Simplify Your Life, Reduce Waste

A guide to responsible consumerism.


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A Guide to Responsible Consumerism

American society tends to equate money and material possessions with a good life—everyone has seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.”—but what is the truth? In recent decades, Americans have continually worked harder to obtain better cars, bigger houses, more “stuff.” Although we consume twice as much as we did in the 1950s, our quality of life (as measured by the Index of Social Health) has gone down 52 percent. Many claim to feel stressed, depressed, and out of touch with a more simple, and perhaps more worthwhile, way of living. In fact, it sometimes seems as though consumerism has run rampant and the American Dream has become an American nightmare.

Proponents of the simplicity movement urge us to live more consciously, to be aware of what is most important in life. A life of working less, wanting less, and spending less, they suggest, may be a direct road to happiness. Consider this: Does a happy life automatically equal one filled with “toys?” Or, perhaps, is the happy life one that is lived, more deliberately, engaged with the old-fashioned pleasure of simple play? Below are a few suggested steps toward simplifying your life.

We are seeing the birth of a new perspective of the world, where ecology and economics are two sides of the same coin.
—Leif Johansson

Celebrate Buy Nothing Day

Affluent western consumers represent only 20 percent of the world’s population—yet they use 80 percent of all natural resources!

Adbusters, a global network of anti-consumer activists, has come up with a plan to offer relief for our “shop-til-you-drop” culture. Now in its eighth year, Buy Nothing Day calls for a 24-hour moratorium on consumer spending. Taking place the day after Thanksgiving—typically the busiest shopping day of the year—Buy Nothing Day publicly challenges the very institution of holiday shopping. While some participants hand out “Christmas Gift Exemption Vouchers” and host credit card cut-ups, others simply commit to spending no money for twenty-four hours. Designed to focus the public’s consciousness on a sense of simplicity, Buy Nothing Day is a worldwide celebration of consumer awareness and simple living.

Buy nothing for a change. It’s a simple idea with global repercussions.

For more information on Buy Nothing Day, visit

Do as much good as possible. Live simply, not elaborately; consume the least possible, not the most possible.
—Helen Nearing (1904–1995), from a speech she gave at the Hague in 1994