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snow of tomorrow

Snow of tomorrow | To buy or not to buy - that is the question here

Do we have to stop consuming? Is it possible to consume "better"?

by Lisa Amenda 01/27/2020
The latest ski model, the jacket with the latest membrane or simply the high-tech functional underwear. We buy - and we like to. But isn't our wardrobe full at some point? How we can learn to consume more sustainably and what the Patagonia "Don't buy this Jacket" campaign has to do with it.

"We have to stop consuming!" This is an answer that often comes up in discussions about sustainability. I have already written about this thesis myself. Consumption is described as the gateway to the end of the world, the pinnacle of human excess and a catalyst for climate change. Our greed is driving the planet to ruin - and with it ourselves. More and more for less and less money. The peak of the shopping frenzy? Black Friday! Followed by Cyber Monday. One offer after another, marked in red, pile up in our inboxes and scream at us from almost every website and shop window: BUY! BUY! BUY! Until we drop, until we perish.

Happiness in the shopping cart

Consumption seems to have been put into our cradle, if not our genes. According to evolutionary biologists, the roots of our purchasing behavior lie in human history. The more hunter-gatherers accumulated, the better they were able to survive. We still celebrate this today. It's just that we somehow lack the stop button. We find it difficult or impossible to say "no". The new functional underwear? Or maybe the new skis from manufacturer XY? Purchased. Today, we no longer need to accumulate in order to survive and yet studies show that shopping makes us happy. It stimulates the reward center and makes us dream of the next adventure for a moment - and feel even better prepared for it.

Or how else can we explain the success of Patagonia's "Don't buy this Jacket" ad? It was the year 2011, Thanksgiving. So, Black Friday. And one of the biggest outdoor manufacturers in the world - Patagonia - publishes an ad with the headline "Don't buy this Jacket". Underneath is a cozy fleece jacket and in the text Patagonia explains the environmental impact of producing this jacket and that customers should consider whether they really need the jacket before buying it. The result? Patagonia's turnover skyrocketed by 30 percent to 543 million US dollars in 2012. And by a further six percent in 2013. In 2016, Patagonia pledged to donate a full 100% to environmental organizations on Black Friday instead of the usual 1% (for the planet). Patagonia calculated with a turnover of 2 million US dollars, but ended up with 10 million!

"I want that!"

But why do we do it? Why do we let ourselves get carried away by such campaigns? To willingly pull out our wallets and buy things that we (most likely) don't need. Because I have to admit that I was also impressed by the 2016 campaign. Although I see Black Friday as the absolute pinnacle of consumer society. Buying for the sake of buying. Nothing more. But when Patagonia calls on us not to buy anything or promises to donate all sales, then we outdoor sports enthusiasts also seem to go into a shopping frenzy. We'd rather spend our money where it will be donated and with companies that have similar values to our own. And probably because we can then reward ourselves twice over. Or because we always want exactly what we can't have. A good friend of mine said on the subject: "It's just like with men. As soon as they tell you that they don't want anything from you, you're in love." Does Patagonia do the same? Arousing desire with things we shouldn't have?

At least that's how it is for me. Even if I can already hear the comments again: "Blogging about sustainability and then buying something new!" I know. I'm no more perfect than anyone else. And the outdoor industry is no more perfect than the rest of the industry. Because we live in a consumer society. If Patagonia were 100 percent consistent, they wouldn't just be allowed to run ads saying "Don't buy this jacket", they wouldn't be allowed to sell any jackets at all. But this is the crux of the matter. Should brands like Patagonia, Vaude or Houdini continue to sell their products, which are manufactured as sustainably and fairly as possible, or should they give up their business and work directly for people and the environment, and we then buy from fast fashion manufacturers?

Which consumption is the right consumption? Should we be upset that these companies are making sales? Never buy anything again? Or learn to consume in moderation again? And how do you actually do that?

Fashion Revolution in outdoor sports too?

The Fashion Revolution organization is committed to moderate and fair consumption. On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died in it. A further 2,500 were injured. This incident was the starting signal for Fashion Revolution Week. It takes a look at the textile industry and questions how we treat people and the environment today for fast, short-lived consumption. However, this question does not stop at everyday clothing - to get back to Vaude, Houdini, Patagonia and co. We outdoor athletes feel like #naturelover and celebrate #simplelife on social media. But we are not innocent lambs, because function often comes before fairness and environmental sustainability. For example, why has it taken so long to reduce PFCs in functional textiles? And what about our equipment? Do we also need a fashion revolution in outdoor sports? Or can we control a lot of things through our behavior? And isn't it a good thing if, for example, we prefer to buy Vaude, a brand that is really committed to environmental protection and fair production, rather than anything else? That's probably something everyone has to decide for themselves. With common sense. And maybe we really need to learn to say "no".

Tips for more sustainable consumer behavior

  • Learn to say no: Before buying, ask yourself whether you really need the item and whether you could borrow it.

  • Repair instead of buying new: Can you still repair your old item before you buy something new?

  • Buy second-hand: If you really want that new item, browse through second-hand stores or classified ads and give an item a new home.

  • Buy sustainable brands: If you want something new, buy from manufacturers who value socially and environmentally responsible production.

  • Buy from the store next door: Support small, owner-managed stores in your town instead of shopping at large mail-order companies.


This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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