We are living in a time where society constantly encourages us to buy stuff. Commercials on television and online ads bombard us with images that entice us to purchase all kinds of goods, from home improvement items to clothing to toys and gadgets. As a result, giving up non-essential purchases is not an easy task. However, this is a noble endeavor during the season of Lent. Reducing purchases of unnecessary stuff requires an evaluation of what we need in our lives versus what we want – a reflection on our personal link to materialism.
In the United States, 70% of economic growth is associated with consumer spending. Also termed personal consumption expenditures, modern-day consumption of goods is not sustainable. We have become dependent on buying stuff on many levels. What does this mean for environmental and public health? Put simply, the environment suffers when consumerism spreads. When the environment is stripped of resources, subjected to mining, manufacturing, and transportation emissions and inundated with material waste, public health is also sacrificed. Materials we desire and purchase require earthly resources, which cannot be renewed as fast as the current rate of consumption indefinitely.
Reductions in purchases and responsible buying of goods are important steps toward a more sustainable, less consumptive society. Since many goods are not made with integrity and strength, another way to be a more responsible consumer is to purchase higher quality materials. It is also helpful to select simple/natural stuff and drastically reduce purchases of materials that are one-use. I often reflect on my grandparents’ lifestyle, as they did not purchase unnecessary stuff. My grandmother made most of her own clothes, blankets, and other household items. They lived on a farm and raised a large portion of their own food. I recall that they never needed a garbage service. My grandparents were wonderful examples of living in harmony with nature and obviously were not influenced by commercials and cable TV. J
“Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. Live simply so that others can simply live.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.