Today I read about quite a cool new initiative called Unconsumption.
As Chappell noted on Etsy: these days “we are overly branded” – we live in a branded world! So Rob Walker, author of Buying In: The Secret Diary Between What We Buy and Who We Are, has been looking at our addiction to brands and how this could be used to work for sustainability, without churning out more things for people to buy. In the same Etsy article, Chappell quotes an interview with Walker:
Branding has been one of my main subjects as a journalist, and for a few years I’ve pondered if there’s a way to borrow some of the tools of brand-making to advance an idea, but without actually creating products.
On the Unconsumption tumblr homepage is a quote from Allison Arieff
Making sustainability a trend has minimized its relevance and stymied its progress. Climate change, declining resources, peak oil — these aren’t passing fads. “Green is the new black,” “eco-chic,” “eco-fabulous,” … All that marketing-speak has done little for sustainability except validate old behaviors. It’s a notion that you can go green by buying more stuff.
Controversial? Yes! But true? I would say absolutely. We take along a flimsy designer “reusable” bag to put all our pre-packaged purchases in to alleviate our guilt about all the stuff we get all the time. It’s an ongoing challenge for all of us to walk the walk in terms of making real changes towards less consuming in our lives.
One solution that Rob Walker came up with was to found Unconsumption and develop a logo (designed by Clifton Burt) which can be used to rebrand reused and repurposed items instead of simply buying new ones to replace them. From Chappell’s article,
In exploring how to build excitement around repurposing our old belongings, Walker realized that, for now, branding is the way we add value to our objects. In other words, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
The result is the cute Ms. (or Mr.) Cart, a wee upside-down shopping cart who is empty and happy.
(She’s saying, “Look, no stuff!”)
Unconsumption encourages you to borrow, use and even remix this logo and use it to rebrand existing (noncommercial) products which you use or reuse instead of buying new ones.
Something inside me is repulsed by the blatant greed and consumer mentality of brands, but I like the way that this appropriates the function of branding while at the same time it emphasises the rejection of the fundamental concept behind capalist brands. Ms. Cart is the new “I’m a paper bag”. It’s showing people that you’re not wearing this shirt from the op-shop because you’re too poor or lazy to buy new flashy clothes, you’re wearing because it’s a good shirt, and you’re deliberately not buying new stuff at every opportunity.
On the Unconsumption page titled ‘Why “Feeling Like Part of the Solution” Matters’, the author describes listening to a radio show called “Climate change and behavioral change: What Will It Take?”
One of the ways in which people cope with what they could well believe is an apocalyptic threat, and maybe that will be the reality, is that they want to do something about it, they need to do something about it. And I think it’s terribly important that they take some kind of action. And that action might not have a direct spin-off in terms of reducing carbon emissions, but it’s psychologically very important. It’s motivating, validating and they can feel they are part of the solution as well as part of the problem, so it’s a very important way of coping with climate change.
I think that this is really true and it’s easy for us to scoff and say “oh, that’s just a way for middle-class capitalists to ease their guilt…” but I think the point is that even if you’re just doing it to feel better – at least you’re doing it. We want to train ourselves to feel good about anything that lessens the harm we do to the environment. We want to normalise the idea of conserving, reusing, utilising things, and understand that endless consumption is unnatural, abnormal and totally unsustainable.