting to pay the the bill for a generation of easy solutions.

We’re starting to pay the bill for a generation of easy solutions.

Organisations like EcoMatters are helping provide easy first steps and resourcing people toward a sustainable lifestyle. Start your waste reduction journey with: “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot (and only in that order).”

My conscious choice to refuse takeaway coffee cups has meant I’ve had to go without more than once because I came unprepared. But when I keep in mind the overall waste cost of throwaway culture, a coffee doesn’t seem that important. Over time, it has just become part of my routine, and it could easily become part of yours too. As the great polar explorer Robert Swan said, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

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