The one area in which we have more control than anything else is our own idea about who we are and how we feel the world works. That is the first step towards changing things around us that we believe ought to change. In the race between our own authentic beliefs and those of our surroundings influencing or even compelling us to behave in certain ways, we must goad ourselves to win.
We are surrounded today – more than ever before and in most parts of the world – with constant stimulation to buy more, consume more, throw away, and then buy some again. Today’s society is addicted to these unsustainable beliefs and practices. But when we throw away items, very little of that gets recycled. The top most reason for that is our own inconvenience to separate waste, and a second big reason is that the recycling process itself is tedious and labour intensive. In the case of plastic for example, various types of plastic with different chemical compositions first need to be sorted, separately shredded, purified of impurities, then melted and formed into pellets, which can be then used to create other plastic products. While developed economies are struggling to convince their citizens to separate waste and promote the as yet fledgling recycling industry, smaller economies simply can not afford to do so, focus on other policy priorities, and have no systems in place for recycling.
Reusing or sharing consumables we no longer use is a less expensive route to say stopping plastic from outweighing all the fish in the oceans. Recently there is a name given to this concept, it is called the circular economy. Policy makers, businesses, and social influencers are being enticed towards making the world more ‘circular’, and the best amongst them are being awarded at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos. However in truth the only way that more and more items can be reused or shared is when there is a sweeping cultural change in favour of doing so. Because this demands a lot more of us as individuals and as a society. It requires an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections, and convictions. It only comes with a reorientation of how we feel about ourselves and the world.
Ultimately, the great paradox is that economies will flourish only when each individual consumes meagerly. If each of us value ourselves enough to only purchase the best quality of clothing, cosmetics, detergents, machinery or whatsoever that may be that we can financially afford, then we unleash a cycle where we buy less and push the industry to also produce less and of greater quality. The economy will not flounder because similar amounts of money and labour will continue to circulate. So if we wish to purchase a pair of jeans, and we love a pair that lasts, then chances are that we will not buy, use, throw, buy several more denims. This can only happen when we value ourselves such that we feel that we only deserve the very best that our money permits. We ourselves are not cheap and dispensable, and nor should all the items we own. This would require each one of us realising who we really are, duly valuing and loving our own selves, and returning to what it means to be authentic by pursuing only what is truly desirable and satisfying.