When we bought our first house, interest rates rose 2% between making our offer and completing the sale. We barely had any money left to live on each month. Moving in with furniture donated by families, we bought a set of cheap stainless steel cutlery from Woolworths with a view to buying a more expensive canteen when things got easier.
Almost 32 years later, we still use our Woolies knives and forks. I also use the kitchen knives my Mum bought me when I moved out into my first flat. Why? Because they still do their jobs well and we like them.
When we inherited various items as relatives passed away and had to find new homes for them, we started using my Nan’s German cake forks, possibly 60-70 years old, as well as a set of Sheffield Steel butter knives from another relative. We enjoy using them.
As you can guess, we’re not ideal target consumers for many businesses. We don’t just throw things away after a year or two for the sake of buying something new. We’ve always been like that.
If everyone stopped buying what they didn’t need, what impact would lower consumption have? Possibly a good one on the environment: fewer resources needed for fewer products, less transport pollution, less land needed for shops and parking.
But what impact would it have on communities? Fewer jobs, lower incomes and lower spending power.
Are these problems? Or opportunities?
What if people were more content not to have to work long hours? What if they were able to relish having more time for themselves? Or their families? Or to support their communities? What if they did not chase the latest fashions just for the sake of being fashionable? What if the need for instant gratification by making a purchase – any purchase – diminished? What if the relentless pressures of consumerism were lifted?
The slow economy? Buying and enjoying what we need rather than being sold what others persuade us we need.
Good for us, good for the world? Slower, but higher quality? A different type of prosperity?
Opportunities to explore . . .