Claire Rausser

You Have [Purchasing] Power

The text below is referencing a Facebook post I made in August 2020.

“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my past problem with overconsumption. I just dropped off a bag of stuff (95% clothes) at Goodwill and I looked at all the other stuff already there that was basically garbage. It’s a bummer and a disease I deal with having spent so much time studying sustainable practices and waste reduction. Will all this be reused? Or will it end up in a dump? Who knows.

I found my version of Jesus in Facebook Marketplace and Depop. For the past month, I’ve decided to challenge myself to only purchase items second hand until the end of 2020, just as a trial period. Lots of items you can’t buy second hand, but I’m looking into substitutions that produce less waste — less packaging, local vendors, etc. The other great thing about these apps is how much money you can save. I almost bought a bed frame new from Ikea but found the same one plus a headboard plus a mattress for $400 less on Marketplace.

Be resourceful 🌱”

So just to be clear —

I don’t normally make posts like that on Facebook.

Facebook is solely for the memes and the marketplace. I wrote what I wrote in that post, though, because I thought it might help me hold myself accountable for my future actions and purchases in the remainder of 2020.

The challenge — only purchasing non-necessity items second hand — ended up like any kind of fad diet you could think of. I bought a pair of Doc Martens like a few weeks after that post. I told myself: it’s okay, right? Because they have the potential to last a lifetime? Or was that the Birkenstock slogan…

After that, I basically happened to be walking by X and realized I needed a new pair of X and so I bought it in-store. And then I wanted to work on my languages, and I ordered two German workbooks, a Korean character (ABC’s) workbook, and a Spanish workbook. From Amazon. And then I was bored so I went to Ikea and “happened” to find a cool side table. To be fair with that one, though, I did check Facebook Marketplace first. The list goes on.

Let’s reevaluate what we need.

I didn’t take diligent notes or keep track of all the things I bought that weren’t necessarily “necessities”, but this year I’m starting a spreadsheet. After all, one of my bigger resolutions for myself for this year is to stay on top of my purchases and actively work on minimizing my lifestyle. I want to try to stay away from mainstream big brands, support local companies, and thrift everything I possibly can in order to recirculate items that still have life in them.

So while I still support my stance in my Facebook post above, it’s important to recognize my limits — for example if I need new sheets, I wouldn’t exactly search for those on Craigslist. To be clear: There are always going to be things you need to buy for sanitation reasons, or things for specific occasions or incidents, and then there’s of course socially necessary items.

But what if we reevaluated what are “socially necessary” items? Does that mean the most recently trendy items? The fidget spinners in 2017? Skinny jeans in 2008? The never ending iPhone releases in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, again in 2016, 2017, again in 2017, 2018, again in 2018, 2019, 2020, and again in 2020?

Purchasing power is no joke. People forget that we own the market. The other day my sister called me, upset, because her coach made her feel guilty for being in pain during team practice. She showed me her hands over FaceTime, they were blistered and raw from working out so much the day prior. I was pissed because for one, I hate to hear her sad and being picked on, but also because !! She’s completely unaware that she’s the commodity and that her idiot coach works for her!?? During rowing season, (I admit I don’t know what season that is,) her and her teammates’ talent is ultimately what makes the school money. Her coach deserves a certain level of respect, but it’s a two way street and I hope my sister recognizes that to take advantage of her own life.

Let’s recognize our value.

And as the real decision makers, take back our control. If we all collectively decided (or realized) that we don’t need paper towels anymore, and thereby stopped purchasing them, there would be a huge shift in the market. Maybe Bounty or whatever other paper towel company would shift their focus to cloth (reusable) towels. Because for real what f*cking value does a paper towel provide compared to a washable sturdier cloth towel? Oh yeah, you can throw it out and never see it again when you’re done with it.

It took the sea turtles literally “choking to death” on single use plastic straws for us as a nation to make TikTok memes to “SaVe ThE tUrTLes”. And Starbucks “reimagining” the disposable lid for their disposable cup, which ironically uses more plastic than the straw + lid combo. What a disaster. And now there are silicone reusable straws that are mass marketed to the kinds of people who would, for some reason, rather not have to put their mouth on a cup rim? Seems kind of homophobic to me.

If this pattern continues, where we let a problem go on long enough until Gen Zs make a big enough mockery of it, at this rate we will really only be putting a stop to the problems because we quite literally have run out of resources to continue to produce them. Holy moly are we really only here and given TikTok in order to be the canary in the mines, to be the ones to alert the Boomers that their “traditional” processes and mindsets are destroying what we would like to preserve to be available in our own individual futures?

Let’s change the norm.

It’s easy to feel powerless against huge conglomerates like Starbucks and the other 20+ companies that are polluting the oceans and overlapping 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions (“totalling 480,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide since 1965”). But the reality is they don’t have a platform without the billions of people worldwide who support their products and (perhaps unconsciously) their ethics.

All their profits boil down to consumer demand.

Frat stars demand 100+ new plastic red cups every Friday, Saturday, and Wednesday night (for wine and cheese night of course).

Bachelorette parties demand their 20+ new plastic champagne flutes so they don’t have to worry about them after they ditch the party bus. I mean they’ve already been made and are out in circulation, so by that standard, they must be used or go to waste, right?

It’s like a toxic relationship. You can’t change them, it’s stupid to think you ever could. And these companies are sure as hell not going to change themselves. So let’s support alternatives, buy locally sourced products, spend time researching product backgrounds. Ever heard any Amazon warehouse workers horror stories? Those can be at least significantly reduced if you stop immediately checking Amazon for the cheapest prices.

just someone who cares a little about the sustainability of our inhabitance on this planet.