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  • Writer's pictureKrista Kurth, Ph.D.

Change from Being a Great Consumer to Conscious Caretaker

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

How to modify your mindset to support your climate action.

Image by Adria Tormo, Unsplash

How often have you thought about reducing and reusing what you buy but then bought more new stuff or threw things out anyway? You are not alone.

It’s easy to be caught up in the consumer mindset that pervades the western world and influences our everyday actions. Like a fish not knowing it is swimming in water, we often aren’t aware of how everything around us encourages us to want more and buy more.

The cultural milieu we live in, and the systems all around us, depend on perpetual consumerism and growth.

We've built our whole economy on expansion. To keep the engine of commerce going, companies need to keep producing more and more stuff, which we consumers are then convinced we desperately need.

After all, we live busy lives and these products make our lives easier.

This attitude even shows up in the environmental movement, which encourages us to buy more green products in place of less earth-friendly alternatives.

Image by Sergio Souza, Unsplash

While buying products that harm the planet less is helpful, we can’t shop or recycle our way out of the climate crisis.

No matter the product, if we are unmindfully caught up in the never-ending cycle of buying, using, and tossing, we will continue to contribute to the growth of GHG emissions in the atmosphere and deplete the finite natural resources of our home planet. We must reduce and reuse if we want to take care of the precarious state of the earth.

We must reduce and reuse if we want to take care of the precarious state of the earth.

Image by Hello I'm Nik, Unsplash

Ways to Reduce Consumption

Other than not buying any new things, which is a challenge most of us wouldn’t succeed at, there are several steps we can take to buy less.

  • Unsubscribe from catalogs and email newsletters from retailers. Companies design them to entice you to want more things. You don’t need daily or weekly appeals to your consumer mindset.

  • Buy high quality items that you can use for many years. Don’t purchase cheap items that you will end up throwing away in six months (the average amount of time we use an item before dispatching with it).

  • Pause before you buy anything and ask yourself if it is a necessity or solely a desire. Then refrain from purchasing some of your desired items. Explore how you can meet your wants in non-material ways.

  • Buy recycled, repurposed, previously used items instead of new items. This is getting easier to do. More sites are popping up that offer these kinds of items. Some retail clothing stores, like Nordstrom, are now offering second-hand clothes.

  • Before you recycle or throw something away, ask yourself if you can re-use it or if someone else might repurpose it. Join a group like The Freecycle Network where people pass on items for free they no longer need. Or post the item for sale on a site like Letgo.

  • However, the most important step is shifting your mindset from always wanting more to feeling like you have enough.

However, the most important step is shifting your mindset from always wanting more to feeling like you have enough.

Image by explorenation, Unsplash

Shift Your Mindset

When we learn to focus on having better, not more, things, and sharing what we have instead of chasing personal desires, then, instead of being consummate consumers, we become conscious caretakers of the earth’s and our own resources. This requires turning inward. As Lynne Twist, the author of The Soul of Money, says, "Having enough is not an amount. It's a state of being."

Having ‘enough’ is not an amount. It’s a state of being. Lynne Twist

Practices to Support You in Becoming a Conscious Caretaker

Shifting our mindset is easier said than done. It takes some time and mindful effort. Here are some exercises to help you change your point of view and approach to buying.

  • Notice the water in which you swim. Make a note of all the messages around you that fuel your desire to want and buy more.

  • Learn more about where the stuff you buy comes from—what materials and non-renewable resources are used to produce the items. Watch documentaries and read articles about how we are plundering the earth to fulfill our short-term desires. Check out the movies produced by the Story of Stuff. Check out the Story of Change video.

  • Observe your impulse to buy things. See if you can identify what is underneath those urges. What deeper need are you trying to fill? Is there another way to fulfill that yearning other than buying something?

Image by Felicia Buintenwerf, Unsplash
  • Pay attention to all that you have in your life. Contemplate what it means to have enough. Learn more about how to live with gratitude and an attitude of sufficiency. Read The Soul of Money or take an online workshop, like The Transformative Power of Sufficiency and Gratefulness.

  • Contemplate being a caretaker of the earth instead of a consumer. Look for an image that reflects the essence of consumerism and then find one that depicts a custodian of the planet. If you are creative, you might even draw the ideas yourself. Post these pictures in a place where you can see them every day. Look at them whenever you feel an impulse to buy something you don’t really need.

  • Make time to connect regularly with nature. Go for walks, watch wildlife shows and movies that show the beauty of the planet on which we live.

Which action will you take this week to shift your mindset and reduce your consumption?


I’d love to know what’s grabbing your attention or what questions are running through your mind. Let me know in the comments section. I’ll respond in one of my blog posts.

If you’d like me to notify you when I’ve posted a new article on my blog, please sign up at the bottom of this page. I promise I won’t send more than one email a week.

All the best,

Krista / Eco-Omi

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